The Mazda 3 has been one of our favorite small cars for a while now, and apparently the world agrees. Mazda announced that the four millionth Mazda 3 rolled off the line on January 22, 2014, a little less than 11 years after the very first Mazda 3 was produced in June 2003. Mazda says that the 3 reached the 4-million unit milestone more quickly than any other Mazda in history, and notes that the car accounts for 30 percent of all Mazda sales.
The current 2014 Mazda 3 is the third generation of this Japanese compact, and is currently produced in Japan, China, Thailand, and Mexico for the global market. We named it one of our 2014 Automobile of the Year Finalists and promptly added a 2014 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring hatchback to our Four Seasons fleet.
Photos by Patrick Hoey.
Previous generations of the Mazda 3 have won numerous All-Star awards through the years as well. The first-generation model, which debuted in 2003, was based on the same C1 platform as the European Ford Focus and proved to be a big success for Mazda. The 3 quickly became Mazda’s best-selling global model. We loved the fun-to-drive character of the standard car, and the turbocharged Mazdaspeed 3 that arrived in 2007 was even more of a hoot to drive with its 263-hp, 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder.
The redesigned second-generation Mazda 3 was released as a 2010 model in 2009 and took an evolutionary style direction aside from the prominent grille up front that followed the smiley theme of other Mazda models at the time. The 3 was then updated for 2012 with an implementation of Mazda’s Skyactiv powertrain technology that gave this compact a 40-mpg EPA highway rating for the first time when equipped with the direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder. This generation had a Mazdaspeed 3 variant as well with the same turbocharged 2.3-liter engine.
We’ve heard rumors about the third-generation Mazdaspeed 3, and we can’t wait to hear more about the car given how much we like the standard 3 sedan and hatchback. Some reports say that the Mazdaspeed 3 will lose the turbocharger and transition to a high-revving naturally-aspirated four-cylinder, while contributor Marc Noordeloos wrote recently that Mazda is considering turbocharging or supercharging for one of its Skyactiv powerplants to make the next high-performance 3 variant.
See the gallery below for photos of numerous Mazda 3 models from the past, and make sure to check out the Mazda 3’s progress in our ongoing Compact Sedan Comparison test this week to see how it does.