The Truth About Cars » Mazda The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 04:59:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Mazda Hammer Time: Might As Well Go For A Soda Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:56:11 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

“Steve, what car should I buy?”

“Well, if I give you the real answer, you’ll roll your eyes and buy what you want anyway.”

“No really. I’m open to new ideas.”

“Okay then! Buy a 2012 Malibu. Buy a Buick Park Avenue. Buy a Dodge Raider or buy a Suzuki Equator.”

“Ummm… are you sure about that?”

“Hell no! Now go buy me a soda and buy yourself a Camry!”

A lot of enthusiasts give grief to the mainstream publications in this business. Sometimes I kinda don’t get why because to be brutally blunt, the “best car”  is usually firmly planted in the third row of most folk’s priorities when it comes to buying their next car.

For all the manufacturers desires to offer power, performance and utility together in one great vehicle, most of the general public just doesn’t care.

They usually want a brand first. Looks second. Then there’s fuel economy, safety, perceived quality… and a long, long list of excuses to get away from the less popular alternatives.

The best new car is rarely the best selling car in this business. There are Mazdas that I love which have a snowballs chance in hell of taking on the Toyotas and Chevys. Even if they do a far better job of checking off most consumer’s real world priorities, it’s a moot point and an inevitable outcome.

If Volvo came out with a breakthrough product, I seriously doubt that most shoppers of prestige brands would even remotely consider it. Never mind that there are plenty of reputable sources out there that can help dispel those myths as to which models now offer the best bang for the buck. Volvo no longer ranks in the pantheons of marketplace leaders. Case closed.

Even when mainstream publication have the gall to endorse an Oldsmobile or a Suzuki over a Camry or an Accord, the result of that neighborly advice is that people just won’t take it.

Why? People are brand loyal, and they are bias loyal.

Click here to view the embedded video.

That Ford station wagon that killed Aunt Edna’s dog 35 years ago?  Well, that just means Detroit cars are pure crap. Never mind that carsurvey, TrueDelta, and even the long-term reliability index I am co-developing have disproved a lot of those myths.

Cadillac can’t ever match a Mercedes. Mercedes isn’t as good as a Lexus. Lexus isn’t as good as a BMW. On and on through the merry go round of biases and BS until you can’t help but SAAB at the futility of recommending a great car at a steal of a price.

Kizashi! What? Exactly. It’s a great car if you play around with a stickshift version. You say you’re an enthusiast… but then when I recommend a stick version, you look at me like I’m from Mars.

The truth is that enthusiast cars don’t sell. The best cars for pure driving enjoyment, don’t sell. The Miata has been shucked in the low 10k range of annual sales for a long time now. Mustangs? An ungodly sales decline. There are some who blame these types of things on demographics or the police state. But I have a third theory.

American tastes increasingly resemble the American interstate. There is a sameness and sadness to the menu which is dictating that the best cars are psychologically unaccessible. Nobody wants to get off the straight and dull road that leads to the Camcrods, the Cor-antr-ics and the American badged truck.

Are all those models good? Well, yeah. But good seldom equals love. You want love? Go tear down a bias and rediscover why a great car is worthy buying.

Don’t forget the radar detector.

P.S. :  Feel free to share your thoughts below on great cars that have missed that elusive mark of mainstream acceptance over the years. I am going to be spending most of today getting a bonded title for a 21 year old Cadillac limousine. I will need intensive comic relief thanks to the interminable tortures that come with taking care of that type of title issue at the DMV. So please, feel free to share your stories and insights. I can always be reached directly at .

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Editorial: Don’t Get Your Hopes Up For A New Mazda MX-5 Debut Tue, 25 Mar 2014 15:20:06 +0000 450x301x06-2013-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-Club-Picture-courtesy-of-Murilee-Martin-450x301.jpg.pagespeed.ic.yyYjS-N1VZ

Mazda has some big news for Miata lovers at the New York Auto Show, with an exhibition of some of their favorite Miatas over the car’s 25 year history. Both myself (97 C Package, 2003 Shinsen) and Jack (former owner of a 93 ) will be attending, and we will make sure to get detailed photographs of everything – but don’t be surprised if we come back empty-handed when it comes to the 2015 MX-5.

