The Mazda 3 is one of those few cars that deliver more than they promise. It's one of those few cars that really deserve special attention. I am personally fond of the 3 aka Axela (in Japan) because :
- It's a Mazda. And Mazdas as one of the most under-rated cars around. Their built quality is very good, and so is their reliability - which is often better than the usual over-rated Hondas and Toyotas. Mazda's bullet proof reliability is not known by many, even those within the motoring circles as due to their low sales figures, they are often not included in IQS (Initial Quality) surveys.
- Because its not a Toyota or a Honda. In this part of the world where I live, the two brands have their own image issues. Toyotas are for people who have no imagination or have already given up hope in life. Honda's have an image issue - their owners are usually listens to Chinese / Taiwanese disco music. Civic owners dress and behave like they run karaoke bars. City owners thinks its cool to drive around in a convoy of City with fake tacky rear diffusers.
European markets will also get a hatchback version of the 3. Image via Spiegel.de
The 3 is an extremely important model for Mazda, contributing up to 1/3 of its global sales.
Current 3. Image from worldcarfans.
The current generation Mazda 3 was a runaway success for Mazda. The new 3 will have very big shoes to fill. More than 1.5 million units of the current generation 3 have been sold worldwide in more than 100 countries. In the Australia alone, the Mazda 3 is Aussie's fourth best selling car and third best selling passenger car (after Holden Commodore and Toyota Corolla). But much of the Commodore and Corolla sales come from fleet and company purchases. The Mazda 3 is Australia's No.1 selling privately purchased car. The other key market for Mazda is much lesser known - Israel. Mazda is the No.1 selling brand in Israel. But that's mainly due to the strength of its distributor, Delek Motors, which is the largest car importer in Israel, representing both Ford and Mazda models in Israel.
A friend who often travels to Israel (owns a Mazda 6) for work tells me that for some reason Israeli motorists have a very poor maintainence culture, probably because many of the cars there are leased. They literally drive their cars to destruction. The cars there take a lot of abuses, and Mazda is one of those few cars that can take it. Which is why he bought a 6. Of course the abuses the cars take has nothing to do with Hamas or the likes you ignorant idiot. Majority of Israel is largely peaceful and that country has one of the highest number of scientist and engineers per capita. Haifa is home to many of the world's main tech research centers and its Technion is among the world's best schools.
The new 3 is designed by Dutch designer Laurens van den Acker, who was responsible for the Japanese "wind, fluid, flow inspired philosophy" Nagare design language that is guiding Mazda's new design theme. His previous work at Mazda includes the Furai, Ryuga, Hakaze concept models. He is a graduate from the Dutch Delft University of Technology with a Masters Degree in Engineering (Industrial Design). He is also fluent in Dutch, German, English and Italian.
"I think our marketing people realize that if we don't stand out, we're dead. To my pleasant surprise, they have been our biggest supporter in being distinctive"-not only in concept cars, but also in production vehicles like the Mazda3, which is arguably the most well-designed car in its segment-"because they realize that that is the only way to get noticed.As they say, only through adversity can the best be brought out. Previously Mazda was largely a forgotten brand making rebadged Ford models, and the quirky rotary engined RX series. The dark period of 80s and 90s forced Mazda to do some serious soul-searching to reinvent itself.
"It is uncomfortable, to be honest, and it makes us nervous, but we have no other choice. It's the classical case of taking no risk would be the riskiest thing." He candidly admits: "We made plenty of anonymous vehicles in the past, but we ended up competing against competitors that we don't want to compete with." Laurens van den Acker, Mazda Design Division.
But Mazda is undergoing a sort of design led revival of late. Almost all its mainstream models are making great strides in all major car markets. Its CX-9 was making great in roads in USA before the SUV market tanked, while the Mazda 6 have been raved all over the world. It's as though as Mazda somehow hit a state of Renaissance of sorts.
Among all the Japanese marques, Mazda seems to be most confident with its Japanese heritage and makes no apologies for it. Toyota's Lexus makes a lot of fuss of its L-Finesse design philosophy but in reality nobody knows what exactly are they banging on about. The regular Toyota models are supposed to be guided by this "Vibrant Clarity" design language, which like the L-Finesse, nobody really knows what are they really on about. Toyota claims that in the design of its 10th generation Corolla, its designers spent 4 months in Turin looking for a design that will stand out on the streets of Turin. Looking at the result, maybe it is rather a case what stands out on the streets of Turin in the eyes of overworked Japanese salarymen.
Honda's designs are more hit or miss cases. Sometimes they turn out well while at other times they don't seem to understand who they are. At one time, all Honda sedans including City, Civic and Accord are supposed to have a "floating bar" with the Honda emblem at the grille. That design was junked immediately at the next City facelift and the new Accord is not following this theme as well.
And almost all Japanese marques mention about "European inspired designs" one way or another in their product launches. Not for Mazda though, it is proud of its Japanese heritage and it is capitalizing on it rather well.
The men behind Mazda's renaissance. From L-R : Franz von Holzhausen (currently with Tesla Motors), Laurens van den Acker, Atsuhiko Yamada and Peter Birtwhistle
It took the Germans of Ulrich Bez and Henrik Fisker to design a proper Aston Martin - the pride of the British. It took an Italian of Walter da'Silvia to design a proper German Audi. Meanwhile the Germans at Munich hired an American in the form of Chris Bangle to push BMW's image to ahead by giving the public a rude shock treatment, which though left a bad taste in traditional BMW fans, but sales pushed through the ceilling though. So I guess its job done. They then hired Dutch guy of Adrian von Hoydoonk to tone things down later. Now it takes a Dutchman to design a proper looking Japanese car, a seemingly simple task which unfortunately eluded the Japs until today. This is the irony of creative design, sometimes the people that understood a culture the most are those that come outside of it. Afterall, Renaissance was only possible with assimilation of Latin, Greek and Arabic knowledge and arts. Exchange of culture and ideas in an open environment is prerequisite for creative thought.
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