2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive Review

Tuesday January 24th, 2017 at 1:11 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive

By David Colman

Hypes: Great Platform, Feature Laden Signature package
Gripes: Dump the Hood Prop-rod

Unlike so many of its competitors, Mazda never loses sight of the simple fact that the pleasure of driving matters. Whether they’re building an MX-5 sports car or a CX-9 family mover, Mazda aims to foster a positive driving experience. What’s uncanny is the way they’ve managed to transfer the sporting genes of the Miata into the genetic makeup of the CX-9 sports utility crossover. It’s a trick that much larger Japanese outfits like Toyota and Nissan have been unable to master. You won’t, for example, find much of the sporty Toyota FR 86 in anything else the company builds, nor will you detect much trace of the 370Z in Nissan sedans or sports utilities. But with a smaller outfit like Mazda, the Miata message comes through loud and clear in the CX-9.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive

Its electric power-assisted steering, for example, is uncannily precise. You can give partial credit for this breakthrough to the unusual choice of grippy Falcon Ziex tires (255/50R20) mounted on standard 20 inch alloy rims. But sticky rubber is only as good as the suspension that controls it, and here Mazda excels, with fully independent front and rear systems augmented by stout anti-roll bars fore and aft. Considering its ample heft, the CX-9 stays glued to twisty roads.

Mazda advertising seems reluctant to divulge the fact that a four cylinder engine powers the CX-9 Signature All-Wheel-Drive. Factory literature only describes the engine as a “Skyactive 2.5T Turbo Engine.” But make no mistake, this engine has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to performance. It packs 310 lb.-ft. of torque at just 2000rpm, so acceleration is gratifyingly instantaneous. The Skyactive 227hp motor powers all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Though it lacks paddle controls, it does offer Sport Mode which allows manual shifts. Just bump the console lever forward for downshifts or backwards for upshifts.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive

This sizeable sports utility offers seating for 7, with three rows arranged front to rear in a 2/3/2 pattern. The rearmost bench, which folds 50/50, accommodates only short legged occupants. Passengers in rows 1 and 2 (60/40 fold) are very well looked after. In fact, the main cabin of the CX-9 is an unexpectedly elegant proposition in Signature trim level, with swaths of real matte rosewood and real aluminum bisecting expanses of auburn tinted, glove soft Nappa Leather. Mazda stylists have really outdone themselves with the seat detailing: black piping and red stitching combine with inset bands of black leather to convey a sense of richness quite unexpected in this price range.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive

So the CX-9 will hustle down a crooked road with real aplomb, conveying its occupants with unruffled equanimity thanks to standard Roll Stability Control (RSC). The CX-9 is also tow rated for 3500lbs. worth of trailer, and the onboard electronics afford Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) to help manage the sway of your load. Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent in all directions. The view through the large back window is especially welcome, since most SUVs in this mid-size range obscure direct rear vision with a sea of headrests obscuring an undersized rear pane. Mazda has also equipped the back glass with its own wiper and defroster. If those aids don’t clear the way for reversing, then utilize the rear back up sensor and image projected on the 8 inch color multi-function display screen atop the dash.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive

A vehicle in this price range should have a counterbalanced hood, but even the Signature CX-9 makes do with a manual prop rod. Also, the front console cup holders lack a sliding door cover, so they attract and retain every particle of errant dirt. The lower section of the chrome grill features an awkward surface joint that cheapens the look of nose, despite the fact that the Signature grill boats LED lighting accents. Finally, the extreme swept back roofline requires front seat passengers to duck their heads before climbing aboard, an unexpected annoyance in a vehicle that stands 68 inches tall. But these quibbles pale into insignificance given the overwhelming number of positives on offer here. If you want an affordable family hauler with the DNA of a lithesome sports car, the CX-9 should be your first choice.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive

  • Engine: 2.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 227@5000rpm
  • Torque: 310lb.-ft.@2000rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/27 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $45,215
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Thursday December 15th, 2016 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

By David Colman

Hypes: Consummate Affordable Sports Car
Gripes: Head Scratching Interior Shortcomings