The latest in a long line of silly rumors (diesel MX-5? puh-leeze) is that the new MX-5 will make a surprise debut at the New York Auto Show. As much as I’d love for this to happen, I am not getting my hopes up.

Why? Because Mazda doesn’t typically make big reveals at auto shows. The 3, 6 and CX-5 all made debuts on their own schedule, and for Mazda, this is a smart play. They are a small brand and don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing. By launching them on their own terms, they can own whatever time slot they choose, rather than having to dole out big marketing bucks on fancy preview dinners or social media campaigns.

The New York Auto Show, while rising in importance, is also not the preeminent auto show to launch the new MX-5 at. A look at the debut calendar will also show what the MX-5 would potentially be up against: a new Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Sonata, Acura TLX and Chevrolet Trax (or other B-Crossover) are just some of the vehicles that the MX-5 would have to compete with for media and public attention. 25 years ago, the Miata’s debut at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show was a jolt of electricity to an auto market that had not seen a fresh new two-seat roadster in years. Today, the MX-5 is, frankly, an afterthought in the minds of the general public.

Based on Mazda’s past patterns of behavior, I’d say that they’ll launch the MX-5 when they are good and ready, and able to dominate the conversation around the car. If it’s going to be an auto show, then Tokyo or Detroit would be more fitting for such a major reveal.

Then again, I hope I’m wrong.

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Piston Slap: A Tribute to the Mariner’s idle Escape? (PART II) Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:28:03 +0000 Capture

We had two updates to a previous Piston Slap this weekend, surprisingly within two hours of each other.  Let’s hear from the OP first:

TTAC Commentator sundvl76 writes:

Sajeev, reporting back:

You may be interested in this, if for no other reason than to add to your diagnostic toolbox; my experience certainly can’t be unique: Several comments below your post also suggested the motor mount(s) as the problem. I more recently discussed this with a professional wrench acquaintance, who also said that the mounts can be expected to go south after ~80K miles; he suggested using a padded floor jack to lift slightly on the engine during a time when I detected the “rough” idle (the oil pan on this vehicle, and maybe all Duratec engines, is waffled cast aluminum). Bingo! The vibration ceased when I did that.

I have now changed the large mount on the passenger side of the engine compartment, and can report that the vibration is no longer present. But, there is a bonus prize to this story: for the last 25 – 30K miles, I’ve been also chasing a creaking noise which occurred – again more prominently during cold weather than hot – at any acceleration from a stop sign/light. I would have bet serious money that it was coming from the rear suspension, and in fact went so far as to replace 3 of the 4 control arms in the rear (they’re fairly cheap and easy to replace), with no success. Replaced the motor mount::creaking noise vanished like magic!

This vehicle is nothing great by any means – wife drives it 80% of the time and it suits her needs – and I don’t care that much for it, but these nagging issues really made me start to think about dumping it. Whole new attitude now – it will stay around for a while yet! Thanks for your help and thanks for reading this. I enjoy your posts greatly.

Sajeev answers:

Excellent!  Nice to see my initial armchair diagnosis was on the money. All it takes is a fractional difference in mount height from new to cause this problem. Maybe a millimeter, maybe less! No way can you eyeball this and know for sure.

I am totally diggin’ the padded floor jack on the oil pan trick.  Perhaps the pan needs reinforcement to work here, not just the old school sheet metal affairs. But perhaps all it takes is a little lift at one corner (i.e. not the big flat part of the pan) to prove the bad idle is indeed an engine mount vibration. Or put a long board on the jack so the weight is spread across the entire pan, from corner to corner.

No matter, glad to see you are now enjoying your ride much more.  It’s hard not to love it after getting your hands, arms, legs and even your mind “dirty” in a successful diagnosis of a seemingly impossible problem!

