2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Review

Tuesday August 15th, 2017 at 2:88 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

Hypes: Best Manual Stick Shift on the Market
Gripes: Impeded Sightlines

The new Mazda RF’s folding hardtop does Zero-to-Closed in just 13 seconds. The MX-5 itself takes somewhat less time than that to complete the Zero-to-60 MPH run in just 7 seconds. No matter what performance parameter you examine with this Mazda, the operative word is quick. It transitions through corners with a quickness that would make any Porsche envious. And it does so at a stellar bargain base price of $32,620. That’s less than the options alone cost on many new Porsches.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

The RF designation refers to the fact that this new model offers more than just a disappearing hardtop. RF stands for “Retractable Fastback” and the look of the car with the top up will leave no doubt about the “Fastback” part of the name. From the side windows forward, the RF looks virtually identical to the standard convertible version of the MX-5. However, on the RF, Mazda designers have appended a pair of flying buttresses to the sides of the cockpit which fare gracefully into the tops of the rear fenders.

This substantial modification lends an unexpectedly exciting visual twist to the Miata’s well known profile. In RF form, designers have exchanged cuteness for sleekness. From both side profile and rear view the RF looks substantially better than any previous Miata. In fact, first time viewers often fail to realize they are even looking at a revision of the world’s most popular roadster. I know that was my reaction when I saw an RF for the first time. To me, it recalls the caliber of design you once saw from Italian masters like Pininfarina, Bertone and Zagato. This Mazda looks so good it will transport you back to the classical Italian design period of the 1960s.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

The folding top not only improves the looks of the MX-5, it also adds a note of improved civility to your time in this car’s confined cockpit. With the top erect, the level of noise inside the cabin is less than you would experience in a top-up roadster. The RF allows you to enjoy all of the MX-5′s precision reflexes, pin point handling, and driving joy while affording you better protection from the elements. Even with the top down, those fastback wings and rear window remain in place, affording you an extra measure of wind-free quiet.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

But there is a one substantial price to pay for those protective buttresses. They inhibit side and rear sight lines. No longer do you enjoy the unmitigated 360 degree field of vision provided by the top-down MX-5 convertible. In fact, that immoveable structure next to your head prevents you from seeing what’s right next to you when you want to make a simple lane change.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

In terms of added security, the erect hardtop is infinitely preferable to the protection of a cloth roof. No one is going to break into the RF without a power tool. In terms of handling dynamics, the added weight of the roof and its motor raising apparatus have had no appreciable effect. RF exhibits exactly the same breed of lightning reflexes that have long made the convertible Miata the benchmark sports car for handling. Our test RF’s 17 inch smoked pewter alloys came with top drawer Bridgestone S001 radials (205/45R17) that never so much as chirped during hard cornering. This Mazda is without question one of the best handling cars available from any manufacturer today. Mazda like to use a Japanese phrase in reference to the MX-5 that translates into English as “The rider and the horse are one.” The fact that our test sample was finished in Soul Red Metallic paint added to this mystique, since Mazda has chosen that same shade for its #55 IMSA Prototype racer which recently scored a podium finish at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

For those of you who have grown tired of the Miata’s long standing proportions and appearance, the RF offers a fresh take on this sports car icon. I acquainted myself with the exceptional subtleties of the new design by slowly washing my test MX-5. It provided a great opportunity to appreciate the subtle beauty of the car’s carefully integrated design. Mazda calls this design dynamic “Kodo” or the “Soul of Motion.” That explains why you will never see an unnecessary scoop, louver or crease appended to any Mazda. Consequently, the appearance of their vehicles always matches the purity of their design creed.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

  • Engine: Skyactive 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC
  • Horsepower: 155hp
  • Torque: 148lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 26MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $33,885
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD Review

Tuesday August 1st, 2017 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Hypes: Deftly Sculpted Shape, Refined Interior, Superb Handling
Gripes: Turbo Motor Would Be Nice

