Here I am, snaking through the famed Ortega Highway in Southern California in a Mazda, attacking every apex and rowing through the crisp six-speed manual’s gears with an ear-to-ear grin. Only I’m not driving a Miata or RX-8. I’m driving a friggin’ minivan.
Now in its second generation, the Mazda5 continues to occupy a unique niche in the marketplace (and will likely continue to do so for the time being now that Ford has canceled plans to bring the conceptually similar European C-Max seven-seater to the U.S.). Launched earlier this year as a 2012 model, the new Mazda5 doesn’t stray much from the template established by its predecessor, but for the right kind of family, that’s fine and dandy.
As little as a few years ago, a vehicle in this segment might sit the weekend at AutoPacific, with few takers interested in trading their personal rides for a weekend in an econo-box. But times have changed, and economy compact cars have changed with them. The 2011 Mazda 2 in AutoPacific’s fleet was signed out long before it arrived.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen drastic improvements in vehicles in general, and small cars have improved with the rest of the market. B-Segment cars in international markets have developed past the basic econo-box Americans remember. We are just beginning to see these improvements on vehicles here in the states and the 2011 Mazda is a great example.
Probably the most stylish exterior in the segment, the Mazda 2 has a rising beltline that gives the car a mildly aggressive look. Our Touring model included an upgraded seat fabric with red piping, alloy wheels, fog lights, rear roof spoiler, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, trip computer, and two extra speakers.
On the road the Mazda 2 rivals the Honda Fit for fun, and is certainly more fun to drive than others in this segment, including the Toyota Yaris. Mazda will get stiff competition from platform competition, the Ford Fiesta. In addition, the segment is exploding with activity, including the Chevrolet Spark and Aveo. For Mazda, however, this influx of players will likely increase consideration in the segment overall, which could help the Mazda 2.
The Future of US Motoring?
Unloading the Mazda over the weekend, a neighbor commented, “The future of US motoring, huh?” While we’re not forecasting a European embrace of the economy compact segment, AutoPacific sees cars like the Mazda 2 increasing in sales over the coming years. More offerings are coming from various players who are hedging that fuel price instability will continue to push consumers towards the segment. While common in Europe, we have yet to see a steady migration of US buyers to this segment. We generally see US consumers temporarily jump to this segment in a knee-jerk reaction to fuel price instability, only to retreat back to larger vehicles when the growth in fuel prices is less volatile.
While we see this reaction when studying consumer segment intention and vehicle sales, we have yet to see what converts to this segment will do over time. There is a lot to be said for the style, comfort, economy and yes, fun, that the Mazda 2 offers. Perhaps vehicles like the Mazda 2 will be more than a fad.
Mazda has a real winner on its hands with the CX-9 – a Large Crossover SUV that actually says Zoom-Zoom! The CX-9 is the outright winner in 26 of 48 satisfaction attributes, and is well rated in the rest. Winning attributes of the CX-9 include such important characteristics as:
• Exterior styling and size
• Fun-to-drive, power/acceleration and handling (the essence of Zoom-Zoom)
• Seating capacity and flexible/changeable seating
• Quality, reliability/dependable, durable/long lasting
• Safety features and a feeling of safety while driving
• Operating costs, anticipated resale value and value for money
There are two kinds of automotive manufacturers. Those that focus heavily on building an unemotional, quality appliance and those that believe a vehicle should be more than just basic transportation. Mazda has developed into the latter. The 2010 Mazda3 underscores Mazda’s focus on producing stylish, performance oriented vehicles at an affordable price.
The 2010 Mazda3 is really the fifth generation of what we now call the Mazda3. It began with the ‘great little car’ – GLC, followed by 323, Protoge’, and previous generation Mazda3. From introduction, the Mazda3 garnered support from the press and consumers alike. Since Mazda relies so heavily on their little C-Segment car, it was imperative that 2010 iteration refine and improve the formula, evolving it rather than recreating it. We’re here to tell you that they didn’t disappoint. They’ve added more performance, more character and more options into the mix. The all-new Mazda3 is even more of a good thing.
