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2009 Mazda6: Moving On Up, But Keeping It Real


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 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 Mazda6 is uncommonly stylish while ticking all the right boxes for mainstream shoppers

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.

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Mazda MX-5 Miata Wins AutoPacific 2008 Ideal Vehicle Award for Sports Car



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.

Posted in: Awards, Mazda

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2009 Mazda6: Frankfurt and Tokyo Introductions Preview U.S. Model


Zoom Zoom Evolution
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.


Mazda Atenza Sedan, Tokyo


Mazda 6 Hatchback, Frankfurt

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

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Mazda CX-9 – Flagship from Hiroshima


Mazda CX-9 2007 F34.jpg

VehicleVoice staffers had been looking forward to the Mazda CX-9 to see how the new Mazda flagship stacks up against competition. One of a plethora of new Crossover SUVs, Mazda is venturing into uncharted, for them, territory.
Mid-Size or Large Crossover SUV… a Tweener?
The CX-9 is a “large” Crossover SUV – not the size of the Tahoe-sized GM Lambda Crossover SUVs like the GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave, but still big enough to have a relatively comfortable 3rd row seat. AutoPacific carries CX-9 in our Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV segment (what a mouthful). It may actually deserve to be categorized in the Large Crossover Segment. We’re taking a look at it.
Styling is Modern, but Blends in With Other Contemporary Crossover SUVs
The styling of the CX-9 is modern without being overdone like its lower priced stablemate the CX-7. There are no wheel arch accents over the front wheel like the CX-7, RX-8 and Miata, but I don’t know if this is good. I was kinda getting into the more blatant Mazda front end look. The CX-9 doesn’t offend, it just blends. So from an overall styling standpoint, it seems to “blend” rather than turn heads. Some folks wondered if it was a new Lexus RX, so I guess being mistaken for an RX (like the Hyundai Veracruz is) ain’t too bad.

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2007 Motorist Choice Awards Announced


2007 MCA Logo.jpg

The Motorist Choice Award is in its second year and is a collaboration between AutoPacific and AutoPacific, widely known for its industry expertise and research, and IntelliChoice, known for its comprehensive cost of ownership information, designed the Motorist Choice Award to help consumers identify the most satisfying cars and trucks that are also the least expensive to own.
Using data from AutoPacific’s national Vehicle Satisfaction research and the IntelliChoice Best Overall Value information, AutoPacific and IntelliChoice have developed a unique tool that can be used by consumers to help them sort through the myriad of choices in today’s automotive marketplace.
Here are the 2007 Winners of the 25 individual segment awards:
SEGMENT – Winner
Aspirational Luxury Car – Lexus IS
Compact Car – Mazda3
Compact Crossover SUV – Chevrolet HHR
Compact Pickup – Toyota Tacoma
Compact Sport Utility/ORV – Toyota Tacoma
Economy Car – Honda Fit
Image Compact Car – Volkswagen GTi
Large Car – Toyota Avalon
Large Heavy Duty Pickup – Chevrolet Silverado HD
Large Light Duty Pickup – Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Large Luxury Car – Cadillac DTS
Large Sport Utility – GMC Yukon XL
Luxury Crossover SUV – Acura MDX
Luxury Mid-Size Car – Nissan Maxima
Luxury Sport Utility – Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Mid-Size Car – Volkswagen Jetta
Mid-Size Crossover SUV – Honda CR-V
Mid-Size Sport Utility – Toyota 4Runner
Minivan – Honda Odyssey
Premium Luxury Car – Lexus LS
Premium Mid-Size Car – Nissan Altima
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV – Nissan Murano
Premium Sports Car – Lexus SC
Sports Car – Porsche Boxster
Sporty Car – Scion tC
The press release can be found below the fold.
• • • • •

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Mazda3 – Wins 2007 AutoPacific Motorist Choice Compact Car


AutoPacific take on Mazda3 win – With a combination of great breaking, handling, and ride Mazda has found a sweet spot in the Compact Car segment. Winning the Compact Car category in the 2007 Motorist Choice Awards® the Mazda3 provides owners with a great value in an easy to live with package.
IntelliChoice take on Mazda3 win – The Mazda3 does not lead the class in any one area, but has solid retained value, and performs above average in both fuel and maintenance costs.

Posted in: Awards, Mazda

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2008 Mazda Tribute – Still Great Crossover SUV


OK, the Mazda Tribute has been around for years. Mazda has practically forgotten about it. There is very little advertising for the Tribute especially since Mazda has its more modern and upscale CX-7 and CX-9 Crossover SUVs to pitch. Because Tribute lives in the shadows of its “more important” brethren it is easy to forget about it. That’s a shame, because the Tribute is a fine Crossover SUV overall, with only a few warts that could be corrected with very little investment or cost.

