Traditionally, major vehicle redesigns begin with a review of such hardware as cylinder heads, suspension arms and chassis legs. The remake of the compact Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback focused on those items as well as a detailed study of human arms, legs and heads as well as spines, pelvises and necks.
The 2019 Mazda 3 new engineering goal is to create a tremendously balanced car that is as natural for humans to drive as it is for them to walk.
Quite an ambitious claim and during their recent media presentation, Mazda engineers spoke of their comprehensive studies of human bodies and how the car was designed to decrease stress and drastically improve comfort. Instead of talking as much about the usual redesign metrics of stopping distances, horsepower, torque or 0-to-60.
According to Mazda engineers the new Mazda 3 is all about one word: balance.
The redesign started with an in-depth study of how the body maintains balance when walking, said Kota Beppu, Mazda3 program manager. Mazda engineers were particularly interested in preventing unwanted head movement. To do that, engineers redesigned the Mazda 3’s body and suspension so that when the car encounters a bump in the road, the shock absorbed by the suspension system is channeled behind the driver. Engineers also studied the human spine and developed seats that put the driver in the optimum position to maintain balance. The tilting lower seat cushion helps keep the thighs firmly planted in the seat. This keeps the pelvis in an upright position and the spine in its natural S shape, Mazda says.
While the Mazda 3 uses conventional electric rack-and-pinion steering and hydraulic four-wheel disc brakes, engineers kept a keen eye on removing jerkiness in the car’s behavior. The brakes initially feel as though they don’t have significant bite. But a little extra pressure on the pedal slows the car quickly and smoothly. Mazda calibrated the brake feel to eradicate abruptness that can force passengers to lurch forward. The power steering also has been fine-tuned to reduce coarse movements.
On a 50-mile test drive, the Mazda3 proved easy to handle, with comfortable and supportive seats, unobstructed front and rear views and simple-to-manage controls. The car was said to be quiet, took curves at speed with ease and drove smoothly in heavy stop-and-go traffic. The sedan and hatchback go on sale in March. Prices start at $21,895 for the front-wheel-drive sedan and $24,495 for the hatchback. Adding all-wheel drive and other premium features pushes prices close to $30,000 for both body styles.