By on November 12, 2009

A return to form? (courtesy:malaysianminilover.com)

Brace yourself ladies and gentlemen, because an automaker is taking on one of the American market’s greatest bugbears: size and weight bloat. Mazda’s vehicles have gained 80 pounds on average with each recent redesign, according to Robert Davis, senior vice president of product development and quality for Mazda North American Operations. Davis tells Automotive News [sub] that increases are coming “mostly in larger tires and wheels, and safety equipment,” resulting in a 2010 Mazda3 that weighs 2,868 pounds compared to a 2003 Protege’s 2,634 pounds. And, says Davis, that’s all about to change. He promises “typical” weight reductions of 220 pounds per vehicle on future Mazda models, through a combination of measures. For one thing, dimensional creep is a thing of the past, with some Mazda models scheduled to lose as much as three inches in length.

Improved packaging should help reduce the impact on interior feel, while the use of more light-weight materials should also help decrease overall mass and weight. Though Davis does warn that “carbon-fiber roofs and hoods are great for a BMW M5, but they are not viable in our cost structure.” The weight reduction will not only improve fuel economy between three and five percent, it will also allow the use of more efficient engines without losing Mazda’s trademark sporty feel. And, frankly, it will provide a wonderful example to automakers like Honda who built their brands on light-weight, fun-to-drive cars before succumbing to dimensional and weight bloat over the past decade. Weight is not only the enemy of efficiency, it’s also the enemy of fun. If Mazda is serious about differentiating its vehicles with lower weights (and efficiency numbers on the last two generations of Mazda3s indicate that it probably should), this could possibly just herald a new trend that’s been a long time coming to the US market. Setting concrete goals like a 220 pound average reduction per vehicle is just the kind of challenge to the industry we’ve been looking for.

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29 Comments on “Positive Post Of The Day: Mazda To Add Lightness...”


  • avatar
    86er

    Of course, Mazda nor anyone else in the industry can predict what new raft of safety features will become mandated over the coming years, and how much this will weigh.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I’ll say it again, I own a 1st gen Mazda6, and I can not understand people saying it is too small.  I’m a big guy (6′) and my wife is a big gal (6′ 1″), and we both fit in our Mazda6 quite comfortably with room in the back seat for two friends.  Please Mazda show the way to reasonable size and weight.  This is really following in the steps of the new Miata – whatever they want to call it, it is still a Miata to me - that was slightly larger but weighed slightly less than the outgoing version.

    By the way, a 3 to 5% increase in fuel mileage only equates to a 0.5 to 1.5 mpg increase depending on the car and whether it is 3 or 5%.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Agreed…two years ago my wife (5′-11) and I (6′-3, and we could both stand to lose quite a bit of weight) rented an 07/08 Mazda6 for a weekend getaway and found it quite comfortable and enjoyable to drive.  After driving it I read competitive reviews condemning it for being smallest in its class which did more to turn me off its direct competitors.  Then I read about the 09 redesign growing so significantly I couldn’t help but think: Why?
       
      We even loaded up the kids’ car seats and drove it around for an evening before going out of town and with a booster and a rear-facing seat had no issues.  Putting an adult in the back with both car seats, or putting three adults in the back would cause issues, but the same would be said about any of the larger competitors as well.

    • 0 avatar
      texlovera

      Same here.  I’m 6′-2″, and I fit in my 2004 6 just fine.  The car’s lost a bit on its fastball over the last 5+ years, but I’m still awfully happy with it.  Only complaint: no rust on the body panels, but a couple of small rust spots on the side window frames!

  • avatar

    There is a downside to the Mazda way–my Protege5 dings if you breathe on it hard and (I’m not finding) is prone to rust at 5.5 years of age (six months out of the rust warranty).

  • avatar
    Morea

    Go Mazda!  Show the other manufacturers the way!  (Are you listening Alfa Romeo?)

  • avatar
    ctoan

    Good to hear.  I had a Toyota Tercel for a while, and despite basically non-functional shocks, slightly broken steering, and the fact that it wasn’t really intended to be sporty in the first place, it was still a lot of fun to toss through a corner by simple virtue of weighing a single ton.
    Is this because of a loss of Ford’s control, that they’re not anticipating sharing any more platforms with them?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The dimensional and weight creep of the past twenty years is partly because CAFE fuel economy standards were frozen in time during that period. Now that the deep freeze is coming off, more and more automakers will be putting their vehicles on a diet. Enthusiasts can cheer the belated arrival of tougher CAFE limits!