Then Rene writes:


Greetings! I enjoy your fine column and blog very much. Keep up the fine work! With regard to the poor idle that your reader was looking for help with on his 2005 Mariner, I thought I would chime in after much experience with the Ford/Mazda Duratec family of V-6’s, particularly the 2001-2007 Tributes and Escapes. In addition, a 2003 Tribute with 199,000 miles is my daily driver. I have found that the V-6 idle issue, after all the usual culprits have been considered and/or remedied without result, could be these two things—a failed DPFE sensor, or the intake seals are cooked.

These V6 engines have a manifold on top which is bolted to a plenum riser, which in turn is bolted to the engine. There are six seals where each component meets the other, and as one might expect, after 100K the six seals between the plenum and the engine have grown crispy from age and heat (in far worse condition than the six plenum to manifold seals, which might still appear pliable). The lower seals harden and begin to suck air in, and this condition reveals itself the most noticeably by a poor idle and a drop in fuel mileage. I have had excellent results by replacing all the intake seals (a complete intake gasket set is required) as well as all of the smaller vacuum hoses, cleaning the MAF sensor (using MAF sensor cleaner, not carb cleaner) and air flow meter; in most cases, showroom floor idle is restored.

These engines also seem to favor Motorcraft platinum spark plugs; I’ve tried other plugs in a pinch or on sale, but the Motorcrafts produce the smoothest idle and best fuel mileage for me. Of course, if the DPFE sensor hasn’t ever been changed, it’s a good idea. This component is also exposed to a great deal of operating heat. Mine clocked 140,000 miles before it failed, but I’ve seen them go earlier….and later. You never know with those. Finally, my last fleeting thought on the subject: two half inch vacuum tubes tee from the large air intake hose (just after the MAF sensor housing) and each one plugs into a grommet in the rear of each valve cover. These grommets deteriorate from heat and contact with oil and fail with time, resulting in a vacuum leak that starts slowly but soon gets worse. These should also be checked and replaced if they are soft and gummy.

I hope that this info helps someone.

Sajeev concludes:

Thank you for writing! I thought a failed DPFE throw a check engine light (CEL)…as that’s my expereince in my ’95 Mark VIII. And boy, was that a fun sensor to replace on the MN-12 chassis! But I digress…

Rene’s great assessment of the Duratec V6s is something every long-term car owner must consider:  dried up gaskets and rubber vacuum lines that either go brittle or gummy.  And not just the usual suspects you see with a quick look under the hood, there could be gaskets you wouldn’t even consider unless you have the proper service manual and/or information from your model specific forum.  And if you own one of the millions of DOHC V6s shoehorned in a wrong wheel drive platform, well, I promise you that your eyeballs can’t find all the hidden gaskets and rubber bits.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Japanese Automakers Find New Export Base, Opportunity In Mexico Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:45:26 +0000 Mazda3s Loading Onto Three-Tiered Train Car

Within four months of each other, Honda, Mazda and Nissan have opened new factories in Mexico, taking advantage of the opportunities within the nation’s automotive industry to grow a new export base into the United States, Latin America and Europe while also gaining ground in the rapidly expanding local market, all in direct challenge to the Detroit Three and other automakers on both sides of the border.

Automotive News reports Mexico will become the No. 1 exporting nation to the U.S. by 2015 at the earliest in large part due to the 605,000 units per year added by the three Japanese automakers. Meanwhile, Toyota will begin production in 2015 at Mazda’s newly opened Salamanca plant prior to deciding whether or not to build a new factory of their own. Nissan’s premium brand, Infiniti, may also set-up shop in Mexico.

In turn, the Japanese will see benefits from the move, from mitigating losses from a weaker yen in exports from home and greater profit due to cheap labor, to no tariffs on exports to the U.S. due to the North American Free Trade Agreement and improved product availability resulting from shorter distances between markets.

