Review: 2014 Mazda3 5 Door GT

Wednesday December 11th, 2013 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Responsive and Planted Handling, Loads of Standard Attributes
Gripes: Minuscule Tachometer Face

Those who lament the recent passing of Mazda’s sterling sports car, the RX8, will be thrilled to know that its sporting DNA lives on in the all new, third generation, 2014 Mazda3. No, this affordable sedan (Base price: $23,245) is not powered by the RX8′s iconic rotary engine. You’ll know that the second you check the fuel consumption figures for the Mazda3: 33 MPG overall — a figure the thirsty rotary could never dream of matching. Yet the “SKYACTIV-G” 2 liter engine in the sedan winds to its impressive redline of 6000 rpm with such alacrity that you’d swear a rotary power plant was lurking somewhere under the hood.

Likewise, this fully functional 5 passenger sedan manages to mimic the nimble handling of the departed RX8. In GT form, the 3′s attributes include such corner carving essentials as independent front and rear suspension, four wheel disc brakes, electric power assisted rack and pinion steering, and 16 inch alloy wheels shod with sticky Yokohama Avid 834 tires (205/60R16). Of course, the 3 is so innocuous looking that you’ll never have to share your Mazda’s secret sports car inclinations with anyone else. Except for the fully integrated and well disguised roof spoiler, you’ll find none of the clues typical of a high performance package: no low profile tires, no bulging fender wells, and most certainly, no stripes, or taping. Only dual chromed exhaust pipes make a slight concession to showiness. Otherwise, the long list of eliminations renders the new 3 perfect for fast motoring without drawing undue attention to itself. In view of the fact that Mazda bills itself as the Zoom-Zoom car company, the new 3 upholds the expectations of long time marque loyalists in every way.

The reason Mazda has sold more than 3.5 million versions of the 3 since it was introduced in 2004 is value. Even at this economic price point, our test car contained the following impressive list of standard features: keyless entry, moonroof, heated front seats, 7 inch color touchscreen display, navigation system, halogen headlights, and HD Radio as well as SIRIUSXM radio. The list of standard driving aids is equally lengthy, and includes dynamic stability control, traction control and hill launch assist. this last feature was particularly appreciated when starting our 6-speed manual transmission Mazda3 on inclines. Since the sleek profile of the 3 impedes rear 3/4 vision, the standard rear view camera and cross traffic alert serve as welcome safety inclusions. You don’t even have to check your tire pressures regularly because this Mazda does it for you every day thanks to its standard tire pressure monitoring system.

The 3′s level of fit and finish belies its low price. The leatherette trimmed front sports seats are supportive enough to cope with the considerable side loadings developed by the suspension. The driver’s seat is 6-way power adjustable, with manual lumbar control. The rear bench seat folds in a 60/40 pattern, and includes a drink-holder center armrest. The rear door design is so sleekly integrated into the car’s flowing lines that the 5-door 3 looks more like a coupe than a utilitarian hatchback. If you enjoy driving a responsive vehicle but need to keep your purchase practical, the new Mazda3 is an ideal choice.

2014 Mazda3 5 Door GT

  • Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC inline 4
  • Horsepower: 150hp @ 6000rpm
  • Torque: 150 lb.-ft. @ 4000rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 29 MPG City/40 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $24,335
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Sunday October 27th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Wealth of Included Niceties
Gripes: Underwhelming Grunt Below 3,000 rpm

Styling concepts pioneered by Mazda’s Shinari and Takeri show cars have reached fruition in the all new Mazda6. After taking it for a spin over challenging back roads, I can attest to the fact that this voluptuous looking reincarnation of the formerly prosaic Mazda6 is more than just a pretty new face. The revamped Mazda6 proved its mettle with refined handling, precise balance and high grip levels. It should come as no surprise that Mazda has been fielding a team of Mazda6 sedans in the GTX category of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) this year. What should come as a surprise, however, is that these race-prepped Mazda sedans are currently vying with a Porsche Cayman S for the series title with just a few races left to run. Although the ALMS Mazda6s are Diesel-powered, our test vehicle’s 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine ran on gasoline — so efficiently that we couldn’t use even a half tank of it after a whole week of running. The EPA rates the gasoline version of the Mazda6 at 32 MPG overall, and the turbo Diesel version, coming later this fall, will even improve on that skinflint economy.

The Mazda6 is a lot of sedan for the money. Its base price of $29,695 includes 4 door seating for 5, leather trimmed, heated sports seats up front, and a 60/40 fold down arrangement for the rear seats. Given the reasonable price, it was a surprise to find Mazda has included in the base car’s specifications a Bose 11 speaker audio system, SIRIUSXM and HD radio, and a 5.8 inch color touch screen display for the navigation system. The 185hp motor feeds its power to the front wheels via a new 6-speed automatic gearbox featuring manual gear selection via small paddles on the steering wheel spokes, or tap shifting from the floor-mounted stick. The steering wheel face also provides audio and phone controls on the left hand spoke and cruise controls on the right hand spoke. The standard issue, adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights deserve special praise not only for their brilliant illumination but also their magical ability to turn in the direction the sedan turns.

