New driver assistance segment firsts for 2014 Mazda3

  • 10-Oct-2013 04:26 EDT
2014 Mazda3 .JPG

The 2014 Mazda3 rides on a 106.3-in (2700-mm) wheelbase—2.4 in (61 mm) longer than the previous model. Yet the sedan is 0.6 in (15 mm) shorter in overall length at 180.3 in (4580 mm).

The 2014 Mazda3’s new approach to the human-machine interface (HMI) includes an infotainment system that features a 7-in dashboard display and a floor console commander for controlling audio, navigation, and other settings.

“If you’re operating a touch screen while you’re driving not only are you staring at the screen to get your finger to touch it, you’re also reaching forward. That means your body comes off the seat and you typically end up putting unwanted inputs into the steering wheel. We built the Mazda Connect around a floor console commander that provides tactile feedback and a place to plant your elbow while you’re using it,” Dave Coleman, Vehicle Evaluation Manager for R&D, Mazda North American Operations, said during a September ride and drive Mazda3 media program in San Diego, CA.

Mazda Connect underscores the automaker’s new HMI approach of dividing information into groupings—pertinent driving information in one zone and infotainment in another zone.

Infotainment categories are shown on a 7-in screen located atop the dashboard’s center-point. The driver can select and navigate through a chosen communications or entertainment option directly from the dashboard screen, via voice recognition, or with the new floor console commander while the vehicle is stationary.

But when the vehicle is in motion, either voice recognition or the floor console’s commander handles infotainment tasks. The driver selects an infotainment option from one of three push buttons (audio, home, navigation) on the floor console and then uses the floor console’s commander dial for scrolling within a chosen category. When connected to a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, the system can provide access to certain Internet services and apps.

Coleman said that the goal is to have the driver glancing at the right place at the right time. “That’s why the touch screen has been pushed up through the dash—rather than having the dash pulled up. With the 2014 Mazda6, the driver has to look down 22 degrees to see the screen, but with the Mazda3 the angle is 13 degrees,” adding that the 5.3 mm (0.2 in) text size and the space between the lines is larger than competitors’ compact vehicles.

Vehicle speed, turn-by-turn navigation information, in-use active safety notifications, and other driver-relevant information appears in turquoise-colored text via an all-new, heads-up display. This see-through panel is positioned above the instrument cluster. Mazda’s Active Driving Display panel automatically flips up when the ignition is on and flips down when the ignition is turned off. The position of the information shown on the heads-up display can be adjusted up or down using the floor console commander.

According to David Matthew, Vehicle Line Manager for Product Planning and Strategy, Mazda North American Operations: “There are a few tasks that can be accomplished more efficiently by using the touch screen or voice recognition—for example, entering an address using the touch screen’s touchpad or by speaking the full address. But other than a few exceptions, the system was developed such that the multifunction commander is the most efficient way to get things done.”

The infotainment system and the heads-up display followed a back-to-basics engineering and manufacturing approach akin to Mazda’s Skyactiv technology development process. Said Coleman, “we’ll use this HMI system on other models moving forward.”

The Mazda3 also puts a spotlight on various active safety systems, collectively known as i-Activsense. These advanced systems use radar, laser, or a video camera, according to Matthew.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert expands on an existing technology. “It uses the same sensor system as blind-spot monitoring. But instead of using the 24-GHz radar to detect the traffic in the vehicle’s blind spots at highway speeds, it works when you put the vehicle in reverse. When the system senses traffic coming from the left or right of the vehicle’s rear, the system sends an audible and visual alert,” Matthew said.

When traveling at speeds from about 2 to 19 mph (3 to 30 km/h), Smart City Brake Support uses a near-infrared laser to detect a vehicle up to 16 ft (4.8 m) ahead. The system can apply the brakes to help prevent or minimize a collision. “If the system senses an impending collision, it will pressurize the brake system to move the pads closer to the rotors so that braking can occur faster. If the driver doesn’t take action, the system automatically applies the brakes,” said Matthew.

Other i-Activsense safety technologies available on the Mazda3 include lane-departure warning, which monitors lane markings via video camera and provides an audible/visual alert when the vehicle is predicted to leave the lane. High beam control automatically switches headlamps between high and low beams when oncoming traffic is detected via video camera or when overtaking a vehicle. Forward obstruction warning uses 76-GHz radar to monitor the forward vehicle and issues audible/visual warnings for high-risk collision events. Mazda Radar Cruise Control automatically adjusts vehicle speed from about 20-90 mph (32-145 km/h) to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle ahead based on readings from the 76-GHz radar.

“Mazda Radar Cruise Control and Smart City Brake Support are industry-firsts for the non-luxury compact car segment,” said Matthew. Both technologies as well as lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert are new to Mazda globally in 2014.  

The Skyactiv-G 2.0-L and Skyactiv-G 2.5-L four-cylinders are Mazda3’s engine choices for the North American market. The 2.0-L produces 155 hp (116 kW) at 6000 rpm and 150 lb·ft (203 N·m) of torque at 4000 rpm, while the Skyactiv-G 2.5-L puts out 184 hp (137 kW) at 5700 rpm and 185 lb·ft (250 N·m) of torque at 3250 rpm. Both engines use a high-tumble port and a 4-2-1 exhaust system, which increases engine output in comparison to the 2013 Mazda3 engines.

Compared to the 2013 model, aerodynamic performance has improved to 0.255 Cd on the sedan and 0.275 Cd on the five-door when equipped with active grille shutters and i-Eloop (intelligent energy loop). I-Eloop is a capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system that converts the car’s kinetic energy into electricity when the accelerator pedal is released. The active grille shutters and i-Eloop are new to the Mazda3.

According to Coleman: “The capacitor can be fully charged in 8 s and it takes between 40 and 110 s to discharge it, depending on how much electrical load there is. The way the i-Eloop works is the variable voltage alternator, which can ramp up to as high as 25-volt output—dumps the charge into a capacitor, and that capacitor slowly meters it out to the battery to power the headlights, audio, and other vehicle electrical systems.”

The 2014 Mazda3, which is now in dealerships, will be sold in more than 120 countries and accounts for approximately 30% of the automaker’s global sales. The starting MSRP for the sedan is $16,945 and $18,945 for the five-door.

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