In the current press-generated blather for self-driving cars, it would seem that Mazda’s rallying cry – “Driving Matters” – is singularly out of step with the times. But the fact of the matter is that driving does matter, and for the foreseeable future at least, you- the driver – will still be held responsible for the conduct of your vehicle. Given that unavoidable fact, wouldn’t you rather chose a sharp tool for the job than a blunt one? The MX-5 Miata is still without question the sharpest scalpel in any driver’s kit bag. Learn to drive a Miata well, and you will instantly become a better driver than you were before. Because this diminutive sports car requires concentration, coordination, and adept manipulation of all control interfaces. If you plan on texting or talking while driving, forget about the MX-5, because it demands a level of involvement that rules out such foolish behavior. In return, it will pay your finesse off in dividends of delight unmatched by anything else you can buy today, regardless of price. The fact that such rich reward is available for just $30,065 makes the MX-5 the best cheap date you can buy period.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Everything about the Miata is straightforward. Its front engine/rear wheel drive layout was once considered the prime solution to the sports car equation. Famous marques like Triumph, MG, and Lotus all built vibrant sports cars to this formula. Although that classic era has long since passed, Mazda alone soldiers on with its affordable, reasonably powerful take on the legendary British design that worked so well back in the 50s and 60s. The MX-5 proves that it continues to excel today. You quickly discover that this Mazda is blissfully devoid of the over-complication plaguing so many vehicles today. There’s a 2 liter straight 4 up front making 155hp. Its twin cam motor boasts 16 valves and performs best in the lower rev ranges, where 148lb.-ft. of torque is instantly on call. The spry four-banger connects to a 6-speed manual gearbox offering micrometer precise shifts. You can buy an MX-5 with an optional automatic gearbox with 6 speeds, but why would you want to do that? An immense chunk of Miata joy is attributable to that stubby wand between the seats that distributes power to the rear wheels. Chose the automatic and you’re ceding half the fun to a unit that renders you partially useless. If driving matters, go for the stick.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Because this two seater weighs only 2,335lbs. great handling does not require steam roller size wheels and tires. Mazda has supplied even the base model we drove with primo rubber: Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires measuring 205/45R17 mounted on smoked chrome alloys. The precise, fully independent suspension of the MX-5 allows the Bridgestones to develop sustained cornering grip that will have you squealing with glee every time you clip an apex on a back road. Have just one such experience and you will instantly understand why Miata is the most raced car on the planet. Every weekend, hundreds of contests take place with various classes of Miatas. These range from box-stock street cars to heavily modified track stars. No other single make series comes close to duplicating the racing world’s allegiance to the Miata.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

In the 2017, Mazda will be introducing a retractable fastback hardtop version of the MX-5 that promises to look sleeker than our test model soft top, but also weigh considerably more. When the hardtop is erect, that extra weight will be situated high up in the chassis, resulting in an elevated center of gravity compared to our ragtop. The lightweight fabric roof is so easy to drop and erect with one hand from the driver’s seat that there’s really no need for a complicated push-button electric powered hardtop. We spent 90% of our week driving the Soul Red ($300 optional color)) rocket with its top dropped.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

If there’s a bug on the windshield of the Miata, it’s the poor ergonomic design of the interior. For example, although Mazda has added a 7 inch color touch screen display to the dash top, such chores as selecting and installing XM radio favorites is unduly complicated and annoying. Likewise, the rotary selector knob for accessing the touchscreen is inexplicably located atop the transmission tunnel, so that every time your right elbow inadvertently touches the selector knob during a shift, the radio changes stations. Finally, there is virtually no cabin storage either in the dash or the doors, so you’re faced with an awkward reach to a small cubby located behind and between the two seats. Thus, Mazda seems to have resurrected the niggling quirkiness of the British sports cars in ways best left forgotten.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC
  • Horsepower: 155hp
  • Torque: 148lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,330
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Review

Monday January 11th, 2016 at 8:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

