Will the New Mazda3 Save Mazda’s Future? We’ll See At This Year’s LA Auto Show

Will new design and technology pick up the Mazda3's sales?

Can the New Mazda3 Save Mazda?
Our best view so far of the new Mazda3, which will be revealed at the 2018 LA Auto Show. [Photo: Mazda]

Mazda confirmed it will reveal the new Mazda3 at this year’s LA Auto Show.

Last month, Mazda teased the beginning of “a new era” with cryptic shots of a new hatchback – almost definitely the new Mazda3. After a few weeks of waiting, Mazda has officially confirmed its reveal at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. That’s welcome news, as we’ve been waiting to see what Mazda has up its sleeve since the company revealed the Kai Concept in Tokyo back in 2017. The new Mazda3 will replace a generation that’s been around for nearly six years now, so it’s high time for it to emerge. However, to throw some credence behind their new era claim, this isn’t just another reveal for Mazda.

While the CX-5 crossover has supplanted the Mazda3 as the company’s cash cow, the Mazda3 is still a crucial car for Mazda. It is, despite its age, one of the best-driving cars in its class. That’s possible thinks to a driver-oriented design approach, trickling down from the MX-5 Miata through the rest of Mazda’s range. Sales have been lackluster as of late though, with Mazda shifting 55,387 Mazda3s as of October 2018 – a 15 percent drop from a year ago.

SkyActiv-X prototype chassis - Jinba Ittai
[Photo: TFLcar]

Getting it right: Next-generation SkyActiv platform

It’s still the company’s second best-selling model, so it’s critical the company gets the new Mazda3 right. On the styling front, it appears everything is on the up and up. Since Mazda revamped its range using the “Kodo” design language, meaning “Soul of Motion”, looks haven’t been an issue. In addition to building one of the best-looking and best driving cars, the new Mazda3 will need to up its game with technology to stay competitive.

That’s where SkyActiv-X comes in. We previewed the technology back in January. Although it wasn’t quite ready for primetime, I was impressed at just how normal their SPCCI (short for Spark-Controlled Compression Ignition) engine felt to live with. The 2.0-liter engine in Mazda’s prototype vehicles performed like you’d expect a gasoline engine to perform, but supposedly with fuel economy closer to that of a diesel engine. Mazda did state they’re bringing “the latest SkyActiv engines [that] offer responsive control of vehicle speed in any driving situation”. Exact power numbers still aren’t available, but we expect somewhere in the region of the current 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G engine: around 190 horsepower and 170 to 180 lb-ft of torque.

SkyActiv-X Engine
Mazda SkyActiv-X prototype engine. [Photo: TFLcar]
It remains to be seen whether that actually means Mazda will introduce SkyActiv-X commercially with the new Mazda3. It would make sense to introduce the engine here, but Mazda has not officially stated that it will be in the model that’s set to debut in LA – it may come later. Regardless of whether the engine makes its way to the new car, Mazda will undoubtedly bring several chassis improvements to the new Mazda3. The company did mention a “next-generation SkyActiv-Vehicle Architecture” in the upcoming debut.

Mazda's 2017 Sales Losers - Mazda3
Current-generation Mazda3. [Photo: TFLcar]

A goldilocks moment for Mazda?

Mazda is making an ambitious claim with the new Mazda3: the beginning of a new era for the company. While we’re excited for the next-generation model in its own right, it also seems there is much at stake with its success. Mazda is one of the few companies left that is offering a pure gasoline vehicle. While the company is working on electrification, it has to hit its claims of efficiency with SkyActiv-X to make it an appealing option to shoppers.

Then there’s the matter of Mazda hitting the fundamentals of its “Driving Matters” philosophy. Systems like G-Vectoring Control Plus do help Mazda’s case as far as sharp handling goes. However, the chassis improvements on offer here need to be a marked improvement from the current generation. While the current car is by no means unpleasant to drive, Mazda also needs to incorporate a degree of refinement over the current model into the new Mazda3. Then, on top of the new technology, Mazda could really have a winner on its hands that will pick up the Mazda3’s sales and propel the rest of the range into this new era.

Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for more updates! Subscribe to TFLcar and TFLnow for more coverage of the new Mazda3 and other reveals from this year’s LA Auto Show.