First there was Mazda6, then RX-8 and Mazda2, now the countdown has begun on Mazda3, a funky compact earmarked for the South African market.

First there was Mazda6, then RX-8 and Mazda2, now the countdown has begun on Mazda3, a funky compact earmarked for the South African market.

Mazda has begun production of its fourth “new generation”, which will make its official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

The new car will be called Mazda3 in the majority of global markets, but will go by the name Axela (derived from a combination of ‘excellence’ and ‘acceleration’) in the Japanese market. The Mazda6 has been launched in South Africa, while the RX-8 sports car is due this year, followed by the Mazda2 next year and the Mazda3 at a later stage.

“Mazda3 blurs the lines of conventional vehicle segments, offering traditional C-segment customers more than they would normally expect in terms of design, craftsmanship and interior packaging,” said the manufacturer.

To mark the start of production, a ceremony was held this week at Mazda's Hofu plant in Japan. The first vehicle off the line was a European-specification, five-door hatchback in blue.

The Mazda3 features a sweeping bonnet with a rounded roofline and unusual C-pillar shape. It is based on the MX-Sportif concept car that was on show at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

It is believed that the car will come with 1,4-, 1,6- and 2,0-litre petrol engines and two diesel power units. But additional product detail, including body styles, packages, powertrains and pricing will be announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The vehicle will go on sale in Europe later this year.

CARtoday.com reported recently that the new Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Volvo S40 ranges will share 60 per cent of their total components. The project, called C Technologies, will be the first large-scale platform-sharing between three Ford-owned brands in Europe, but they will have different body styles.

Original article from Car