By David Colman

Hypes: Race Car for the Street
Gripes: Relocate Command Control

The all new 2016 Mazda Miata provided the highlight of my test driving year. In the Bay Area, one of the most challenging back roads traverses the foothills between Sunol and Fremont. This narrow, tortuous stretch of pavement includes hundreds of sharp turns, most of them blind on entrance or exit. I’ve done this road in a Porsche 911 Turbo, which proved way too much car for this poorly paved passage. You wouldn’t want a Corvette here or a BMW M3, let alone a fat tired Ferrari or Maserati. They’re all too heavy and reluctant to change direction. What you do want is Mazda’s new Miata MX-5, re-engineered from the ground up to be lighter and nimbler than ever before. On this stretch of pavement, the latest MX-5 proved absolutely magical. It changed direction faster than ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’ at Disneyland. The Miata enjoys perfect balance thanks to its 52/48% front/rear weight distribution. And speaking of weight, new aluminum hood and trunk lids help pare the Miata to just 2,313 lb., a number unheard of in today’s safety festooned behemoths.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata remains mercifully unfettered by all the expensive, optional lane change alert systems now plaguing the auto industry. If you need rear cross traffic alert while backing up the Miata, just drop the convertible top and turn your head around. Ever so much better than peering at a dimly lit screen on your dash. In so many ways, this car is a delightful throwback to the sports cars from Italy and Great Britain like Alfa Romeo’s Duetto and British Leyland’s Triumph TR 4. The Miata shares the enduring simplicity of these forerunners, with a 4 cylinder, non-turbo engine up front, sophisticated all- independent suspension, and excellent 4 wheel disc brakes. In the case of our test Miata, those brakes received a substantial upgrade over stock, with Brembo front brake calipers clamping 11 inch Brembo made discs. You must order the $3,400 “1BB” package which also provides German forged alloy BBS wheels finished in dark grey. As part of a no extra charge group, you’ll also want the “2AP” package, which transforms the appearance of the MX-5 from benevolent to snarky. The aero accoutrements of the 2AP group include piano black tail spoiler, flared side skirts, and front airdam.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The 17 inch BBS wheels provide support for first class Bridgestone Potenza S001 radials which are modest in dimension (205/45R17) but tenacious in grip. On the foothill twister, the Potenzas never once lost their grip, tackled every turn without so much as a chirp of protest. Of course, the fact that Mazda includes a sport tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and a limited slip differential as standard fitment does wonders for the handling of the MX-5. On sharp turns, it responds like a go-kart thanks to its ultra-tight turning circle of 30. 8 feet, and its super quick steering wheel travel of just 2.7 turns, lock-to-lock. When you’re not tackling a snaky back road, the Miata is still a lot of fun to drive. It can zip into traffic holes or parking places that would make a cumbersome SUV envious of its agility. Since we had the top down for most of our test week, visibility was unimpeded in all directions. Even with the top up, Mazda has thoughtfully provided a heated glass rear window element to help clear the dew and the view. The top is manually actuated, with no weight-adding electric motors necessary. While still seated you can fold the top or raise it with just one hand. When down, it clicks into its own receptacle and forms its own tonneau-like cover. With the top dropped and the side windows raised, the cockpit is draft free.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The latest Miata has also inherited a few of the less endearing traits of vintage British sports cars. For example, the layout of the passenger compartment resembles something an MG designer would have fudged together back in 1970. There’s no glove box in the dash, almost no storage in the doors, and the cup holders are so far behind you on the center tunnel as to be all but useless. The “Multi-Function Commander Control” is mounted on the transmission tunnel just aft of the 6-speed manual gearbox stick. This control enables you to trigger selection by depressing its center button. In actual practice every time you change gears and rest your forearm on the tunnel you inadvertently trigger a selection change on the commander control. I lost count of the number of times I unintentionally shifted channel choice from XM Satellite to FM radio thanks to this idiosyncrasy. But in the big picture it’s quite insignificant. Because this a sports car you buy because you love driving, not because you love listening to tunes.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4 with DOHC
  • Horsepower: 155hp@6000rpm
  • Torque: 148lb.-ft.@4600rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 27MPG City/34MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,820
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

Wednesday December 16th, 2015 at 10:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

By David Colman

Hypes: Fine Handling, Spunky Motor, Solid Build Quality
Gripes: No Proximity Sensor for Automatic Door Unlocking