Unlike its flamboyant Japanese counterparts, Toyota and Honda, Mazda refrains from boisterous design in crafting their vehicles. They call their subdued style language “Kodo” which translates into “Soul of Motion.” Without getting too Zen about the concept, suffice it to say that Kodo style understatement infuses every aspect of the CX-5, from its sweeping and fluid side profile to its clean-lined dash and stark instrument binnacle. This integrity of design permeates the CX-5 crossover utility vehicle (CUV). The array of pleasing curves, lustrous finish and sublime comfort all go to define Kodo as the art of Speed Design.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Mazda has repeatedly shown the ability to build high quality, fun-to-drive vehicles at price points that defy logic. The CX-5 GT is no exception to that welcome tradition. With a base price of $29,395 and a delivered price of $32,785, the CX-5 provides substantial bang for the buck. Our test sample, finished in handsome, $300 optional Machine Gray Metallic – Mazda’s version of the Car in the Gray Flannel Suit – benefitted from a “1GT” Premium Package that added $1,830 to the base price. Included in this 1GT grouping are 2 position memory settings for the driver’s seat, 6-way adjustable front passenger seat, heated rear seats and steering wheel, active driving display, and wiper de-icer.

The Parchment leather trimmed interior seating surfaces, perforated to breathe, convey a richness beyond expectation in this price range. In fact, your initial positive assessment of quality never dissipates. The closer you look at the MX-5, the better constructed it appears to be. Consumer Reports (CR) corroborates this impression of sturdiness by conferring their coveted “Recommended” check mark on the CX-5. CR predicts this Mazda’s reliability will fare “Better Than Average.”

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Since its founding as a cork maker in 1920, Mazda has always striven to ascend the next rung of the success ladder. Corks led to machine tool production, and finally to the design and fabrication of the company’s first motorized vehicle, the 3-wheel Mazda-Go in 1931. Since its inception, Mazda has been determined to make less do more than any other automotive concern. For example, they currently field a team of exceptionally fast prototype racers in the IMSA road racing championship that rely on small 4 cylinder power while the competition invariably resorts to large displacement V8 engines. At last year’s IMSA race – at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway no less – the company’s less is more prototype took pole position. That kind of put-up-or-shut-up performance inspires confidence in Mazda’s mantra that “Every Detail Matters. Because Driving Matters.”

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

While the CX-5 will never be an MX-5 Miata, there are enough uncanny similarities between the crossover and the company’s hallmark sports car to make you wonder just how they managed to infuse so much racy feel in a five-door, 3,435 pound station wagon on stilts. Start with steering feel. Most crossover manufacturers favor the kind of nebulous feedback that would have felt about right in a Buick Roadmaster from 1956. Mazda takes a different approach. The front wheels respond to the most incremental commands you issue through the electric power assisted steering. This precision control system defines your most basic interface with the CX-5.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

The reason steering response is so positive reaches far beyond the unit’s ratio or the number of turns from lock-to-lock. Rather, precision steering control depends on the fully integrated, top shelf components with which Mazda chooses to equip the CX-5: independent front and rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, 19 inch alloy rims with 225/35R19 Toyo A36 mud & snow radials. These are not inexpensive components. A lot of manufacturers feel that a crossover utility doesn’t need an independent rear suspension system or a front and rear stabilizer bar because of the extra cost. Mazda refuses to stint on such components because they know that only such an ensemble of the right stuff will satisfy customers who believe that driving does, indeed, matter.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

  • Engine: Skyactive 2.5 liter inline 4
  • Horsepower: 187hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,785
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda6 Review

Friday July 14th, 2017 at 10:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda6

Hypes: Faster Than It Looks
Gripes: Heavy Hood Needs Hydraulic Struts

The adage that you can’t tell a book by its cover also applies to cars. One glance at the Mazda6 will not leave you breathless in anticipation of driving it. The 6 is neither beguiling particularly looking nor palpitation inducing. Rather, it is handsome in a refined way, with pleasing proportions, sleek aero refinements, and a noble stance enhanced by 19 inch alloy rims. But this Mazda, which remains unchanged this year (after an interior facelift in 2016) is a top candidate for best midsize sedan honors. Everything about the 6, from value, to build quality to performance is top notch. If you can live without the adrenalin spike of a heart throb exterior, than the 6 will fill the bill in every other way.

