After years on the market, today’s Mazda3 is still one of the best C-Segment cars available, but it’s something of a controversial vehicle. It may be great to drive, exceedingly functional and built to last, but a lot of people take issue with its grille. The car’s front end looks like the face of a mouth-breathing mudpuppy. To the relief of many that gaping maw is a thing of the past with Mazda’s brand-new 2014 model.
Along with the CX-5 crossover and Mazda6 midsize sedan the compact 3 is the latest Zoom-Zoom product to wear the company’s “KODO” design theme. Loosely translated this Japanese term means soul of motion.
Derek Jenkins is the Director of Design for Mazda’s North American Operations. He said when they create a new vehicle they don’t just want it to be more entertaining than the competition; they want it to look better as well. With the company’s brand-new 2014 compact car he said there are three different attributes that describe how it looks: speed, tension and allure.
Jenkins said “Speed is all about this long front hood and pulled-back A-post.” It’s also characterized by the 3’s short decklid. Overall he said this design “Looks a lot better and improves visibility.” An elongated wheelbase also helps with the car’s proportions.
Tension refers to the vehicle’s prominent front fenders, a design element that’s well-known on today’s Mazda6. Character lines from these panels carry clear through the car’s doors; this vehicle is anything but slab-sided. Additionally, the rear fenders are also generously portioned, something that gives the car a sense of direction and movement.
Lastly, allure deals with the front and rear of the vehicle. “We got rid of the smile” Jenkins said. Additionally, the brand’s signature five-point grille is alive and well, but as he noted it’s “A little bit narrower and taller than the Mazda6;” you could say this feature has evolved. Small “eyebrows” over the headlamps are another signature element.
Add it all up and Jenkins noted that designers were “just trying to get the car a bit more coupe-like,” and for the most part they succeeded. The new Mazda3 almost seems to be leaning back on it heels, ready to pounce. He also said people shopping the C-Segment probably want more car than they can afford, and the 2014 Mazda3 is suitably premium.
When asked what his favorite aspect of the new vehicle is Jenkins said “I think the car has a great front three-quarter [view],” noting that “It’s a more balanced and composed car” than today’s almost cartoonish model.
The 2014 Mazda3 is built on the company’s strangely named but surprisingly effective SKYACTIV architecture, significant portions of which are shared with the CX-5 and 6 sedan. Unlike some of the firm’s past products this platform is pure Zoom-Zoom. “These cars have nothing to do with Ford at all” Jenkins noted, something that cannot be said about today’s car.
Big changes were made inside as well. According to Jenkins “We’ve been working very hard to step up our interior design,” an area that Mazda has always done well. With the 2014 car “Everything is focused on the driver centerline” Jenkins noted. Adding a sporty touch “The RPM gauge is slightly oversized from what you’d expect” he said; it almost brings to mind a Porsche.
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