Mazda has been touting their “Skyactive” technology for several years now in an advertising campaign that suggests the company has somehow reinvented the internal combustion engine. What they have in fact done is utilize extremely high compression ratios in both 4 cylinder engine variants that power the CX-5 sports utility. We spent a week driving the more powerful of the two, the Grand Touring front wheel drive (FWD) model, equipped with the 2.5 liter, 184hp in-line 4. Mazda also offers a smaller 2.0 liter in-line 4 good for 155hp. Both engines, the Skyactive G-2.0 and Skyactive G 2.5, compress the fuel air mixture to an astronomical ratio of 13:1, an application that would have been unthinkable for a mass production engine just a few years ago. Because Mazda manages to thus squeeze every last bit of energy out of every firing cycle, gas mileage benefits as well as horsepower. The 2.5 liter CX-5 posts an excellent overall EPA rating of 29MPG. When you consider that this 3,435 pound four door will comfortably seat 5 adults while providing cargo volume of 33 cubic feet, it’s evident Mazda has done their packaging homework here. The G-2.5 engine’s quick response proves that Skyactive Technology is more than just a catchy phrase.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

The CX-5 also confirms the theory that every Mazda’s DNA coding contains Zoom-Zoom genes. This is one of the best handling compact SUVs on the market, thanks to its stiff springing, anti-roll suspension design and sticky 225/55R19 Toyo A23 radials, mounted on 10 spoke, 19 inch alloy wheels (standard on the Grand Touring model). Base CX-5′s make do with 17 inch rims and 225/55R17 rubber. If the devil is in the details, Mazda has paid close attention to the hidden attributes that differentiate a great handling platform from a mediocre one. In this case, all the important elements are present: 4 wheel disc brakes, independent front and rear suspension, and front and rear anti roll bars. The upside of the athletic suspension calibration is a level ride platform, excellent steering response, and a complete lack of slop during cornering maneuvers. The downside is a stiff, sometimes jarring ride quality that will never remind you of sinking into your favorite armchair.

From a maneuverability standpoint, the CX-5 proves to be the ideal tool for scooting through traffic clogged freeways or attacking back roads with confidence. In the long run, a stiffly sprung ride is dynamically superior in performance, and the calibration of the CX-5 proves that point over and over. The fact that the healthy 2.5 liter engine administers satisfying spurts of acceleration when needed provides the cherry on top. Mazda refuses to succumb to the current craze for noisy and ineffectual CVT transmissions. This SUV offers you a proper 6-speed automatic gearbox. Although it lacks the finesse of paddle shifts, it does offer Active Adaptive Shift (AAS) which intelligently selects optimum gear ratios when the selector lever is placed in “Drive.” The transaxle also allows manual override of shift points if you slide the console mounted stick from the “D” to the “M” quadrant. In practice, the AAS program works so well at figuring out gear needs that you never need to select the manual option, unless you’re towing a trailer. The CX-5 is rated for a 2,000 pound tow load.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

Interior furnishings of the latest CX-5 are surprisingly refined, especially if you order the nifty looking two-tone Parchment interior. This choice brings you well sculpted seats front and rear, with bolsters done in black and seating surfaces in perforated off-white vinyl. The list of standard accoutrements is surprisingly long for a vehicle of this class. Making your life simpler will be rain sensing wipers, power automatic door locks, 8 way power driver’s seat with power lumbar adjustment, and heated front seats. None of these luxury touches are expected on an entry-level SUV carrying a base price of $28,220. For a surcharge of $1,505, your Mazda can be equipped with a grouping of improvements such as Lane Departure Warning, LED fog lights and tail lights, and an auto-dimming interior rear view mirror. A $200 retractable rubber cargo cover is a sensible investment if you plan to carry messy goods or pets in the cargo area. With virtually all available bells and whistles on board, our test CX-5 still totaled just $32,860.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

If you need an economical, reasonably sized sports utility that emphasizes sports as much as utility, then the 2.5 liter version of the CX-5 is well worth consideration. Consumer Reports thought so too, giving it their Recommended Check as a best buy product.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

