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Mazda 3 Upgrade Tackles Nvh, Safety Issues

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July 14, 2006
Facelift aims to fix noise problems which "didn't exist" and set safety benchmark, reports GLENN BUTLER.

Mazda has targeted noise, vibration and harshness with a raft of additions and upgrades to the strong-selling Mazda3 hatch and sedan range. The face-lifted Mazda3 also gets more power, a number of minor visual changes, and DSC dynamic stability control optional across the range.

Sound insulation has been added under the bonnet- and boot-lids, and on the roof in an attempt to reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). In addition tyre construction has been modified and engine mounting bushes changed to reduce road noise and engine vibrations penetrating the cabin.

Even so, Mazda managing director Doug Dickson denies there was a problem to begin with.

"I don't know why you're making such a big deal about this. [NVH] was not a problem on the last model."

Dickson said customers were willing to live with the Mazda3's higher noise levels for the driving experience it delivered.

"NVH and roadholding is a compromise. And because we value the 'zoom zoom' feel that means we compromise on [suspension and engine] bushes, tyres and the like. So we do get slightly more noise, but our drivers appreciate the driving feel we deliver."

He said acceptor/rejecter studies did not highlight any issue with NVH, though Mazda product manager Amanda Chase admits it was a "major customer complaint".

"Elimination of NVH was a major focus of the Mazda3 update," said Chase. "Specific areas targeted were general noise and vibration from the engine, noise at high engine speed, droning when cruising... and road and wind noise."

Other changes to the facelifted Mazda3, which goes on sale this week, include an engine power increase, style modifications front and rear, and minor interior updates to the instrument binnacle.

A new electronic throttle and fitment of S-VT sequential valve timing brings 4kW more to the 2.0-litre engine, raising its output to 108kW, further reducing the performance margin to the 2.3-litre Mazda3 SP23.

All Mazda3 models now have ABS standard and will have the option of DSC dynamic stability control for $1000, though the company admits take-up will be less than one-in-four cars sold.

"It's more about being seen to offer the right safety features than any significant customer demand," said Chase. "We're setting the benchmark that others will now have to match."

The starting price increases $200 to $20,990 for the base Neo which comes with manual windows and mirrors, and steel wheels. Power windows and mirrors remain a $610 option despite a customer take-up of "over 60 per cent".

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