Speaking of free-trade agreements, Japanese automakers will also have access to some 44 countries and up to 40 million sales annually as a result of Mexico’s many agreements, allowing them to take on competitors in Latin America and Europe.

Finally, the Japanese have taken market share away from the Detroit Three in Mexico’s own automotive market, holding a collective 42 percent over Detroit’s 35 percent in 2013, when just four years earlier Detroit dominated with 57 percent of the market over Japan’s 23 percent.

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Toyota To Receive SkyActiv Engines For Upcoming Subcompact Fri, 07 Mar 2014 15:33:51 +0000 Mazda3 SKYACTIV engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

Toyota’s line of engine/body mashups continues, this time with their upcoming Mazda2-based subcompact powered by Mazda’s SkyActiv engine family.

Automotive News reports the subcompact, set to replace the current Yaris by 2016 at the latest, will be assembled alongside the new Mazda2 at Mazda’s newly opened Salamanca, Mexico factory. Approximately 50,000 of the factory’s total annual output of 230,000 units will be allocated to Toyota for the subcompact, with the SkyActiv transplant assembled on-site.

Though few details regarding either subcompact have been released, Mazda’s partnership with Toyota will allow the former to achieve greater economies of scale for the factory by supplying engines and possibly other SkyActiv-related components to Toyota.

Production for Toyota’s subcompact is set to begin next year, while Mazda2 production may begin as soon as the second half of 2014.

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Ur-Turn: What It’s Worth Fri, 07 Mar 2014 13:00:21 +0000 abemiata

Abraham Drimmer writes about moving from South Florida to Michigan in his Miata

“You need to sell your car”, my father told me, when I informed him of my imminent departure. I got the call in mid-October, I’d be leaving Miami for Ann Arbor on short notice. “That thing is going to be absolutely worthless in the snow”.

A two-week notice later and I’m on the road, every artifact of my existence in this corporeal realm crammed into the 51.1 cubic feet combined passenger/cargo volume of my sunlight silver 2005 Mazda Miata. I reached Michigan safely, and promptly fitted a set of snow tires.

As I watched the little roadster gather a coat of fine salt, the wheel wells bulging with weeks of accumulated snow and grime, I mulled my father’s words. Was he right? Was keeping the car that act of youthful automotive hubris we all eventually regret? Is the Miata any good in the snow?

The Miata’s winter competency is subjective. Which do you prefer: control, or the illusion of stability? The back steps out often, understeer isn’t so much pronounced as it is happening constantly. Still, it’s light and subsequently brakes and handles predictably. The feedback is great, the car never lies to you. I like it that way; I’d rather be told of my imminent destruction than have it carried out with no warning. This characteristic speaks to my heritage, speaks to the heritage of Mazda.

There isn’t enough cargo room to allow you to shop at Costco, good —buy local or whatever. It also prevents you from stockpiling, forces you to leave the house regularly for provisions, keeps you social. Important in the coldest months.

It’s small, so it’s easy to brush snow off of. When the windshield isn’t obscured the heat from the sun evaporates the melted snow collecting in the floor mats, creating a sort of balmy greenhouse effect in the cabin. I like that as well, it reminds me of Miami.

Above all it’s engaging, physically and emotionally. You simply have to be a competent driver to get from point A to point B. You need to plan your route, check conditions, and dress appropriately. A pain, I know, but isn’t that what enthusiasts always talk about? Driver engagement? Isn’t that was we want? To be involved enough with our vehicles such that our conveyance from location to location is imparted with at least some fleeting sense of narrative? Sure I’m in a privileged position, what with no children, pets, or sense of self-preservation, I openly admit I have a lifestyle that can afford such inconveniences. Do I feel inconvenienced? Hardly, when I pick up my keys in the morning I’m happy.

That’s worth something, right?


