Near a small town nestling in the Cotswolds an event took place late last year that was to establish the brand Mazda firmly on my list that is headed, ‘Really Good Cars’. DriveWrite tried three, all with different niches in mind and they all stood tall.
So Grasshoppers; With Jinba Ittai, the car responds almost as though it were an extension of the driver’s body, enhancing safety and peace of mind. Thus spoke Mazda with typical manufacturer hyperbole, yet it appears true. Their cars are all good drivers, just like these three:
The Mazda CX-5
This good-sized five-seat SUV (pictured above) as tested was powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder TOC Skyactiv-G petrol engine with 163bhp. There’s no turbo on this car. Mazda eschew the blower in favour of a high compression engine that significantly improves, they say, fuel efficiency and also improves everyday driving thanks to increased torque at low to mid-engine speeds. There’s also three versions of a strong diesel available. More about Skyactiv in my CX-3 review from a while back.
The CX-5 should be the SUV of choice for keen family motorists. Arguably it handles better than any other of its type in the mainstream sector. Comfort and refinement in the latest model have helped to really up the game too. With the combination of a very punchy engine, an upmarket interior and plenty of the latest technology, it delivered a delightful drive around rural England.
The 0-62mph time of just over ten seconds seems a bit pedestrian for a 2.0L but it belies the fact that this car once rolling can really motor on. The handling is key; no rocking and rolling here, the CX-5 drives like a quick hatchback. It was certainly more fun than I expected but it was still not as much fun as….
The Mazda MX-5
Do you remember your first time? That’s right, the first time you stepped into a car with a fully loaded driving licence and experienced the joys of the open road? Well, no matter how sated with driving you may now be, it is still possible to rediscover those fun-filled halcyon days by simply treating yourself to the new Mazda MX-5.
As a rag-top it is terrific. A sports car as it should be. Front engine, rear-wheel drive and a quick punchy engine coupled with a good old stick-shift six.
Now it is even better because the MX-5 comes for the first time as a tin-top. It has a retractable hardtop which is simplicity to use and thus offers the best of both worlds. I loved it as a coupé immediately. It is quieter and my hair gets to stay in one place no matter what, like Donald Trump’s.
Two four-cylinder engines are on offer with 1.5 (the one featured here) and 2.0 litres. Surprisingly, it is the smaller motor that delivers the most pleasure, or so it seems to me. It isn’t fast, with the benchmark 62mph arriving in a modest 8.3 seconds, but it feels fast and that’s the important thing.
The driving position is laid back and relaxed and the sensation of speed is as a result of the driver sitting low to the ground. Around the B-roads of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire the ride was exhilarating. This is one B-Road bandit.
With a modest output of 129bhp you can’t expect scorching performance but, by keeping the revs high, you can still experience the sensations. But a lively engine is not much use without the handling to go with it. This is where the Mazda really scores.
You feel connected with the road; there’s grip that will keep going even after your nerves have failed, which means cornering ability is outstanding. It is possible to introduce a little oversteer, especially when the roads are damp as I found when I went into a moist tree-shaded corner a tad too hot, but there’s sufficient advance warning to ease off and correct. Oh joy unbounded! Jinba Ittai indeed.
But now we must go back to the realms of normality and family values with …
The Mazda 6
The featured car ran with a punchy, torquey 2.2L 172bhp diesel engine which sped to 62mph in just eight seconds yet returned over 60mpg (when driven appropriately).
I like an estate car generally as a daily driver and this one really does the job. It is supremely comfortable, gutsy, with a high-tech interior lined with lovely leather and with a trunk that yawns before you like the Grand Canyon. It’s vast.
All 6 series models from Mazda come with G-Vectoring Control (GVC). I had to look it up so this definition is official: It’s not like torque vectoring; GVC does not brake the wheels. Instead, when turning into a corner, the engine senses steering inputs and slightly reduces the torque output. This shifts the weight forward slightly and aids front tyre effectiveness. Apparently, the benefits extend beyond this in that the system also provides, Mazda say, greater high-speed stability and increased driver and passenger comfort. From the layman’s point of view it simply means a better drive and that’s what you get.
The trouble is, that’s about it. It is not a vehicle, unlike the previous two, that a car enthusiast would look longingly back at as they walked away. It is a car for people who need an excellent car but who are not, in my view, especially interested in cars simply for the pleasure. Still a very fine, roomy choice though for business and family motoring.
The Rise Of Mazda
Mazda plough their own furrow and have an ever-improving reputation in this country. They have shown their products to be reliable, long-lasting and good value for money. The Skyactiv engine technology is great and we learn that it is going to get even better.
At the Tokyo motor show a few weeks ago last year the brand announced their Skyactiv-X technology spark controlled compression ignition which, they informed, will combine the economy and torque of a diesel engine with the performance and lower emissions of a petrol unit. There is clearly some life in fossil fuels yet. Thanks to Mazda for a grand day out. Geoff Maxted