When the Mazda3 was launched in 2003, it was the firm's first C-segment vehicle developed for the global market. The latest, third generation of the car aimed “to meet the different levels of customer expectations around the world,” says programme manager Kenichiro Saruwatari. The main focus was on the ride comfort, handling, safety, performance and emotional design, he says.
The car has been well-received, as was the second-generation Mazda3, but it has been difficult to take market share from the benchmark vehicles in the highly competitive C-segment.
Saruwatari is honest in his assessment of where the Mazda3 needed improving: “Our vehicles historically had good handling, but when it came to the ride comfort it was a little stiff. The first thing we wanted to do was improve this,” he says.
The advantage that Saruwatari and his engineering team in Hiroshima had when the development programme began in 2011 was the ability to choose from the firm's latest vehicle architectures and chassis systems.
Volkswagen has used more cost-effective torsion beams in its less-powerful variants of the Golf, but the Mazda3 uses a front MacPherson strut and multilink set-up at the rear. Engineers have increased the use of high-strength steel in the Mazda3. The material is now in the lower suspension arms at the front and the trailing arms at the rear.
Higher grades of steel have also been used throughout the vehicle body: 780MPa now accounts for 9% of the structure, while 980MPa is used for the first time in the side sill reinforcement. And 1,800MPa ultra-high strength steel reinforces the front and rear bumpers.
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