Mazda is adding optional all-wheel drive to its next-generation Mazda3, making it one of only two vehicles in the mainstream compact sedan segment with the feature as it becomes an increasingly important purchasing factor for Canadians.
Mark Peyman, national manager of product strategy and development for Mazda Canada, told Automotive News Canada that the automaker views the move as potentially stopping some of the flow toward utility vehicles and away from sedans. Peyman said it also provides an opportunity to pick up some of the volume being left by the discontinued Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze.
“If we can take that all-wheel drive that’s normally associated with SUVs and apply it to cars, it gives [consumers] a better option they may not have had before,” Peyman said.
The other all-wheel-drive compact sedan is the Subaru Impreza, which has it equipped as standard and starts at $22,024 with freight and fees in its four-door iteration and $22,924 as a five-door.
All-wheel drive is optional on the Mazda3, and the automaker has opted to retain the smaller 2.0-litre engine at entry level — in contrast to the American market, which has dropped it — to give the base-grade Mazda3 a starting price of $19,820 for the four-door and $23,120 for the five-door.
All-wheel drive can be added to both at the GS grade starting at $27,820 for the four-door and $28,820 for the five-door.
“The dealers are very bullish,” Peyman said. “From what we've heard from them, their excitement is to the tune of 50 per cent [take rate]. We're a little more conservative.
“Because it's not included in the base grades, that will naturally hold the mix down to some degree. But we're thinking it should be easily north of 30 per cent, and if we can breach 40, great.”
At the high end of pricing, although the Skyactiv-X engine has not yet been announced for Canada and a potential Signature grade is still under study, both could push the most expensive Mazda3 grades well over $30,000, a level that is closer to entry-level pricing for luxury compacts.
However, according to the 2018 MaritzCX New Vehicle Customer Study, all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive is cited as the number one purchase factor for luxury C-class cars at 12.2 per cent, demonstrating that desire for the feature is currently pushing consumers up-market.
Peyman said that Mazda’s brand positioning allows it to equip the Mazda3 to meet both ends of that spectrum.
“Customers in this segment are very price-sensitive,” Peyman said. “We don't have the shackles of having a separate luxury arm like a lot of other OEMs do. They need to create spacing between those two brands.
“We have a lot more flexibility in how low and high we can go on pricing to satisfy a wide range of customers.”