We've been all but assured that the covers will be pulled off the next generation Mazda3 before the end of the year, possibly in Paris, with sales expected to begin in the Spring of 2009. So it was just a matter of time before we started seeing spy shots of the new Mazda3 undergoing testing. Our new friend Chris came upon two heavily-camoed prototypes in northern New Mexico and was kind enough to send them along for our inspection.
Chris points out that while it was difficult to snap photos of the mules at 80 mph, he was able to get several shots that tipped us off to their origin. The central-mounted binnacle on the dash has been a fixture of late-model Mazdas, and the CX-9 leading the parade pretty much confirmed our suspicions.
When the new Mazda3 is finally revealed later this year, expect a similar fascia as that found on the recently redesigned Mazda6, along with a few cues pulled from Mazda's recent run of "Nagare"-inspired concepts. Four- and five-door variants are planned, with engines spanning the range from 1.5- to 2.5-liters.