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Piston Slap: A Tribute to the Mariner’s idle Escape? Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:16:00 +0000

TTAC Commentator sundvl76 writes:


Your post of 2 Mar 2011 was a great explanation regarding the cause of the “T” joint oil leak I’ve been experiencing. No one on any of the normal Ford sites has been able to pinpoint the problem, so I thank you for the information. (I’d discovered the source, but didn’t know the cause/fix until your post.) TTAC is now on my Favorites list!

So, I am hoping you might also be able to shed some light on the reason for the poor-quality idle I’m experiencing with the same engine. This does not seem to be a mis-fire, but more of a resonant vibration typical of an engine slightly out of time, and/or at the incorrect idle speed. It occurs primarily in colder weather (below 50F) and does improve once the engine is warmed – IF the ambient temp is above about 40F. When ambient is below that point, the strong vibrations do not disappear. Of course it is most pronounced in Drive/Reverse but noticeable in Park/Neutral as well. Manually increasing the idle speed slightly using the throttle does help. In warm weather the idle may be rough upon first start but improves pretty quickly.

I’ve investigated thoroughly (w/ propane) for a vacuum leak, cleaned the Mass Air Sensor and TB, and have replaced the IAC valve and spark plugs, with no improvement. There are no codes in storage to guide me to the solution, and I’m now thinking the MAS itself may be faulty but am not sure how to test it.

Have you seen this problem with other vehicles?

The vehicle in question is a 2005 Mariner with 114K miles.

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for your note, and Behold The Power of The Internet!!!

I often suspect the hydraulic filled engine mounts in these cases. A similar question was posted recently, and our commentators had suggestions you should consider. So have a read there, too.

sundvl76 replies:


Thanks for the link; read it all.

To add info to my question:

Engine mounts was one suggestion I’d found on another forum, and I’ve visually inspected them for leakage and also verified the engine does not move (power applied/brake on). Not saying it is impossible, but the symptoms are not the same as the Audi owner’s in the post.

Chevron or Exxon used 90% of the time, Shell occasionally. I also recall that when this first started (2 winters ago), I did an injector cleaning with the BBK kit, but no change in behavior was detected.

A small vacuum leak was also suggested – one which seals up when the engine is warm. Possible, but not sure how that matches up with my experience of the poor idle being dependent on ambient temps; the engine block should still eventually reach the same temp regardless of ambient. Incidentally, I’m in TX, so “cold ambient” is relative. . .

Thanks, I’ll keep watch on Piston Slap for further info.

Sajeev concludes:

If the engine mounts look that fantastic when running or not, consider the totally not impossible chance of clogged EGR passages.  I worked on a 1996 Sable LS (Duratec) that was EGR code free, but the uber-plenty EGR coking was a possible cause to its bad idle.  And while your Duratec V6 is significantly different from a UR-Duratec Sable, my EGR de-coking, fresh vacuum lines, a tune up (which you did) certainly cured the Sable.

And if those fail, perhaps you still need new mounts: perfection to your eyeballs doesn’t mean they are just out of spec enough to cause the funny idle.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Fiat, Abarth Likely To Receive Mazda-Based Roadster Over Alfa Tue, 04 Mar 2014 19:19:50 +0000 2011_Mazda_MX-5_PRHT_--_04-28-2011

Long rumored to wear the Alfa Romeo badge, the next-generation Mazda MX-5 may instead don a Fiat or Abarth necklace in 2015 if Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has the last word.

Automotive News reports sources close to the project stated product planners from Mazda and Fiat met recently to discuss a roadster based upon the MX-5. Fiat’s planners are looking for a way to maintain the supply partnership deal with the Japanese automaker, lest the break-up leave Fiat in the red through 2016, when they hope to return to the black in their native Europe.

As for why, Marchionne has proclaimed that no Alfa will be made outside of Italy so long as he is CEO, a statement reinforced as recently as the 2014 Detroit Auto Show; Marchionne plans to head FCA until 2017 at the earliest.

The so-called heir to the throne abdicated by the Fiat Duetto Spider made famous by the film “The Graduate,” the Italo-Japanese roadster may find a home with Fiat or Abarth, too underpowered be paired with Ferrari or Maserati, while Lancia retreats into its home market as a one-model brand by the end of 2014.