Nor did the Zoom-Zoom company default on suspension equipment. Standard 19 inch alloy rims provide secure mounts for Dunlop SP Sport radials (225/45R19) at all 4 corners. These all-season tires provide reassuring grip when you’re tackling switchback turns, or building speed on long, arcing freeway on-ramps. Handling of the Mazda6 is predictable and precise, despite the fact that 59% of its 3,185 pound curb weight rests on the front axle. Torque-steer is absent because the engine produces just 185 lb.-ft. of torque, which is never enough to cause the front wheels to slip while turning. In fact, the downside to the Mazda6 lurks under the hood, where the 4 cylinder engine’s lack of horsepower and torque is especially evident at low rpm in second gear. Just when you most need passing punch, the “Skyactiv” motor is loathe to deliver the required zest. Once you spool the engine past 3,000 rpm, however, the sedan becomes a serviceable performer.

A $2,080 “GT Technology Package” brought our test Mazda’s final price to more than $32,000. The package adds radar cruise control, regenerative braking, forward obstruction warning (FOW) and lane departure warning (LDW). Although the radar cruise control makes long distance running effortless, the benefit conferred by the other inclusions are less helpful. In fact, the LDW light on the instrument cluster flashed errantly for most of the week we spent with the car.

In view of the 2.5 liter four’s proclivity for sloth, we’d be inclined to hold out until the turbo Diesel makes its debut in a few months. After all, the Mazda6 platform is otherwise so good that it would be a shame to handicap its handling potential with a sub-par power plant.

2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring

  • Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC Inline 4
  • Horsepower: 184hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG City/40 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,845
  • Star Rating: 7.5 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Mazdaspeed3 Touring Review

Saturday February 9th, 2013 at 8:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Precise and Responsive Steering, Handling, Throttle
Gripes: Redline on Tach Indistinguishable

The Mazdaspeed3 is Weapons Grade Technology. Mazda can spend all its advertising budget touting how green SkyActiv Technology is, but what this company really does best is go fast. More drivers race more Mazdas in more US races than any other make of car. This relatively small company has dedicated itself to building a racing ladder here that starts with showroom stock MX-5 (Miata) competition and works its way through ever more committed levels of production and formula racing. So Mazda knows fast better than anyone. In fact, they’re so dedicated to the concept of speed that they run Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. If you too want fast, the Mazdaspeed3 is definitely your speeding ticket.

What’s the formula here? Take an unprepossessing Mazda3 sedan and swap its anemic 148hp engine for a 263hp turbocharged and intercooled MZR motor that loves to run hard. Next, junk the stock 3’s wimpy wheels and tires for a set of gunmetal alloy rims mounting ultra sticky Dunlop SP Sport 225/40R18 rubber. Recalibrate the steering rack so it’s ultra responsive, stiffen the suspension to formula car levels of precision, scoop the front seats out for better body retention under g-loads, and add a new two-tone rear liftgate spoiler for 2013 that adds downforce. The sum of these tweaks is a sizzling hot hatchback that will roll your eyeballs into your skull when you light the throttle, and challenge your equilibrium when you pitch it into a corner.

But you don’t have to behave like a delinquent when driving the ‘Speed3, because it’s happy to putter along at sub-warp speeds if you are. That superb 2.3 liter, direct-injection powerplant spools up so fast and produces so much torque down low in its rpm range (280 lb.-ft.) you almost never need to swap gears with the 6-speed manual transmission. So feel free to dawdle along in 3rd or 4th gear around town because the long stroke/small bore architecture of this engine (87.5mm bore x 94mm stroke) favors torque over high rpm operation. That’s just as well, because its virtually impossible to distinguish the redline on the tachometer face since ALL the numbers on the gauge are inexplicably backed by a continuous crimson band.

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2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD Review

Wednesday February 6th, 2013 at 4:22 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Small But Spacious, Unexpected Standard Features
Gripes: Slippery Steering Wheel Rim, Puny Power Output

Mazda introduced this replacement for their discontinued Tribute model back in April of 2012, making the CX-5 one of the first 2013 model year offerings to debut. This petite crossover SUV is based on the Mazda 3 platform, with an additional 2.4 inches spliced into its 106.1 inch wheelbase. But its length of 178.1 inches is actually 2 inches shorter than the Mazda 3. For such a short, compact SUV, the CX-5 is surprisingly efficient at accommodating bulky loads. I had no difficulty hoisting my mountain bike into the spacious rear cargo area created when by flattening the 40/20/40 folding rear seats. The hatchback loading floor is low enough to preclude hernias, and rear door actuation light enough to make closure pleasurable rather than painful.

