Since a sneak preview of the all-new Mazda3 towards the end of last year, the launch of the model in Malaysia has been eagerly awaited and at the same venue (as last year’s preview) today, Bermaz Motor/Prima Merdu officially launched the model in Malaysia.
Though the previous generation of the Mazda3 was assembled locally, the latest one is being imported as a CBU model from Japan for the time being. Although production of the same model has just started in Thailand, it was decided that the cars might as well be imported from Japan to ensure more stocks as demand in Thailand is expected to be high. The first batch was fully taken up as many orders were received in the past few months but Bermaz Motor said that a new shipment has already arrived and is being cleared.
Local assembly of the new Mazda3 will begin in the third quarter of 2014 but it’s uncertain exactly when because the current focus is on the CX-5, for which there is a rather long waiting list. Fortunately, Mazda made a big investment to build a dedicated assembly line and bodyshop at the Inokom plant in Kedah so that it can produce more vehicles without having to share lines with other brands (the new assembly facility recently began operations).
Bermaz Motor is offering only the sedan version of the Mazda3 at this time, with the hatchback likely to be imported later on. “Malaysians prefer sedans so we are starting off with that variant first,” said Dato’ Sri Ben Yeoh, Executive Director of Bermaz Motor. “We may offer the hatchback later on, perhaps as a high-performance variant but it will cost more, of course.”
The high performance would come from a 2.5-litre SKYACTIV engine but for now, the sedan sold here comes with only the 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine producing 162 bhp/210 Nm, and a 6-speed SKYACTIV-DRIVE automatic transmission (torque converter type). The engine runs on an unusually high compression ratio of 14:1 which is one of the features of the SKYACTIV engines and testing with Malaysian fuel has shown that there are no issues (the same engine is also used in the CX-5 which has been in the market for some time now).
The engine incorporates I-Stop which shuts down the engine during long periods of idling as well as I-Eloop, which regenerates braking energy to use as electrical energy for powering certain systems.
The fuel efficiency of the SKYACTIV engine and light weight of the Mazda3 enables it to meet the criteria for Energy-Efficient Vehicles (EEVs) as specified in the latest National Automotive Policy (NAP). This being the case, the model should be entitled to the incentives promised for EEVs assembled in Malaysia but very surprisingly, even after 2 months, MITI has not provided any details of the incentives to the industry. After the NAP was announced, a number of executives from car companies told us that MITI had failed to provide any details of incentives for them to start planning. We thought that it would be a matter of a few weeks before the details were provided but it seems that all MITI has done is to announce something that is in effect ‘nothing’. It’s not surprising then that carmakers don’t give serious attention to investing more in their Malaysian operations. In the case of Bermaz, the decision to assemble certain models locally was taken some time back so it had to proceed with or without incentives.
[Motor Trader drove the new Mazda3 in Australia last year. For our impressions, click here.]
As for the possibility of other engines and also the hybrid variant of the Mazda3, Dato’ Sri Yeoh said studies are still being done. It is known that in some countries there is a SKYACTIV-DIESEL and also the previous 1.6-litre MZR engine available. Dato’ Sri Yeoh said that as far as the Mazda3 Hybrid is concerned, he feels that there are issues which the industry should be concerned with and resolve before introducing hybrid models [in Malaysia].
“Consideration must be given to the repair of such models after accidents and the disposal of battery packs at the end of the car’s life,” he explained. In Japan, where hybrids have been sold for over 15 years now, such cars are already part of the industry and processes to manage their disposal at the end of their lives are in place, so there is no issues. However, Malaysia does not have such processes yet so Dato’ Sri Yeoh’s position is that introduction of hybrids may not be a good idea at this time.
While not willing to comment on the development or existence of a MPS variant, comments by Masaya Kodama, Program Manager for the new Mazda3, suggest that Mazda doesn’t necessarily see the ‘turbo route’ as a solution it will adopt because turbocharged engines do not give the linear characteristics that are desired. So while other carmakers are downsizing but maintaining output levels by using a turbocharger, Mazda will still try to extract more from the naturally-aspirated engine. “We call it ‘right-sizing’ which may not necessarily be downsizing,” said Mr. Kodama.
Anyway, let’s look at what the new third generation of Mazda’s most popular model comes with for the Malaysian market for the retail price of RM138,935.50 (including insurance). Not surprisingly, the equipment list is extensive and there’s even a sunroof and bi-xenon headlamps (with adaptive lighting) as standard but the upholstery is fabric. There’s also keyless entry and pushbutton starting as well as automatic air-conditioning. The 18-inch wheels are fitted with 215/45 tyres.
The centrepiece of the dashboard would be the new MZD Connect system which not only serves as an infotainment centre but also incorporates a GPS navigation system and multiple connectivity options. When connected by Bluetooth to a compatible smartphone with a 3G service, the MZD Connect system, which has a 7-inch colour screen, can also draw content from the Internet while on the move. Operation of the system is by a rotary Commander Controller situated next to the driver’s seat. The interface has been carefully designed to allow for intuitive operation so the driver can select and operate functions without having to take his eyes off the road. Should there be improvements to the software, service centres can easily update the system.
Though many people think ‘SKYACTIV’ relates only to the powertrain, it actually encompasses the whole design of the car. The SKYACTIV Body, for example, has a low overall weight but higher safety levels that increase protection for the occupants, while the SKYACTIV Chassis provides the sort of driving dynamics that are unique to Mazda vehicles (sometimes referred to as the ‘Zoom-zoom’ character).
Standard safety equipment consists of 4-wheel disc brakes with traction control, ABS + EBD and Brake Assist and for passive protection during an accident, there are 6 airbags.
Four colour choices are available – Soul Red Metallic, Snowflake White Pearl Mica, Titanium Flash Mica and Meteor Grey Mica. In the 1980s, mica-type finishes were premium finishes but are quite common now. But the metallic red colour for the Mazda3 is a special one and the painting process to give it a unique finish is so advanced that Mazda charges extra for this particular colour in Japan. Bermaz Motor, however, has decided not to impose an extra charge so if you want some extra value, pick the red colour!
Besides the 3-year warranty, the new Mazda3 distributed by Bermaz Motor also comes with 3 years of free maintenance.