Mazda Tribute F34 blog.jpg

Mazda Tribute Derived From Ford Escape – Sweet Spot Among Crossover SUVs
Over the years, AutoPacific has had Ford Escape Crossover SUVs in product clinic research. Since introduction the Escape and its derivatives – the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute – have represented the sweet spot among small to mid-size Crossover SUVs. Easy to live with, easy to get into and out of, good interior package. Wow. Very well thought-out and executed. Ford knew the solution to the SUV equation when they developed the Escape and Mazda benefits.
One of the advantages of the new 2008 Mazda Tribute and the 2008 versions of the Escape and Mariner are that they have more differentiation than they have ever had before. You can actually tell which is a Mazda, Ford or Mercury at a glance.
Mazda Tribute Drivers Area.jpg

Mazda Tribute I:P.jpg

Not big, not small, the Tribute is a handy size. Easy to maneuver. Easy to see out of. Reasonably large rear seat and usable cargo area. All product attributes that measure up to a pleasant and affordable package. For a bit over $23,000 this Mazda Tribute is an excellent value.
Mazda Tribute Cargo.jpg

Nitpicks – NVH and V6 Finesse
What are the problems? Well, there needs to be some work done on engine noise and road noise. Not insurmountable problems. The venerable 3.0L V6 engine pleasant around town but thrashy when pushed. I’d love to drive a Tribute with Ford’s new 3.5L V6, but that’s not in the cards.
No Passion? But Would Make a Great Car for a Young Driver
What did the office say? Of course, folks around the AutoPacific and VehicleVoice offices have strong opinions about vehicles like the Tribute. One gray hair contended that when describing all the virtues of the Tribute the one word that was not mentioned was “passion” or and other word “enthusiasm”. True enough, but the Tribute, overall can be a very persuasive package without being headturning or making your blood run hot.
Others in the office observed that the Tribute would make a great vehicle for a teenager just out of high school and going off to college. The Tribute has enough room for the driver and a few friends plus the cargo room to carry their stuff. In fact, my high school buddy Bill Spiers in Metarie, Louisiana just bought one for his youngest daughter as a graduation present. She was pleased to say the least.
Also, as Bill learned, the Tribute can be found with tremendous discounts that make buying a Mazda a much better deal than a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4.

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Playboy Awards 2007 Cars of the Year

You could tell from the smiles on the faces of the suits from Cadillac that they had just come from something special. The Cadillac Escalade had just won the Playboy 2007 Car of the Year Award. Jim Taylor, Cadillac General Manager was lugging around a golden trophy with a totally blinged-out Playboy bunny glued to it and a discreet plaque proclaiming Escalade’s win.

Playboy COTY Logo.jpg

Playboy Magazine has just named their 2007 Cars of the Year. Included in this year’s list were:
Playboy 2007 Car of the Year – BMW Z4 M
Best SUV – Cadillac Escalade
Best Sports Coupe – Porsche 911 Carrera
Best Bang for the Buck – Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500
The Al Gore Special – Lexus GS450h
Best Two-Way Player – Volkswagen Eos
Best Pickup – Toyota Tundra
Best Cross Dresser – Mazda CX-7
Best Roadster – Saturn Sky Red Line
Oh yeah, about the presentations. Apparently, a hostess Playmate gave the executives a tour around the Playboy Mansion. A former Playmate, the young lady was extremely well spoken, knew her stuff and presented Playboy in a very favorable light. What I’m saying is that she wasn’t the airhead blonde bimbette that may have been expected at Playboy.

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My Favorite Rides of the Year


At this time of year, everyone wants you to know about the best cars, trucks and SUVS of the year. AutoPacific has already taken a big step in that direction, but with a twist: Partnering with Intellichoice, AutoPacific shared the best vehicles of the year, as picked by you – and that’s saying something! The Awards are called the Motorist’s Choice Awards and this year included the Lexus LS430, The Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4×2, the Infiniti QX56 and the Audi A6 4.2 Quattro. Where else can you go to get the best possible input from your own peers about the latest vehicles in the marketplace? Since you’re here, we think you’ve come to the right place.
Watch the Podcast: AutoPacific & IntelliChoice Motorist’s Choice Awards


My Personal Choices for Best Rides of the Year
It’s part of my job to drive a new vehicle nearly every week. In some cases, more than one vehicle at week gets the once-over, not only by me, but by a number of the analysts and experts at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. As the resident speed-guy, I might have a slightly different take on things and while I do try to avoid going to court, I do need to put my foot down. And that’s part of what my list is about. The other things I’m taking into consideration are everyday drivability, cost, and return on investment. And as you know, everyone is concerned about fuel costs and gas mileage. Not me! Not yet… So, let’s get to it.

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LA Auto Show – Mazda Nagare Concept


Acura (click here for our story) wasn’t the only manufacturer exploring themes for more than ten years out at the November 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, and not the only manufacturer who may have missed the mark.
Mazda developed the Nagare (pronounced na-ga-reh) concept to describe their future design themes, as an expression of where Mazda styling might be in 2020. Nagare is not only the name of this concept, but the name of Mazda’s future design language. The word, according to Mazda, is Japanese for flow and the “embodiment of motion.” Nagare is the first of several show properties being prepared for this year’s auto show season that will explore this new surface language, each of which will take a different interpretation. Mazda promises some of the concepts we see this year will be closer to production; this Nagare is a design rather than a production expression.


Form Follows Function? Not Here
Nagare has a sleek, aerodynamic shape, but one that is difficult to reconcile with the concept of an “urban cruiser” for 2020 or any other decade. For one, the extreme aero look didn’t leave much room for people, the most basic reason for having a vehicle. Placing the wheels at the extreme edges of every corner does promise strong and nimble handling and give the concept an aggressive stance. This concept stressed the soul of the sports car over the ability for people to ride in it. Though Mazda didn’t actually show the concept property with doors open, it is designed with two forward-hinged double-length doors that open like butterfly wings. Nice and pretty and a configuration found on lots of concepts, but one that is rarely used in production, and even then typically for low-volume sports cars.

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