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Geneva 2014: Mazda Hazumi Previews Two New Subcompacts Tue, 04 Mar 2014 15:15:33 +0000 Mazda-Hazumi-Concept-Live-Shot-03

You’re looking at the next Toyota Yaris. Seriously. Under the terms of a deal struck with Toyota, Mazda’s all-new Mexican assembly plant will build the next Mazda2  and the Toyota Yaris on a single, Mazda-derived platform.

What you see here is the Hazumi concept, which previews the new 2. This concept features a 1.5L Skyactiv diesel engine with stop-start and Mazda’s i-Eloop regen braking system. While power figures weren’t released, the Hazumi squeaks in below to 100 grams of CO2 per kilometer benchmark. Like all Skyactiv Mazdas, weight should be kept to a minimum – even more impressive given the current Mazda2′s already svelte figure. If the next Yaris adopts some of the weight saving technologies as well as Mazda driving dynamics, the subcompact segment could get a whole lot more interesting.

Mazda-Hazumi-Concept-Live-Shot-01 Mazda-Hazumi-Concept-Live-Shot-03 Mazda-Hazumi-Concept-Live-Shot-05 Mazda-Hazumi-Concept-Live-Shot-07 Mazda-Hazumi-Concept-Live-Shot-08 Mazda-Hazumi-Concept-Live-Shot-11 ]]> 17
Yamanouchi: Mazda’s Mexico Factory Key To Global Strategy Fri, 28 Feb 2014 16:15:21 +0000 Takashi Yamanouchi

Mazda Chairman Takashi Yamanouchi opened his company’s sole North American factory in Salamanca, Mexico, proclaiming the new factory the key to a global strategy “upon which the very future of [the] company hinges.”

Automotive News reports the strategy with the factory — Mazda’s Structural Reform Plan — follows a three-pronged approach: a hedge against currency exchange disruptions, provide Mazda with a low-cost manufacturing base, and give the automaker access to new markets. The factory’s location allows the automaker to gain more profit for the Mazda3s destined for the United States, than those exported from Japan, while also providing an export base to Europe and access to new markets in Latin America. In turn, Mazda’s new access through Mexico’s free trade pacts provides to markers worth a combined 35 million to 40 million vehicle sales annually.

Though the yen is weakening against the dollar at the moment, Yamanouchi said the factory will act as a hedge against unpredictable currency fluctuations that could bring down profits for his company at any time:

When the yen becomes stronger, we have the Mexican plant, therefore we will never again go into the lost position. But when the yen gets weaker, we will further cost reduce the Mexican plants so it will contribute to our total profitability. Our philosophy is that we will strike the balance of business so that we won’t go into the very difficult times of the past that we have experienced. Never.

The factory is expected to employ 4,600 workers once at full capacity of 230,000 units/annually. Currently, 3,000 employees assemble Mazda3s for the North American market, which will be joined by the Mazda2 and a Mazda2-based vehicle for Toyota. An engine machining plant will also set up shop in the factory by October 2014.

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A Bi-polar Review of the 2014 Mazda 6 GT Thu, 27 Feb 2014 17:03:31 +0000 2014 Mazda 6 GT SkyActiv

I’ve been driving the 2014 Mazda 6 GT w/ Mazda’s SkyActive Technology Package for about a week now. It’s a stunner, looking for all the world like the kind of sports sedan Aston Martin would build if it had any stones. On top of that, the car has some seriously trick fuel-savings features and, I must admit, handles brilliantly (even on my tester’s Blizzak winter tires). For each of the Mazda’s highs, however, there is a low, and I will do my very best to remain objective as I share these, leaving you, dear reader, to decide whether the highs outweigh the lows.

Get comfy, then. We’re about to get weird.