  • Engine: Skyactive 2.5 liter inline 4
  • Horsepower: 184hp
  • Torque: 185 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 26MPG City/33MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,860
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

Thursday March 12th, 2015 at 3:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

By David Colman

Hypes: Handles Like an Open Wheel Race Car
Gripes: Slippery Steering Wheel

25 Years ago, Mazda introduced their Miata sports car, a concept so radically right that it has hardly changed over the intervening two and a half decades. Miata means “little pearl” in Japanese, and the oyster that nurtured this gem of a car could not have been more perfect. In an automotive world increasingly concerned with devising mnemonics to help you avoid accidents, the Miata takes care of safety business the old fashioned way: through agility. In this diminutive two seat dervish, you won’t need buzzers to alert you to side or cross traffic because you can simply see everything you need from the driver’s seat. Lots of cars used to offer such impeccable, decision-making vision in all directions, but lithe road toys like the MG and Triumph are long gone from our marketplace. However, they’ve bequeathed the mantle of true sports car to the sole survivor of the breed, today’s Mazda’s Miata.

I just completed a joyous 50 minute drive from Petaluma to Stinson Beach along Coast Route 1 in the latest Miata. Thanks to the storm induced closure of Route 1 south of Stinson, there was almost no traffic on the Coast Route. With a clear road empty of cars, the trip unfolded like a television commercial’s dream car sequence. Mazda has the foresight to equip the Miata with the best high performance street tires available today – Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A radials (205/45R17). These premium grabbers adhere to post storm wet pavement with leech like security. Of course, the Miata’s inherent balance is responsible for its accurate handling. This car’s configuration is based on the front engine/rear drive platform of the classic British sports car. Our test MX-5 gained further improvement from its $850 optional 1SP Suspension Package” which includes sport tuned suspension, Bilstein shock absorbers, and a limited slip differential (LSD). Stiffer springs and more resistant dampers flatten ride through corners, while the LSD improves propulsion on corner exit. A Miata with the 1SP refinement is your ticket to slot car handling.

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

The Miata is still a tiny package. At a curb weight of just 2,610 lb., the MX-5 is one of the lightest cars on the market, a bonus that helps account for its nimble maneuverability. But the downside of downsize is a cramped interior. Inside the cockpit, there’s absolutely no room behind the seats to store any gear. A small cubby between the seats, a double beverage holder between the seats, and a couple of bottle holders in the doors constitute the limit of storage Mazda gives you. Anything else either fits in the 5 cubic foot trunk or else stays home. Although the Miata is available with a manually operated cloth roof, our test sample was equipped with a power-retractable hard top (PRHT) that behaves like a fixed roof when up. A simple latching procedure on the windshield header is required for operation. If safety, security and cockpit quiet are important, than opt for this PRHT.

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

Powering the Miata is a 2 liter engine good for 167hp and 140lb.-ft. of torque. This double overhead camshaft, 16 valve engine features variable valve timing (VVT) and drives through an excellent 6-speed manual gearbox. The transmission ratios are so closely spaced that the engine hardly ever loses momentum on up shifts. The stick’s throws are close and tight, and the sheer pleasure of shifting becomes a major attraction of driving a Miata. During passing maneuvers, however, you become aware that the 167hp motor quickly runs out of zip. An extra 20 hp would be a welcome addition to the Miata equation.

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

Early in 2015, Mazda will introduce the successor to the current model. While it will undoubtedly be bigger and faster than today’s MX-5, it will just as surely lose some of the charm and finesse of the original package. Since its introduction in 1990, this petit sports car has become the perpetual performance yardstick for the sports car fraternity. Currently, more Miatas race each other in club racing than any other single make of car. When the last of the current crop is sold in 2015, the first Zoom-Zoom era of unforgettable motoring will draw to a close.

