Miata:

Mazda Steps Up the Two-Seat Convertible Wars

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Optional Power Retractable Hard Top to Join MX-5’s Options List
Though the news has not found its way to Mazda’s U.S. web site, the home-market branch announced today that the MX-5 convertible gets a new power retractable hard top option that will be offered in North America, Europe, and Japan. More details will be available after its formal introduction at the London auto show in mid-July, but we at VehicleVoice couldn’t wait to bring you the first pictures. Shown here is the European spec model.

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In Japan, the hardtop model will be called Mazda Roadster Power Retractable Hard Top, in Europe the Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe, and in North America the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) Power Retractable Hard Top.
With the new hard top, Mazda is raising the stakes against newcomers from Pontiac and Saturn in the affordable, two-seat convertible market. Will Mazda sell lots of hard-top-equipped MX-5s in the States? Probably not. While experts at AutoPacific do not expect that the model will dramatically increase sales or account for a large percent of the overall mix, Mazda may see a small increase with the new option. More important, it puts General Motors on notice that Mazda will not be giving up their share of this market without a fight. It is also not the only trick up Mazda’s sleeve, as a MazdaSpeed MX-5 is also in the works.
Check back next month, when we expect to have more details about the U.S. on-sale date and equipment for the U.S.-specification models.
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Mazda Kabura Explores an Entry Sporty Coupe

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MX-5-Based Concept Introduced in Detroit
Owing more mechanically to the recently launched third-generation Mazda MX-5 (you remember, the sports car formerly known as Miata) convertible than to the RX-8 (which has been expected to spawn a two-door variant), the Kabura concept that introduced at the 2006 North American International Auto Show offers exterior dimensions between the MX-5 and RX-8. The concept explores the idea of an entry-level sports coupe that also offers enough interior space for today’s demanding audiences. While Mazda did not promise the Kabura is scheduled for production, they did indicate that if produced, it would stand as its own model line, alongside MX-5 and RX-8. Vehicle Voice and AutoPacific correspondents were there to take a look.
The Kabura is a two-door, rear-wheel-drive coupe powered by the Miata’s 2.0L four-cylinder engine mated to the six-speed transmission and borrowing suspension setup and components from the Miata. If our recent drive of two versions of the Miata are any indication, the Kabura could be a terrifically fun car to drive, though its larger size and expanded interior utility could increase the vehicle’s weight.


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There's No Such Thing As A Bad Name For A Good Car

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In spite of the fact the naming of new automobiles is one of the most arcane and over-intellectualized elements of the auto industry, when all is said and done the name is all but academic if the car is good. And the best damned name in the world will do little to redeem a miserable excuse for an automobile. Perhaps a few examples are called for. When it comes to the lame name for a accomplished automobile a few rise to the top…
Jim Hall, VehicleVoice correspondent and head of AutoPacific‘s Industry Analysis office ponders the naming conundrum.
Mazda Miata Good Car, Good Name, Now the MX-5
Mazda has decided to go back to its original name for the extremely popular Miata sports car. Now the car is officially the MX-5 and Miata is no longer “officially” used. Reportedly, when Mazda was testing potential names in focus groups (none of which were ever chosen), one participant almost came out of his chair when he saw a photo of the Miata prototype and said, “I don’t care what they call it, I would call it MINE!” Well, that is the kind of reaction you want when naming a car, but now millions are spent figuring out what combination of letters and numbers to use to name a car. Oh yeah, how was the Miata named? The Mazda Product Planner for the car at the time was flipping through a dictionary one day and came upon a word that sounded good and meant something good in German. Sold. Cheap, effective research.


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Infiniti Coupe Concept Refines G35 Design

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Evolutionary Design for Second Generation
Infiniti’s 2006 NAIAS stand prominently featured a concept done by the Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi, Japan. Though badged as Coupe Concept, the model indicates the next step for the G35 coupe and sedan. Infiniti will show the sedan at the New York Auto Show in March 2006. Vehicle Voice and AutoPacific correspondents were in town to catch the show, and the Coupe Concept was not missed.
This evolutionary design brings a sharper face with more laid-back headlights and a sharper crease in the front fascia. Changes to the rear look are minimal, with the concept using taillights that are nearly the same shape as those on the current car, though the rear fascia is shallower and the rear spoiler integrated into the decklid and more subdued.


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Saturn Sky Quietly Introduced in Los Angeles

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Spring 2006 Sales for Saturn’s First Convertible
The wait is nearly over. After the 2002 Saturn Sky concept sparked speculation about when and if Saturn would add a convertible and was followed by a concept version only twelve months ago, the production vehicle arrives at showrooms in spring 2006. The concept introduced at the Detroit auto show and the production car on display at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show are nearly identical, though the two-seat, rear-wheel-drive roadster is basically the opposite of the front-wheel-drive 2002 concept.


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Car & Driver – 10Best Cars 2006

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Every year, Car & Driver, one of the high circulation car enthusiast magazines in the United States, publishes the results of its 10Best awards. The 2006 10Best Cars awards were released in the January 2006 issue of Car & Driver and you can find them on the C&D website at (http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=33&article_id=10354)
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Not having looked at the winners prior to writing this blog, VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) staff conjectured about what types of cars Car & Driver would select.
We knew that, being a buff book, they’d select cars that appealed to the enthusiast, maybe throw one or two mundane winners into the mix, be heavy on import marques and generally favor smaller cars. Lets see how accurate we were?
BEST SPORTS SEDAN – Acura TSX
BEST SPORT COMPACT- Audi A3
BEST LUXURY SPORTS SEDAN – BMW 3-Series
BEST PERFORMANCE CAR – Chevrolet Corvette
BEST FULL SIZE SEDAN – Chrysler 300
BEST MUSCLE CAR – Ford Mustang GT
BEST FAMILY SEDAN – Honda Accord
BEST ROADSTER – Mazda MX-5 (Miata)
BEST SPORTS COUPE – Mazda RX-8
BEST LUXURY SPORTS CAR – Porsche Boxster
So, lets see, seven are import brands, 3 of the imports are from Germany and four are from Japan. Mazda picks up two wins with its sports cars.


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Land Rover LR3 for First Snow of the Season: To SUV or Not To SUV

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After an unusually warm fall, in southeastern Michigan we are experiencing temperatures more typical of January and February than November or December, complete with early snowfall well ahead of the average. By December 11, we had seen more snow than our average for the entire month of December and more snow than we’ve seen in December since 1974, according to a local newscast. Four to eight inches of the month’s ten-plus inches dropped on the evening of December 8, when snow started coming down heavy about 6 p.m. By about 9:30 p.m., it sure seemed as though three-quarters of the total had fallen. I was attending a holiday party and needed to drive about fifteen miles before I could be snug at home, I found myself grateful to be driving a Land Rover LR3. But: Grateful enough to opt for an SUV for our household fleet?

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