The Mazda3 (known as the Mazda Axela in Japan) is a compact car manufactured in Japan by the Mazda Motor Corporation. It was introduced for the 2004 model year, replacing the Mazda Familia (323 or Protegé in export markets). A more performance-oriented version of the Mazda3 is marketed as Mazdaspeed3 in North America and Mazda3 MPS in Europe.A second generation Mazda3 for the 2010 model year was unveiled in late 2008, with the sedan premiering at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the hatchback at the Bologna Auto Show.
The Mazda3 has been generally well-received by the automotive press for its performance, handling, styling and interior, with some describing it as feeling like a more expensive sport sedan despite its value-oriented price.Some criticisms have included fuel economy and crash test results (only receiving four out of a maximum five stars from the EURO NCAP Safety Testing Programme) the latter of which was rectified by making six airbags standard.In 2006 the Mazda3 was the second best-selling car in Canada and the best selling car in Israel during 2005-2007
Official performance figures for the European Mazda3 1.4 S, the lowest-powered model, are 0–100 km/h in 14.3 seconds, with a maximum speed of 170 km/h (106 mph). Wheels magazine reported an 8.7 second 0–100 km/h time for the Australian 2.0 model in its May 2004 issue.
The 1.6 CiTD 80 kW diesel (as sold in Europe) with a five-speed manual does 100 km/h in 11.6 seconds and has top of 182 km/h (113 mph) according to the official Mazda specifications.
In its test results for the 2004 Mazda3 5-door with the 2.3 litre engine, Car and Driver magazine reported a 0-60 mph (0–97 km/h) acceleration time of 7.4 seconds and a governor-limited top speed of 190 km/h (118 mph).
The fuel consumption of these models average in the 10 L/100 km (24 mpg-US; 28 mpg-imp), with the 2 litre 2008 Mazda3 automatic-transmission model scoring a 10 L/100 km (24 mpg-US; 28 mpg-imp)/7.6 L/100 km (31 mpg-US; 37 mpg-imp) city/highway United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating.
The Axela is based on the Ford global C1 platform, shared with the latest European Ford Focus and Volvo S40. Based on the styling of the MX-Sportif concept car, the Axela is available in two body styles, a four-door sedan, marketed as "coupé style" in Europe, and a five-door hatchback, branded the Sport version in Canada, Japan, and the United States. The lead stylist for this model generation was Moray Callum.
Front suspension is by MacPherson struts, with coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Rear suspension is a Ford-Designed "E-link" multi-link suspension, with four locating links per wheel and an anti-roll bar, suspended on coil springs that are mounted inboard of the shock absorbers to reduce suspension intrusion into the cargo area. Disc brakes are standard at all four wheels, with 300 mm (11.8 in) discs front and 279 mm (11 in) discs rear; ABS and electronic brake force distribution are available or standard, depending on the model. Wheel and tire sizes vary with model, from 15" on base models to optional 17" wheels on upper-level models.
When first introduced, United States-market Mazda3 models were available in only two trim levels, i and s, with the 2.0 L and 2.3 L engines, respectively. Since then Mazda has introduced additional models under the Touring and Grand Touring labels. British Mazda3's are offered in S, TS, TS2, Sport, and a top end 2.3ltr turbocharged Mazda3 MPS (Mazda Performance Series) models. Since April 2008, when there was a mainly cosmetic facelift of the Mazda3, there have been some changes to the trim designations for UK cars, with the models now being the entry level S, then Takara (which replaces TS & TS2), the Tamara Special Edition and the Sport and MPS as before.
All 3 models use the inline-4 Mazda MZR engine, with various types, displacements and outputs including the MZ-CD turbodiesel, depending on model and market. Transmissions are a five-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic transmission; since the 2006 model year, a five-speed automatic is optional on models with the 2.3 L engine. This transmission has now been made standard on the 2.0 L engine in Japan (FWD models only), as part of a minor facelift in early 2008 which includes different front/rear bumper designs, new wheel designs and body colors, stiffened chassis, and better interior materials. The MPS / Mazdaspeed version is only available with a six-speed manual.