With the rear seat backs raised, aft passengers will find themselves with just enough leg and headroom to make short trips acceptable. The rear of a CX-5, however, will not be your first choice for a 5 hour jaunt down Interstate 5. For that undertaking, you’ll want to sit up front, where Mazda has invested considerable attention to comfort and detail. For example, how many vehicles in this base price range ($28,595) offer heated driver and passenger seats as standard fitment? A 5.8 inch color display screen with rear facing camera is also part of the CX-5’s basic architecture. Likewise, a deafeningly loud Bose 9 speaker AM/FM/MP3/CD/SAT receiver is part of the base outfit here. The only extra cost option you might want to consider is the bargain-priced ($1,325) Grand Touring Tech Package, which not only adds Navigation to the infotainment mix, but also throws in adaptive, self-leveling headlights, a burglar alarm, and an advanced keyless entry system that unlocks the vehicle as you approach it. This GT Technology package is definitely prime value for the money.

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2012 Mazda3 5 Door Grand Touring SkyActiv Review

Sunday March 25th, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Efficient engine, Loaded with expensive interior features
Against: Zoom-Zoom free zone

Mazda bills itself as the “Zoom-Zoom” car company, with such tag lines as “Always the soul of a sports car” and “At Mazda, we believe if it’s not worth driving it’s not worth buying.” The company’s biggest selling model, the Mazda3, in the newly available Skyactiv form we tested, leaves plenty more room for zoom. If this hatchback hides the soul of a sports car, its location is a mystery.

Granted, Mazda offers the Mazdaspeed3 for dedicated sporting enthusiasts. This delightful pocket rocket boasts 263hp from its turbocharged 2.3 liter engine. But what about the 155hp engine in our test Mazda3? On paper, the new SKYACTIV-G formula looks good, with super high compression ratio (12:1), 4 into 2 into 1 exhaust, and special anti-knock design measures. But the 2 liter, four cylinder engine simply doesn’t produce enough urge to make this Mazda fun to drive. Is it worth sacrificing performance for stupendous mileage? The SKYACTIV engine returns 28 MPG in city driving, and 39 MPG on the highway, but it does so at the cost of indifferent straight line performance. Step on the throttle in any of the 6 gears provided and the Mazda3 responds with a disconcerting lack of action. If acceleration is important, order your 3 with an available 2.5 liter, 167hp engine, or opt for the Mazdaspeed3.

For those of you unconcerned by such shortfalls in advertising promise, the Mazda3 5 Door GT is an otherwise pleasant excursion into practical motoring. You can carry 5 adults in the airy and spacious cabin. The two up front find themselves lounging in comfort unheard of in this price class. Both front seats have 5 position rheostats for heating, and both are finished in glove leather. The driver’s seat features 8-way power adjustment, and the leather wrapped steering wheel telescopes and pivots through a full range of travel. The Grand Touring package also includes a small Navigation screen, a 265 watt Bose Surroundsound system, and Bluetooth phone connection. For a car costing just $22,800, the amenity li st is surprisingly well padded and complete.

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2012 Mazda CX-9 Review

Wednesday January 11th, 2012 at 3:11 PM
Posted by: aquadog

Sean reviews the 2012 Mazda CX9
YouTube Preview Image

I’m a sports car guy. And therefore the prospect of a week in a massive SUV with third-row seating carries just slightly more appeal than stabbing myself in the leg with a dinner fork. But when the CX-9 showed up at our offices I was intrigued. After all, it’s a Mazda, built by the same great minds who created the iconic Miata and RX-7, and they promise ‘the soul of a sportscar’ is instilled in their line of SUV’s.

Pros:

  • Sleek, understated styling in and out.
  • Handles and drives like a slightly smaller, lighter vehicle.
  • Seats seven comfortably.

Cons:

  • Still not small or light.
  • Modest gas mileage.
  • Sleek and understated may also be bland.

Driving Impressions

Mazda’s lofty claim that a seven-seat, 4,000lb pseudo-truck is designed to handle well is not far from saying a sumo wrestler was trained as a ballet dancer—it might be true to some degree but you still shouldn’t get your hopes up. And this definitely applies to the CX-9. With big wheels and tires, tall ride height and seating position, there’s no denying that you’re behind the wheel of an SUV–body roll and brake dive are still present–but Mazda worked hard to sharpen the reflexes of the CX-9 to a more acceptable level. Good visibility and a better-than-average sense of where the CX-9’s corners are help with tight mall parking situations. Compared to many vehicles in this class, the CX-9 felt almost as smooth and plush but notably less cumbersome.

