With the introduction of the locally-assembled Mazda3, things are certainly looking up for the Malaysian consumer. The car is available in four variant forms, in 1.6 and 2.0 litre sedan and hatchback guise.

As expected, the pricing of all four versions are lower than previously, when the cars were imported, though whether you think the drop is significant enough considering the CKD/CBU conundrum is very much an individual perspective – there’ll be those who think it’s not enough, but for many, it might well mean a difference in viability now.

Price-wise, the 1.6 litre GL sedan goes for RM99,374 (solid) and RM99,774 (metallic), compared to RM111,249 before. Meanwhile, the 1.6 GL hatchback is priced at RM104,653 (solid) and RM105,053 (metallic), and was RM116,203 earlier.

As for the 2.0 GLS sedan, that goes for RM119,374 (solid) and RM119,774(metallic), more than 10k less than the previous RM131,249. The 2.0 GLS hatchback has the least change, its RM130,274 (solid) and RM130,674 (metallic) price a shade lower than the earlier RM135,999. All prices are retail, without insurance.

Specification-wise, there’s no change to the MZR pots’ outputs – the 1.6 litre unit develops 103 hp at 6,000 rpm and 144 Nm at 4,000 rpm, while the 2.0 litre unit cranks out 145 hp at 6,500 rpm and 182 Nm at 4,500 rpm. The 1.6-equipped versions come with a four-speed Activematic auto tranny, while the 2.0 litre jobs get a five-speed Activematic box.

In terms of standard features and equipment, the word is that nothing has been omitted with going local. With the exception of some interior trim differences, the cars get the same kaboodle of kit.

Common to all the cars are fog lamps, tilt and telescoping adjustable steering, multi-info display, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and BA as well as an immobiliser and an alarm system.

Besides the above, the 1.6 GL and GLS features a manual control air-conditioner, a four-speaker audio system, and the car comes wearing 205/55 series tyres on 16-inch wheels.

The 2.0 litre variants get more, naturally, and these include bi-xenon headlamps, dual-zone fully auto air-conditioning, a six-speaker audio system, side and curtain airbags in addition to the dual front airbags and an auto dimming rear view mirror.

Additionally, you get rain sensing auto wipers, cruise control, paddle shifters and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob on the 2.0, which has 17-inch wheels wearing 215/45 series tyres.

The availability of a locally-assembled Mazda3 speaks volume for Mazda’s confidence in the Malaysian market – the car’s CKD programme in Malaysia is the first to come about in Asean. Production began rolling out of the production line in January this year at the Inokom assembly plant in Kedah, where output is expected to be 3,000 units a year.

The claim is that the Malaysian-built Mazda3 will have the equivalent quality level of the CBU Mazda3, with Mazda’s production and engineering team working closely with the plant staff at the Inokom factory.

Four colour choices are available for the CKD Mazda3, and these are Aluminium Metallic, Gunmetal Blue Mica, Black Mica and Crystal White Pearl Mica.

The cars are available for viewing as part of the Mazda Motor Show display going on at the ground floor of the new wing of 1Utama Shopping Centre, where it’s slated to run until March 6. Any Mazda models booked during the show gets you the chance to win vouchers worth RM200 up to RM9,000 depending on the model purchased, which can then be redeemed for accessories purchases or offset as a cash discount.

The Mazda3 MPS was also officially launched today, following an earlier preview, and enters the hot hatch arena fight at RM175,109. The Mazda Performance Series gem is powered by a turbocharged MZR 2.3 litre DISI block offering 256 hp at 5,500rpm and 380 Nm of torque at 3,000rpm, working with a six-speed manual gearbox and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential.

Besides the MPS bits, which include a bodykit, red decoration panel, leather/cloth-mix seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob, standard equipment includes bi-xenon headlamps, a six-CD in-dash, 10 speaker Bose audio system and 225/40 series rubbers on 18-inch wheels.