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Mazda Agent

550,000-26,400,000 baht/unit

Address:193/74-76, Ratchada Rd., Khlong Toei, Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110 Thailand

Tel:+6626644888

Service day:Mon-Sat, Service hours: 08:00-18:30

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Two in one

Mazda thinks that sporty cars should also be about driving comfort, hence the pioneering G-Vectoring Control system

Car brands that like to associate themselves with stylish looks and fun-to-drive traits usually talk about sportiness rather than comfort. This time around, however, Mazda is seeing things slightly differently -- and not just for the sake of it.

The Japanese firm thinks cars that are enjoyable to drive should also offer decent driving comfort or, to put it another way, good piece of mind on the move.

They have devised the so-called G-Vectoring Control (GVC), claimed to be an automotive first, to enhance comfort for both the driver and passengers. Broadly speaking, GVC uses torque from the engine to help vary load on each tyre. If the front end needs more bite, deceleration is applied (like when a car dives under braking). The amount of torque action is so small that ordinary drivers like you and me would fail to notice.

But you can definitely feel the advantages of GVC on the move. Fitted onto the 3 C-segment family car -- Mazda's best-selling model on a global basis -- GVC is an immediate winner. It helps the driver with less steering corrections to go over undulating road surfaces or under keen cornering.

But it's in the passenger seat where you will feel the merits of GVC more. Although GVC doesn't have any link to the suspension, there's a subjective feeling of a flatter ride whereby passengers move about in their seats less during cornering.

Bluntly put, it helps reduce car sickness for passengers.

Because GVC doesn't need any hardware, the cost of it being installed into a car is said to be very minimal. The only possible charge it faces is engineering innovation.

The cars for journalists to sample at Mazda's Mine proving grounds in Japan last week were the revised 3 in which GVC will be made standard across the range when it is launched in Thailand at the year-ending Motor Expo. Mazda says GVC will eventually reach all other models when the time to update them comes.

FYI, though: GVC can only be clearly felt in a back-to-back drive with cars fitted with and without it. Unlike traction and stability control systems, GVC can't be turned off. But you wouldn't want to anyway when it works so effectively in the real world.

Speaking of the facelifted 3 -- which is already on sale in Japan where it is known as Axela -- there's more than just GVC. Apart from the di rigueur cosmetic tweaks of mid-life facelifts, there's a head-up display that's now upgraded to a full-colour screen.

More engine options have also been introduced in the freshened-up 3. These include a smaller 1.5-litre diesel-turbo joining the existing 2.2-litre, as well as a 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid whose electric components are courtesy of Toyota.

Unfortunately, none of these new motors are coming to Thailand due to concerns of cost and production capacity at Mazda's Rayong facility. That means the updated 3 will still come solely with the same E85-compatible 2.0-litre petrol unit of the existing model.

Even so, the 3 should still remain a decent choice in the Thai C-segment despite the arrival of Honda's all-new Civic and Ford's facelifted Focus. The Mazda continues to score with stylish exterior and interior, plus driving manners just fractionally inside the class-leading Focus.

The Civic and Focus may come with new petrol-turbo engines developing between 173hp and 180hp accordingly, but they are limited to just range-topping models costing north of 1 million baht.

The 3, boasting a 165hp non-turbo motor, covers a wider price range of 838,000 to 1.099 million baht.

The interior is upgraded with full-colour head-up display. Mazda

Piloting the 3 with GVC around the Mine test course revealed its merits. Mazda

The 3 HEV currently is a Japan-only model with electrical components sourced from Toyota.

NEXT PROGRAMME

Because Mazda isn't a first-tier player in the Thai automotive industry, it is trying its best to bring the latest in car technology to Thai car buyers to help boost sales.

Speaking at a forum for Asean journalists in Japan last week, key executives of Mazda Motor Corp attributed the company's sales growth — despite the overall slowdown in the Thai auto market — to models relevant to those sold elsewhere globally.

Key to its success is the decision to market products with "global specifications" rather than deploying low-cost, region-specific models, as how some rival brands do for emerging markets like that in Thailand.

Due to its comparatively small size in the global auto industry, Mazda is still making good use of the internal combustion engine with some innovative technologies like class-beating compression ratios to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

But as with other makers, Mazda is preparing to bring electrification to its cars. Although there's a petrol-electric hybrid version of the 3 compact family car, its sales are restricted to the Japanese market. The electric system, nickel metal-hydride batteries and CVT automatic transmission are sourced from Toyota, which used these bits for the outgoing third-gen Prius.

One executive said that the semi-electric 3 will span out to other markets from 2018, the year the US will enforce stricter emissions for cars.

Although no specific plan has been earmarked for Thailand yet, there's a good chance that Mazda will offer electrified cars. By that time, both the 3 and CX-5 SUV will be renewed in next-generation forms.

Rather than using the current 2.0-litre petrol-electric combo, Mazda is likely to employ a smaller, turbocharged version — developed in-house — additionally available with electric assistance and plug-in facility. This would help both the next-gen 3 and CX-5 in emitting no more than 100g/km of CO2 to enjoy the lowest in Thai excise taxation of 10%.

Pure electric power is also claimed to be on the cards, although it won't appear any time soon in Thailand. The same source said that the country needs to clarify its position on renewable energy sources to revitalise batteries for electric vehicles.

"It's not just about cutting [CO2] tailpipe emissions. [Mazda] is viewing the EV business case with reduction in well-to-wheel emissions, as well," he said, implying that current state legislators in Thailand should focus on clean energy production rather than those reliant on fossil fuels.

A reference has also been made to the Laotian government whereby the landlocked Asean country could be a major source of renewable energy due to the Mekhong River running through it.

GVC simply uses software to vary vertical load on the tyres. Mazda

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193/74-76, Ratchada Rd., Khlong Toei, Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110 Thailand

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