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

  • Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC, 16 valve inline 4 with VVT
  • Horsepower: 167hp
  • Torque: 140lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,935
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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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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Review: 2014 Mazda 6

Monday September 30th, 2013 at 9:99 PM
Posted by: Francois


Carreview received the Mazda 6 test car with little fanfare and anticipation.  We just didn’t know what to expect and the outgoing Mazda 6 model was a fairly uneventful passenger sedan. When the Mazda 6 replaced the 626 in 2003, it drew praise for its smooth styling and sporty handling. Shoppers looking for an exciting take on the dull midsize sedans of that era turned to the Mazda 6 for 4-door practicality and Miata-inspired steering. It was a winning formula and sales were strong — especially as a newcomer up against established rivals like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

But when it came time to redesign the Mazda 6 for 2009, Mazda changed things up. While trying to keep the sporty feel of the first model, the brand also aimed for the mainstream. The result was a larger car with less steering feedback. Buyers looking for performance were no longer impressed. And it didn’t help that the second-generation Mazda 6 came in the fall of 2008 — at the height of the Great Recession.

For 2014, the Mazda 6 returns to its roots. The new Mazda 6 is shorter in length than the outgoing model. It’s also lighter, weighing in between 220 and 375 pounds less than the 2013 model. Most importantly, it’s more exciting. While some may lament the lack of a V6, the latest Mazda 6 will move those who enjoy driving the way the original model once did.

But while the new Mazda 6 brings back its old drivability, it moves forward in several key areas. One is technology: The latest Mazda 6 offers many high-tech safety and convenience items. Another is styling, as the 2014 Mazda 6 uses bold, aggressive lines to convey its return to performance. With the right mix of old and new, the Mazda 6 is a strong entry in the competitive world of the midsize sedan.


  • Excellent handling prowess
  • Impressive  fuel economy for a car this size
  • Long list of integrated technology features
  • Excellent  rear seat room


  • Choppy ride quality in bad pavement
  • Difficult to learn navigation system
  • Trunk in the small end for this size car

Comfort & Utility

The Mazda 6 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All are front-wheel-drive 4-door sedans.

The Mazda 6 Sport starts at $20,880 before shipping. That figure buys a 6-speed manual; drivers who want an automatic pay an extra $1,615. Like last year, air-conditioning, cruise control and remote keyless entry are standard. New features include push-button start, USB audio input and — on automatic models — a rearview camera. And 17-inch alloys replace last year’s 16-in wheels with hubcaps.

More features can be found in the Mazda 6 Touring. Starting at $23,445, the Touring also includes a standard 6-speed stick — though upgrading to an automatic is only $1,050. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air-conditioning, a blind spot monitor and a power driver’s seat. The Mazda 6 Touring also boasts leather seats, handsome 19-in alloys and Mazda’s Rear Cross Traffic Alert safety tech.

Topping the Mazda 6 range is the Grand Touring, which starts at $29,495. Only offered with an automatic, the Grand Touring is the lineup’s luxury trim. Standard features include a power sunroof, paddle shifters, Bi-Xenon headlights and heated front seats. Styling upgrades include painted 19-in alloys, fog lights and a rear trunk spoiler.

Inside, the Mazda 6 offers a totally revamped cabin. Like the exterior, the interior boasts more style than before. Flowing lines connect the door panels to the dashboard and the wide center stack. Even the base-level Sport uses upscale materials and a thick steering wheel puts drivers in control.

Functionally, the interior also works well. Steering wheels are chock full of switches and knobs — 17 total in our test car, not including the paddles — but once drivers memorize them, they’re very convenient. Climate controls are easy to use, though their display screen — which also houses the clock — washes out on sunny days. And while the touchscreen navigation system is located above the air vents and far from the driver’s hand, a center-mounted control is well-placed and easy to use.

For drivers interested in comfort, the front seats are the place to be. They’re well-bolstered and cushy, making easy work of long drives. That’s especially true of the leather in Touring and Grand Touring models, though we found the Sport’s cloth upholstery to be similarly supportive and comfortable. Compared to class leaders, the Mazda 6 is certainly on par.

The backseats are also a strong point. Despite its low-slung, coupe-like styling, the Mazda 6 somehow incorporates enough headroom for tall passengers to ride comfortably. It’s a lesson that could be learned by some other brands with similar styling and a cramped rear seat. Compared to rivals, legroom is merely average. A tall driver with a tall passenger in back may be cramped, for example — just like in most midsize sedans.