2017 Mazda6

On the value front, the base price here is just $30,695. That buy-in gets you all the basics, including a big displacement 4 cylinder engine producing 184hp and 185 lb.-ft. of torque administered through either a 6 speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. While the Skyactive four banger’s output is not exactly earth shattering, you must factor in the 6′s comparatively light curb weight of 3,185 lbs to evaluate the car properly. Doing so reveals a lively power-to-weight ratio of 17.3 pounds/hp. When you flatten the go pedal here, the Mazda6 gathers speed with satisfying alacrity.

Our test car was equipped with the “Skyactive Drive 6-Speed Sport Mode” automatic, which utilizes a fat knobbed, floor mounted stick for control, plus a pair of paddles attached behind the rim of the steering wheel. You can manually control this transmission with either the floor stick positioned in the manual (left side) gate or simply bang your shifts via the twin paddles. In either case, the Mazda responds instantly to command inputs, making this sedan fun to operate with close supervision. The Sport Mode switch is found on the center console and when activated, transforms throttle response from average to instantaneous.

2017 Mazda6

It should come as no surprise that Mazda has honed the responsive suspension of the 6 to a sharp edge. The beauty of Mazda engineering’s “Driving Matters” motto is that this company favors handling over any other automotive attribute. This dictum is as evident in the Mazda6 as it is in the company’s iconic sports car, the MX-5 Miata. The underpinning goodies start with standard front and rear stabilizer bars for a flat platform in the turns. Suspension geometry is close to ideal thanks to independent design architecture front and rear. Mazda finishes off the package with standard 19 inch alloy rims, unexpected on a sedan in this price range. Those rims carry Dunlop SP Sport 5000 radials (225/45R19) well suited to carrying speed through apexes on twisty back roads. As a sports sedan, the unheralded Mazda6 is the real deal.

2017 Mazda6

But if you opt for the $2,500 GT Premium Package (Code ZPP), you can move the 6 into the near luxury class as well. In particular, the Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery upgrade converts the seats from utilitarian to plush. Our Machine Grey Metallic 6 ($300 extra color) looked particularly handsome with its Premium Package “Parchment Nappa Leather” seats. Both front and rear get the full treatment, with perforated seating and back support surfaces, set off by prominent side bolsters seamed in a contrasting shade of putty. The Premium Package also includes “Bright Finish Interior Trim” which is tastefully done alloy sheathing on the steering wheel spokes, door pulls, window button bezels, air vent surrounds and instrument rims. Also included in the optional package are a dark, soft texture headliner, plus a heater for the steering wheel and rear seats. Heated front seats are already standard.

2017 Mazda6

Mazda thoughtfully provides a 125/70/17 Kenda spare time inflated to 60psi along with the basic tools you’ll need to perform an emergency roadside flat tire change. The enormous rear trunk (15 cubic feet) is covered with a useful, optional $75 cargo mat that is ribbed for package retention and waterproof as well. In the trunk you will also discover a pair of pull releases that allow you to flatten the rear 40/60 split seats for an even larger storage platform. In sum, the latest Mazda6 is not only entertaining to drive, but eminently practical and economical at 30 MPG in overall use.

