Since 2014, Mazda 3 aka "Axela" in Japan, had seen a major facelift with the adoption of the "Spirit of KODO ~ Soul of Motion" design cues and the dawn of "SkyActiv Technology". The facelift saw significant changes to the body form, with the cabin pushed back towards the rear, while extending the hood length, resulting in a silhouette resembling a running cheetah. The front sports a V-shaped ventilation grille flanked by sleek chrome lines, which seemingly allow the 3 to swallow in more air in this natually-aspirated ride. The headlight configuration comes with ocular "eyeballs" with a frowning upper "eyelids" which makes up the DRL. (This DRL design was adopted in other Mazda models, but lately dropped and replaced by a ring around the "eyeball" which is quite a disappointment and outright copy of the Bimmer's "angel eyes".) The cabin also see significant upgrades in terms design, with the utilization of soft touch materials, faux carbon panels and piano-black trims. However, aesthetics were not the highlight of the facelift. The 3 came with a commander-style control unit which works seamlessly with a dash-mounted touchscreen powered by a proprietary Mazda application. The complete package is termed "MZDConnect". If you have tried many stock infotainment systems from other makes, you will find the MZDConnect is closest to Bimmer's, and Mercs' does not even come close. Another significant upgrade is the Heads-Up Display (HUD) which are also typically seen in Bimmers. The HUD projects vital information such as speed and navigation directions on a flip-up panel, in the line of view of the driver.
So what is in the new 2017 facelift?
The front grille has been slightly re-shaped to be wider and more "U" rather than "V". Thicker chrome trims flanking the grille also abruptly stop short before the headlights. The new design is adopted from the Mazda 2 (aka "Demio"). The bumper sports a redesigned fog lamp and indicator lights that are likely powered by LED.
The rear sees slight touch-up with the addition of a spoiler lip for the sedan.
A V-shaped brake light at the base of the rear bumper is a nice addition to give the 3 a more sporty appearance.
The interior sees minor upgrade with changes to the centre console, which resembles that in Mazda 6 (aka "Atenza"). The cup holders have been upgraded with a retractable cover, flanked by leather sides. The conventional handbrake lever has been dropped and replaced with electronic parking brake. The 3 steering wheel also borrowed some design cues from that of the MX-5 (aka "Miata").
The rest of the dash hasn't really changed much aesthetically. However, with the facelift model, Mazda has implemented the new G-Vectoring Control (GVC) which forms up the SkyActiv Technology. Essentially, the clever engineers behind Mazda had tweaked the handling to reduce the internal inertia, and hence lesser of being thrown side to side within the cabin. This enhances the already engaging "Jinba Ittai" experience, where the vehicle becomes extensions of the driver's body. It is like piloting a Gundam mecha, if you happen to be a fan of the Japanese anime.
The HUD also welcome more graphics and colors, bringing it closer to the Bimmer's offering.
With the 2017 facelift of the Mazda 3, there are subtle aesthetic changes both outside and inside. However, the implementation of G-Vectoring Control is a significant upgrade for the new version.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the 2014 pre-facelift and 2017 facelift of the 3.
The pre-facelift look is sharper and more mean looking, like a fearsome cougar. I prefer the slanted curve above the indicator lights of the pre-facelift rather than a horizontal flat line. Fog lights ought to be huge and bright, hence the former suits my taste. The facelift gives an overall more refined appearance suited for the executive, something like the Mazda 6. I prefer more bad boy look. But the GVC and internal upgrades are welcoming, but will that enhance the Jinbai-Ittai or kill it? I loved the 3 because of its perky and spirited ride, always ready to sprint, throwing me (and the passengers) when cornering with speed and making sharp movements. That puts the "omph" into the driving experience. I am not too certain if the GVC will take that fun away, despite its benefits for a family car. Nevertheless, trusting the Mazda engineers can't be wrong. If you are still concerned about fuel-consumption of a Mazda, you are so out-dated. Mazda SkyActiv Technology has already significantly improved the fuel-consumption to one of the best, in terms of fuel economy.
What should you buy?
If you are still comparing this to an Altis, you are comparing a Thai-made (for Singapore market) to that rolling out of the fine craftsmanship of the Japanese. Furthermore, Toyota has signed a pact with Mazda in 2015, where Mazda will supply SkyActiv engines to Toyota. That should debunk myths of fuel-consumption woes. However, Honda's Civic facelift may be a game changer.