Once fuel had reach $4.05 a gallon nationally, we watched as truck sales plummeted and small/compact car sales got a little boost. People in the industry began to say that compact cars were going to appeal to more Americans and make up a larger percentage of vehicles sold here in the United States. The trick is said to be selling these small/compact cars for a profit. Up until recently the major domestic automakers had been able to make up to $12,600 profit on Large Luxury SUVs, but selling a small/compact car only raked in about $2,400 bucks. Once you subtract anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for fixed costs you could actually end up with a negative number. Which means that a solid business case to produce small/compact cars here in the U.S. is not always an easy case to make; other than to help offset CAFE. Although, Mazda seems to be able to make a business case for them, and they sell tons of them!
Of course now there is talk of ‘premium small cars’ becoming popular with Generation Y and possibly becoming a more lucrative business venture. With fuel prices dropping again to around $2 a gallon only time will tell what the future of the small/compact car will be here in the United States. Still, injecting premium content into a small car may go a long way in appealing to an increasing number of people who don’t think small size should equal skimpy content.
Let’s get the big “a-ha” about the 2009 Mazda6 out of the way first: the Mazda6 has grown up to be a fully respectable member of society, but it has kept almost all of what made the original so appealing to keen drivers. It’s the automotive equivalent of Richard Branson, a man who has evolved to become one of the most admired business leaders in the world while retaining all of the hipness, style, and flamboyance of his youth.
The new Mazda6 is uncommonly stylish while ticking all the right boxes for mainstream shoppers
The first generation Mazda6 was always admired by enthusiasts; it was lean, engaging, full of feedback, and just plain great fun to drive. It was a cut-price BMW 3-Series in terms of its drive character. Those qualities, however, made it far less appealing for its primary mission – to serve as a solid family sedan. Despite its entertainment value on the road, it was small and cramped inside, noisy, and felt somewhat like a beer can.
The new 6, however, has soundly addressed each and every single one of those deficiencies that made Camry, Accord, and Altima a more amenable choice for many families. At the same time, it has become even more
stylish and easily matches or beats the Japanese Big Three sedans in terms of interior roominess, refinement, interior quality, and comfort. In short, we think it’s one of the most – if not the most – compelling mid-size sedans out there. At the media introduction of the 6 that VehicleVoice staff attended, Mazda was so confident of the new 6’s abilities that they had 4-cylinder and V6 samples of Accord, Camry, and Altima on hand for direct comparisons.
A sports car with a timeless, traditional layout, the Mazda MX-5 Miata scored at the top of the Sports Car class in the 2008 Ideal Vehicle Awards. With high ratings for cargo space, visibility, handling, power and acceleration and interior storage, the MX-5 Miata blew the competition away.
Zoom Zoom Evolution
Mazda Atenza Sedan, Tokyo
Mazda 6 Hatchback, Frankfurt
It was back in 2001 that Mazda started blasting auto-show attendees and innocent TV watchers with the now-famous zoom-zoom theme. Mazda has remained true to Zoom-Zoom in the intervening years, and the second generation of the first Zoom-Zoom cars are starting to arrive. The Mazda2, not sold in the States, led the evolution this past summer. Mazda’s mid-size sedan (and five-door hatchback and wagon) entry is next, known as the Mazda6 outside of Japan and as the Atenza inside. Though U.S. sales don’t begin until summer 2008, the exterior shown at the recent Frankfurt and Tokyo auto shows, pictured below, is close to what we’ll see then.
What we likely won’t see are the wagon or the five-door hatchback, though these bodystyles continue for other markets. U.S. mid-size car segments are dominated by sedans, with a few coupes here and there. For the 2008MY, Mazda gave up the wagon version of the 6, Dodge will drop the Magnum for 2009MY, and Chevrolet gave up the five-door hatchback/wagon-type Malibu Maxx with its 2008MY redesign. Mazda sold fewer than 10,000 wagon Mazda6s in any given year it was available, compared with well over 50,000 sedans annually.
Mazda Atenza Family
Mazda 6 Family
The job of the new Mazda6, according to Mazda, is to continue to deepen and evolve Kizuna
, the emotional connection drivers feel with the 6. The new face is evolutionary but strong follow-up for a car that was as well received as this the first time around. Kizuna, for Mazda6, embodies three core values. Mazda wants the 6 to offer an emotional and sporty driving experience that creates a oneness between car and driver, to offer an exclusive experience through a comfortable space and high-quality craftsmanship inside, and finally to offer an “insightful package” that balances the first two elements and incorporates logical, well-thought-out, and easy-to-use driver interface and storage areas. Based on our limited show-floor time, Mazda looks to have created a 6 (and Atenza) with the kizuna they are looking for.
Mazda 6 Sedan