  • avatar
    friedclams

    Like Michael, my Protege is rusting and has the thinnest sheet metal ever, I can bend the c-pillar metal with my finger. Maybe TOO much lightness there.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      That was just Mazda cutting corners and cheapening out.  The Protege wasn’t all that light for its class at 2,650lbs.  Both the Corolla and Civic were lighter.  Protege still out-handled everything in the class.  Too bad the powerplant was a dog.  No power and 10 mpgs worse than a Corolla.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    They can start by chopping the fugly front end off the new 3, tomorrow.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This is a good move.  My 05 xB only weighs about 2400 lbs.  Weight adds cost to build and operate a car, without a commensurate increase in safety.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Like 86er said…nobody can plan for government mandates. These could mean a lot of weight.

    And Americans need to get over the “solid” door closing they think equates with quality. My 09 Mazda6 has a rather thin sound when closing and it shudders me everytime my teenager slams it.

    If they can keep to this new plan and still have solid and fun to drive cars,  it might work.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I’m with Michael and FriedClams, my Protege5 is very dent prone, but so far I haven’t noticed any rust.
     
    I also have to commend Mazda on the quality of the leather they used in that car.  My 2002 with close to 80,000 miles shows light wear on the drivers seat, but that’s it.  No splitting, cracking, ripping, or discoloration from the factory (black) leather in any way shape or form.  I’ve never conditioned it or treated it other than a few swipes with an armoral wipe when I clean the interior.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Wow, my 2002 Miata has awful leather. Hard as plastic, cracking and it doesn’t get clean no matter what I use.

  • avatar
    hurls

    Good… bring the Miata back down to about 2200 lbs and I’ll trade in my 90 for a new one :)

  • avatar
    PG

    What I really want to see them fix is ride height. How come today’s sedans are as tall as minivans from the 90s? 

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Here’s another unpopular thought in North America: underpowered cars.
    Seems to be commonly accepted in Europe and yet our Slurpee-sized oil consumption mandates of the past have granted us the right to disqualify cars if they aren’t as powerful as their competition.

    I understand that there’s a certain point in terms of fuel efficiency where too little power is counterproductive but I suspect North American cars err on the side of caution and provide more than is necessary.

    The Ford Transit Connect van is an example of how it’s possible to change this perception.  What? a working vehicle with a four-cylinder engine? That thing deserves at least a big 6 or a small 8.  Not so.

    What might be interesting to see is selective cylinder deactivation.  Instead of an engine automatically dropping pistons when a vehicle hits a comfortable cruising speed, you can determine when to run it as a 4 cylinder or 6.  Sure you may not be able to blast off the line, but you can just say to yourself, “Screw the guy behind me mashing his horn like it’s going out of style”.

    Anyway back to the original subject, good for Mazda for dealing with the Costco-sized portions in cars that we’ve all grown to accept as normal.  I hope it works out for them.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Via Nocturna

      +1
      I’ve had the same idea regarding cylinder deactivation. It’s such a blindingly obvious solution and similar concepts already exist (“regular” cylinder deactivation and selectable performance presets a la the M5) that I have to wonder why no automaker has bothered.
      As far as Mazda is concerned, kudos to them. Just one more reason to put their products high on one’s shopping list. However, it’s going to take more than a single niche import automaker to reverse the trend.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    Low weight, Low Cost, Safety – Pick any 2

    People will also have to get used to hearing road noise again – sound dampening materials and dual laminated glass = higher weight

    Things like sun roofs and other luxury options = higher weight.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Finally! Some car manufacturer ‘gets it’!

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Let’s be honest, Americans. Most of you could stand to lose a spare tire and some curb weight yourselves. Take a typical family of four. When you put them on the scale, they’re really a typical family of four and a half or four and three-quarters. Factor in the extra energy needed to propel the family of 4.5 in a bloated minivan or SUV, and multiply that buy, oh, 60 million households.
    And there you’ll have number that NO ONE has the guts to talk about.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Hallelujah.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Thanks for the picture of that pretty little Protege. Compared to that sad sack Mazda 3 , the Protege is an “iconic” classic .

    Hopefully Mazda will reconsider some of their more recent “design language” [yecchhhh! Hate the phrase but if that\'s what they\'re using as an excuse...] and show some sort of restraint in styling as well as size and weight.

    Mazda: you can’t do it too soon.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Kudos to Mazda.   Of all the cars I’ve owned over the past quarter-century, a lowly 2,200-pound Civic Si still stands out as one of my favourites.    The closer we can get to that standard while still meeting safety regulations, the better.

  • avatar

    This is great and all, and I do love Mazda’s…the problem is that most of their top-sellers have had a recent refresh so how long are we gonna have to wait to see the results. That’s assuming they’ll be good to their word.

    And where’s the Mazda2?

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      The US spec of the Mazda 2 will be at the LA Auto show.  It’s going to be a 2011 model year car, and will probably be released next autumn.
      But you’re right, the Mazda 3 and 6 were redesigned for MY2009 and 2010.  The 2 started with MY2008 I believe.  It will be a while before we see any results.


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