2017 Mazda6

  • Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC inline 4
  • Horsepower: 184hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/35 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,530
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT Review

Wednesday May 31st, 2017 at 11:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

By David Colman

Hypes: The Only Formula Racecar with a Trunk
Gripes: Relocate Infotainment Dial

25 years ago, here’s what I had to say about the 1992 Mazda MX-5 Miata in my Edmund’s book 20 Best 1992 Cars: “Miata makes blissfully few concessions to practicality because it is designed to do one thing better than anything else. That one thing is to give you a thrill a mile when you drive it.” Over the intervening quarter century, the MX-5 has changed substantively. With its current SKYACTIV 4 cylinder engine, horsepower has climbed from 116 to 155hp. Weight has also climbed by 10 percent from 2,189lbs. to 2,335lbs. Despite the gain in girth, the horsepower-to-weight ratio of the original Miata (18.87lb/hp) is significantly better in the current version (15.06lb/hp) That improvement insures that the basic tenet of Miata motoring hasn’t changed one iota from 1992. The smile per mile quota is better than ever.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

Mazda has introduced a swath of new colors for 2017, including three whiter shades of pale called Ceramic Metallic, Crystal White Pearl and Arctic White. Our test Miata sported an intriguing off white finish (Ceramic Metallic) that brought to mind the Hot Wheels “Color Changers” which respond to different light levels by changing color. In the case of this Mazda, Ceramic Metallic morphed from silver through gray to bright white depending on the light and time of day.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

The big news in Miata Land for 2017 is the introduction of the retractable fastback (RF) model. This disappearing hardtop makes the Miata look like an Italian show car from the 1950s when the top is up. With top retracted, its looks mirror the conventional MX-5 roadster we drove. Frankly, I can’t see why you’d want to saddle the lightweight MX-5 with a complex, electrically operated top mechanism when the fabric top of the standard Miata is such a pleasure to operate. While seated in the driver’s seat, you can detach the top from the header in one second, flip the top back in another second and slam it home into its storage well in a third second. The Miata even facilitates the process by dropping both side windows half way. Top erection is the reverse of this sequence, featuring an easy catch header latch of brilliant design.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

The placement of the Miata’s dial control for the infotainment system – just aft of the stick shift on the transmission tunnel – is not quite so brilliant. This dial, which among other chores selects radio stations, constantly fell afoul of my right elbow as I changed gears. I lost count of the number of times I inadvertently swapped bands from XM Satellite to FM or AM. But that concludes my very short complaint list, because the MX-5 is otherwise just as perfect as can be. Its handling, for example, is beyond reproach. Twitch the stubby steering wheel and the Miata instantly twitches in the same direction. No other car responds with the immediacy of the Miata. This immediacy is due largely to the ultra responsive tire patches provided by Bridgestone. The S001 radials (205/45R17) provide enough lateral grip for track duty.
Standard front and rear stabilizer bars, stiff spring rates and well snubbed shock absorbers all conspire to provide a resiliently precise ride that will have you carving apexes with glee. Simply put, this Mazda outdoes a legion of much more expensive offerings from Porsche and Corvette, all the way up to Ferrari, and Lamborghini. None of them can match the MX-5 for unalloyed driving pleasure.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

An important part of the Mazda magic formula derives from unimpeded sightlines from the cockpit. Although Miata now offers Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and a Lane Departure Warning System, you don’t really need them in a car where you can see everything all the time from the driver’s seat.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

Over the past quarter century, the Miata has matured into a comfortable little grand tourer. Our sample boasted a wonderful sound system with 9 Bose speakers spread through the cockpit, including inside each headrest. Despite its diminutive 5 cubic foot size, the Miata’s trunk will swallow an amazing amount of stuff so long as you keep the contents in soft shell bags. You would be hard pressed to find a better sports car today – at any price – than this $31,000 steal of a deal.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

  • Engine: 2.0 liter SKYACTIC in-line 4
  • Horsepower: 155hp
  • Torque: 148lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27MPG City/36 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,325
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD Review

Tuesday May 16th, 2017 at 2:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

