The Mazda3 – the company’s best-selling vehicle worldwide – has been shown in LA as a fully re-engineered, completely redesigned, second-generation compact sedan.

The Mazda3 accounts for one third of Mazda’s sales and the new compact 4-door sedan is seen as an important model in a US market gravitating towards smaller cars.

Mazda3 Programme Manager Yoshiyuki Maeda established ambitious goals for the latest embodiment of the company’s most popular car line: “We were determined to advance the Zoom-Zoom driving experience to new heights because that unique feeling lies at the very heart of Mazda.  On the heels of the original Mazda3’s success, we aimed to again exceed the expectations of customers all over the world by a wide margin.  This meant providing drivers with a sense of exhilaration – whether they were in motion, seated in the Mazda3, or enjoying its appearance from outside.”

Describing what it takes to develop a true ’world car’, Maeda added: “The development process began with careful study and identification of what features and performance qualities would be needed.  That initial phase ended with my conclusion that every driving characteristic was eligible for improvement to reach our Zoom-Zoom goals.  Mazda engineering and R&D departments in Japan, Europe, and the US all contributed to the Mazda3’s renewal effort and the development of the company’s new world car.”

To supplement the four-door sedan introduced at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, a five-door hatchback Mazda3 will arrive later.

Even though the new Mazda3 is larger in every dimension – meeting the requests and needs of customers – Mazda says its engineers achieved fuel economy on a par with the outgoing car.

The MZR 2.0-litre four-in-line engine delivers 148 horsepower at 6500 rpm (PZEV = 144 @ 6500 rpm) and 135 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm (PZEV = 132 @ 4500 rpm).  Aluminium block and head construction saves weight while, in the interests of power and efficiency, four valves per cylinder are operated by dual overhead camshafts.

The new MZR 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is borrowed from the larger all-new 2009 Mazda6.  It shares the same construction features of the 2.0-litre engine while upping output to 167 horsepower at 6000 rpm (PZEV = 165 @ 6000 rpm) and 168 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm (PZEV = 167 @ 4000 rpm).  Both engines employ advanced electronic throttle actuation.  Mazda’s exclusive torque base control technology provides a highly linear acceleration response to every change of throttle pedal pressure.

Mazda says fuel economy was a key to the vehicle’s development.  The Mazda3 with 2.0-litre engine achieves 25 mpg in city driving with the manual transmission and 24 mpg with the automatic. 

The highway mileage with the 2.0-litre engine is 33 mpg.  The Mazda3 with 2.5-litre engine also tops 20 mpg in all conditions.  Equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, its city rating is 21 mpg, rising to 22 mpg with the five-speed automatic.  The highway rating is 29 mpg with either transmission.