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Mazda MX-5 Miata Essential Buyer’s Guide

Thursday October 6th, 2011 at 2:1010 PM
Posted by: Derek

Mazda MX-5 Miata (Mk1 1989-1997 & Mk2 1998-2001) – The Essential Buyer’s Guide by Carla Crook

The iconic Mazda Miata has been around for 22 years offering a true, top-down, sports car experience. With its 50/50 weight distribution, nimble handling, and simplistic approach to engineering, the Miata MX-5 is inexpensive, easy to maintain, and fun to drive.

Now available is the Essential Buyer’s Guide for the Mk1 (1989 – 1997) and Mk2 (1998 – 2001) generations of the Miata MX-5. The MX-5 is a true testament to itself as the ‘world’s best-selling sports car,’ and with the earlier MkI and MkII available for modest prices, it is the perfect choice as a fun and enjoyable daily driver, a weekend track car, or a project base for a kit car. This book will help you get the MX-5 of your dreams.

Key points about the book:

  • Like having a real marque expert at your side – benefit from years of real ownership experience
  • Coverage of the MX-5 (Miata/Eunos Roadster) 1989 – 2001 models including special, limited editions and desirable upgrades
  • Where and how to buy an MX-5
  • Advice on choosing the right model and condition, including those with modifications
  • Key checks – how to spot a bad car quickly
  • Comprehensive inspection guide with unique scoring system
  • In-depth analysis of strengths and weaknesses
  • Key technical specifications
  • Photo illustrations of the important areas to check and foibles to be aware of
  • Details of clubs, forums, suppliers and specialists dedicated to the MX-5
  • MSRP $19.95

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2011 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD Review – Zoom-Zoom for 7?

Wednesday June 15th, 2011 at 8:66 AM
Posted by: berrichondanny

2011 Mazda CX-9
By Danny Chang

Pros

  • Spacious interior for 7 passengers + luggage
  • Sliding second row seats that recline
  • Standard equipment list longer than Snoop Dog’s rap sheet

Cons

  • Exterior is too similar to the less expensive CX-7
  • Interior materials and designs are boring
  • The nav screen is hard to read in sunlight
  • Improved MPG, but not stellar

I always thought the pair of Mazda crossover SUVs, the CX-7 and CX-9, to be some of the most handsome ones on the market when they were introduced back in 2006 as 2007 models. Even in today’s crowded crossover SUV market, the Mazdas are still lookers although the styling is getting a little long in the tooth. While the larger CX-9 shares styling cues with the CX-7, it shares almost nothing else with its smaller sibling. The CX-9 is based on the same platform and shares the same 3.7 liter V6 engine as the Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX, an example of the long-term partnership between Ford and Mazda, which continues even after Ford reduced its stake in the Japanese car maker back in 2008.

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2012 Mazda3

Friday May 13th, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Posted by: aquadog

2012 Mazda3

The refreshed 2012 Mazda3 features an all-new SkyActiv-G 2.0-liter, 155-horsepower engine and a SkyActiv-MT six-speed manual transmission or optional SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission for sedan or hatchback models. The Mazda3 is the first to include SkyActiv fuel-saving and performance-oriented technologies, achieving 40-mpg on the highway and a potential 540-mile range. The MZR 2.0-liter engine will continue to be available, along with a Mazda MZR 2.5-liter engine.

Mazda says that the new 2.0-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder is good for 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, which offers modest increases over the old, non-DI 2.0-liter engine.

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2011 Mazda MAZDA2 First Impressions Review

Wednesday April 20th, 2011 at 1:44 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2011_mazda_mazda2_101
By contributing editor David Colman

Hits:

  • Great value
  • Exemplifies the virtue of simplified engineering
  • Spacious and comfortable

Misses:

  • Tinny doors
  • Correct gear selection crucial to acceleration

There isn’t a superbike worthy of the name that doesn’t have more horsepower than this Mazda 2. And most of those motorcycles cost as much or more than this $16,185 car. But what can you really do with a superbike besides wheelies and stoppies that scare you silly? This Mazda, on the other hand, will suffice perfectly well as your one and only family car. That’s right, for less than the price of a stellar motorcycle, you can acquire this do-everything sedan. Granted, its 100hp won’t scintillate your adrenal gland, but thanks to the Mazda 2’s light curb weight (just 2,306 lb.), the output of the 1.5 liter, 16 valve four banger is perfectly adequate in city and freeway traffic. Provided you choose the 5-speed manual transmission and not the 4-speed automatic that is optionally available. With just 98 lb.-ft. of torque, you can’t afford to lose that crucial 5th cog that the automatic lacks.

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