By David Colman

Hypes: Japanese Balance of Utility and Beauty
Gripes: Redo the HVAC Controls

Introduced in 2016 as a completely new model, Mazda’s CX-9 moves into its second year of production in Hiroshima, Japan virtually unchanged. In the multinational automotive world, it has become increasingly difficult to detect where your vehicle is produced. But those who value traditional Japanese craftsmanship can rest assured that the body, engine and transmission of the CX-9 are all constructed in Japan. This heritage shows in the vehicle’s neat overall design, attention to interior surface detail, and lively turbocharged engine. Although the CX-9 weighs in at more than two tons (4,280lbs.), Mazda’s first ever use of a turbo on their Skyactive engine line boosts output of the 2.5 liter straight four to a gratifying new level: 250hp and 310lb.-ft. of torque. Couple this punch to a 6-speed automatic capable of manual gear selection and you’ve got yourself a potent straight-line performance package.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

Nor does Mazda drop the ball when it comes to suspension layout. Fully independent design front and rear endows the CX-9 with the ability to soak up bumps and road imperfections with aplomb. Ride comfort is uniformly excellent. Standard front and rear sway bars inhibit lean in corners. Generous 20 inch alloy rims plant grippy Falken Ziex C750 radials (225/50R20) at each corner. The Tread Wear 300 rating of these tires prioritizes handling, so it’s fair to say that Mazda infuses even this 7 passenger bus of an SUV with the sports car responsiveness of the company’s milestone MX-5 Miata.

The CX-9 includes three rows of seating for 7 passengers. Front row occupants enjoy exceptionally comfortable and well tailored lounge chairs complete with 3-stage heaters. Mazda has fitted the driver’s seat with a 2 position memory setting. The second row consists of a 40/60 split bench good for 2 or 3 passengers, while the knee-room restricted tail bench is best suited to small fry. Both back rows can be instantly converted to semi flat floor configuration good for 34 cubic feet of storage.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

I found that dropping the third row bench flat, along with just one of the second row chairs, created enough room to stow an adult bike inside the CX-9. However, the upper cab taper of this SUV makes the handlebars a tight fit through the electrically activated tailgate. While rearranging the interior seats, I discovered a large flat storage bin thoughtfully hidden behind the third row seats. Under that bin lies a deep well housing a temporary spare tire (bonus points to Mazda) and the tools to deal with it. However, the spare wheel houses a huge Bose subwoofer which is bolted in place. You might want to rehearse the drill of removing the subwoofer before you need to do so on some dark and stormy night.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

If the CX-9 has a shortcoming, it lies in the layout of the controls for the HVAC system, and to a lesser extent, the infotainment logic of the “Mazda Connect” interface. The HVAC controls (Mazda calls them “Automatic Climate Controls”) are inconveniently situated on a small panel located out of your line of sight, just above the center console. Commands for fan speed and air flow position are scattered along the bottom of this panel, with pictographs so minute that their operation diverts your attention from driving. Likewise, the system used to install “favorite” channels from SiriusXM is unnecessarily complicated. Each time you are prepared to install a favorite channel, the system presents you with a dialogue box inquiring whether you want to relocate the existing channel to another position. We finally gave up on this nonsense after about 10 minutes and stuck with just one channel (’50s on 5′) for our whole week with the CX-9.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

This Mazda is well suited to towing moderate (3,500lbs.) trailer loads. Most importantly, it has the engine strength to get the job done, even over the Sierras. Mazda has provided standard trailer stability assist, plus an 8 inch full color dash top display for the view out the back. This will ease your anxiety when backing the CX-9′s optional hitch onto a tiny trailer ball. In fact, this spacious and comfortable Mazda is just about perfect for towing your ski boat, sail boat, formula race car or tiny camper. It provides all the comfort and convenience features you could possibly desire, and does so with an efficiency rating of 24MPG (overall) that rivals much smaller but less useful sedans.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

  • Engine: 2.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 250hp
  • Torque: 310lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $41,810
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD Review