Behind the passengers, trunk space is merely adequate. At 14.8 cu ft, the Mazda 6 brings up the rear among midsize sedans, as it offers less cargo room than the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry.


For a car that’s so focused on driving pleasure, technology is a strong point. The most important advancements relate to safety, as the new Mazda 6 debuts six new high-tech safety features. Such items include radar cruise control, a blind spot monitor, a lane departure warning system and rear cross traffic alert to help drivers leaving parking spots. There’s also a high beam control feature that dims the brights when they detect an approaching vehicle. And Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support can stop the car if it detects an impending crash.

Of course, nearly all of this technology is optional. High beam control, for instance, can only be ordered as part of the Advanced Package — a $2,080 option that’s only offered on the high-level Grand Touring trim. And while Touring models offer Smart City Brake Support and a navigation system in the $2,000 Touring Technology package, you have to step up to the Grand Touring trim for radar cruise control.

But the technology will impress those who opt for it. One reason is because it’s so easy to use. The radar cruise control, for instance, works with a simple steering wheel stalk. In our tests, it was always easy to program and kept a predictable following distance. The same is true for Mazda’s blind spot monitor, which warns drivers if a vehicle is in a blind spot. A chime sounds if drivers try to signal towards that vehicle.

An exception to the impressive tech is the TomTom-based navigation system, which we found clunky and difficult to use. In addition to several counterintuitive menus, its biggest flaw was a lag between touch and feedback.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The redesigned Mazda 6 offers only one powertrain: a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. To keep up with hybrid rivals and the Volkswagen Passat TDI, a diesel is due out later in the year. But unlike those rivals, the Mazda 6 won’t have a more powerful engine for speed junkies.

To us, that’s not a problem. The 2.5-liter four is powerful enough for nearly all typical situations. That’s especially true with the brand’s SkyActiv-Drive automatic, which boasts crisp shifts that Mazda says are quicker than dual-clutch transmissions in competitors. Of course, in true Mazda fashion, the 6-speed stick is also a joy thanks to short throws and a predictable clutch. But don’t get your hopes up, 3-pedal purists: The stick shift is only available on Sport and Touring models and Mazda says it will only find its way into 10 percent of all production.

Efficiency-minded shoppers also won’t be clamoring for a V6. That’s because the 4-cylinder returns impressive fuel economy thanks to SkyActiv technology, which saves weight and boosts efficiency. Once again, the automatic is the best bet, returning 26 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway for a combined 30 mpg. That just edges out the manual’s 25 mpg city/37 mpg hwy and 29 mpg combined.


The new Mazda 6 comes standard with stability control, traction control and eight airbags. All models except the manual-equipped Sport include a rearview camera and Bluetooth. The Mazda 6′s Bluetooth technology displays text messages on the sedan’s center screen and even reads them aloud so drivers won’t be distracted by their cell phones.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has put the new Mazda 6 through crash tests. Last year’s model received an overall 4-star NHTSA rating that included a perfect five stars in the rollover test, four in the side crash test and three in a frontal impact. But with the new design, those ratings are likely to change.

Driving Impressions

This is where Mazda usually trumps the competition and Mazda has brought the Mazda 6 in line with the brand’s core values.  It is fun to drive as it feels agile and light. There’s no doubt that the Mazda 6 is aimed at shoppers eager to occasionally test their car’s limits on a curvy road. That’s not to say that traditional midsize sedan buyers won’t like the Mazda 6. But they may find its exterior and interior a little daring and the ride a little harsh. Those who enjoy the driving experience won’t mind sacrificing ride quality — but for the comfort-minded, there’s no shame in choosing a more pliant rival.

2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring

BASE PRICE: $20,990 for Sport with manual transmission; $22,695 for Sport with automatic; $23,645 for Touring with manual; $24,695 for Touring with automatic; $29,695 for Grand Touring.


  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive
  • MPG: 26 City / 38 Hwy
  • Engine: Regular Unleaded I-4 2.5 L/152
  • Horsepower: 184 @ 5700
  • Torque: 185 @ 3250 2.5 L/152

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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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