Wednesday March 29th, 2017 at 11:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD

By David Colman

Hypes: Miata-infused SUV
Gripes: ADD screen, Busy Center Console

There’s a lot of Miata in this CX-3. Anyone who’s spent quality time beyond the wheel of Mazda’s classic MX-5 (Miata) two seat sports car will immediately appreciate the detail spillover to the CX-3. Mazda products are really all about feedback. You give a command and the vehicle responds to that directive instantaneously. Like the Miata, the CX-3 – despite its SUV design and elevated ride height – reacts instantly when you turn the wheel, bang a downshift or hammer the throttle. The CX-3 consistently displays such lightning quick reflexes that its operation becomes instinctual rather than forced. Like the Miata, the MX-3 is so underpowered (just 146hp) that it depends on its ultra precise handling and suspension composure to compensate for its lack of brute strength under the hood. And like the Miata, the CX-3′s overall balance tips the fun-to-drive scale heavily in favor of this diminutive SUV.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD

If you’re looking for a utilitarian family hauler, look elsewhere. The CX-3′s 100 inch wheelbase is about 10 inches short of a full family six pack. And you most assuredly won’t be able to slide your bike into the rear hatch. However, you will be able to accommodate a four pack of adults inside the CX-3. There’s enough front and rear legroom to allow four six footers sprawl room. Those who have spent time in a Miata cockpit will feel right at home driving the CX-3. The manually adjustable steering wheel is perfectly situated for grip and precision control. Even the fingertip shift paddles fall exactly where you need them when you decide to assume gear control from the 6-speed “Sport Mode” automatic transmission.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD

And like the MX-5 sports car, the center tunnel houses the joystick for all Mazda Connect features such as sound settings, device settings, vehicle settings, system settings, active driving display settings and safety settings. Mazda terms this large rotary dial the “Commander Switch,” and due to its partially hidden location, it will take you some time to acclimatize yourself to its operation. Most commands can be issued verbally. We were disappointed to find no menu choice available for door lock protocol. Every time we walked away from the CX-3, the doors automatically locked. When we returned, however, they did not automatically unlock. This necessitated a jab on the appropriate keyfob button, a procedure that got old real fast.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD

What didn’t get tiresome was the CX-3′s desire to attack back roads with sports car aplomb. Mazda does not stint in equipping this mini-SUV with optimal wheels and tires. Our “Dynamic Blue Mica” tester sported handsome 18 inch alloy rims fitted with very sticky all season Yokohama Avid S34 radials (215/50R18). A couple of challenging backroad runs failed to dislodge the CX-3 from the line chosen by its operator. Despite its 61 inch height, this 2,945 pound mini truck carries out your placement orders with dispatch and precision. This behavior proved especially impressive during wet weather operation. Even during the worst storms, nary a skid was detected. Mazda touts their belief that “Driving Matters” and in the case of the CX-3, that claim is clearly accurate.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD

Which is not to say that some ergonomic details don’t intrude on the overall bliss. The hatchback release button, located under the edge of the rear lid, is too small and too difficult to locate. The trunk area at the rear needs a light for night loading. The Active Driving Display is a disconcerting addition to the dashboard. This ADD unit consists of a clear plastic screen which automatically pops up from the top of the instrument binnacle to provide speed, navigation and cruise control information. It’s a sort of poor man’s head up system, and I couldn’t find a way to shut it off or retract the screen. In fact, Mazda specifically warns, “Do not try to adjust the angle or open/close the display by hand.” The ADD unit is standard on CX-3s fitted with Grand Touring (GT) level trim.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD

Really, these are but minor quibbles that pale into insignificance when considering this Mazda’s overall worth. There are very few SUVs on the market that will match the CX-3 for joy of operation or for value pricing.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT FWD

  • Engine: 2.0 liter “Skyactive” inline 4 cylinder
  • Horsepower: 146hp
  • Torque: 146lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 29 MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $27,260
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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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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