2014 Mazda 6 GT: Highs and Lows

The 2014 Mazda 6 GT is a study in compromises. As I alluded to above, the Mazda is the best car I’ve tested in some ways. In other ways, it’s the very worst. Let’s start, then, on a high note: the Mazda’s muscle-car styling.

The 2014 Mazda 6 is, simply, one of the best-looking cars ever built. That may sound like it’s one of those “opinion” things, but it’s not. It’s a fact, and anyone with even the slightest hint of soul will see it immediately. The 2014 Mazda 6 GT combines the same sort of long hood/short deck sort of rear-drive proportions that made the original Mustang a classic, and combines those with a sexy, flowing curviness that is both subtly European and very, very Japanese in the best possible sense of the word.

There is only 1 (one) thing wrong with the Mazda’s look: it’s fake.

Granted, being 1 step away from perfection seems pretty good on paper, but the fact that the car draws you in with a long-hooded Muscle-car vibe then sticks you with the same basic mechanical front drive layout as a minivan is, at best, disappointing.

Let’s move on to the next “good” thing, then, shall we?

My 2014 Mazda 6 tester was equipped with the company’s highly lauded SkyActiv Technology Package. That includes Mazda’s i-ELOOP energy recovery system, active grille shutters, and radar-assisted cruise control, along with a few other goodies. The system is supposed to give back 28 city and 40 highway MPG and do all kinds of cool things like maintain a distance from the car in front of you, matching speed, accelerating back to your set speed once the “blocking” car moves, etc. It works amazingly well, and is almost totally invisible. It works so well, in fact, that I would almost suggest Mazda’s Technology Package be held out as the “gold standard” by which automotive electronics are measured by.

Almost, that is, because as well as the Mazda 6′s Technology Package worked, I didn’t get anywhere near 40 MPG. On several drives, even re-tracing the same route that gave back 51 MPG in the Toyota Corolla I tested earlier this month, I never saw more than 29.5 MPG, according to the car’s computer.

Mazda 6 MPG

Worse than the fuel economy letdown, however, was the Mazda’s infotainment system. It is, without question, the worst part of this, or any other car I have ever driven. Keep in mind, that list includes a Renault 5 (LeCar) that required me to, more than once, spray the fusebox with a fire extinguisher while driving.

What, exactly, made the infotainment system in the 2014 Mazda 6 so infuriating? It’s hard to explain, I think, but I’ll give it a try. Take a look at the photos of the system in in play, below, then read on as I explain the issues I had.

Mazda6_radio4-620x350 Mazda6_radio2-620x350 Mazda6_radio3-620x350 Mazda6_radio1-620x350

I was listening to the radio on a drive from my home in Oak Park to see a man about a guitar out in Plano, and wanted to change the station. Not wanting to take my hands off the wheel or my eyes off the road, I pressed the button on the left of the steering wheel that looks like it would have a “seek” function. Rather than going to the next station, it went to the next pre-set station.

“OK,” I thought. “That’s not what I expected, but it’s not the end of the world.

Next, I tried the BMW iDrive-syle knobule in the center console- and that’s when things really went sideways between me and the Mazda. Literally not a single input produced a sensible response. Turning the knob, pushing it left or right, pressing down on it, all seemed to have different functions depending on what screen I was in. In Nav mode, for example, I turned the knob thinking that it would take me back to audio or, at least, allow me to select a Navigation menu.

No dice.

Instead, turning the knob on the center console in the Mazda’s Nav screen zoomed in and out. Quickly. Distressingly quickly, in fact, going from “this is what is in your pores” close to “see what Lake Michigan looks like from deep space” far in seconds.

I’m sure I would, eventually, figure out the radio’s controls- but after nearly two decades of driving all manner of different cars, I’d like to think I’m pretty good at figuring out how an infotainment system works. In the 2014 Mazda 6, however, I was no closer to intuiting any of its supposed “features”, even after a week of trying. On the bright side, however, the Mazda’s sound system delivered fantastic sound quality- a fact I discovered after giving up entirely on the radio and playing songs through my phone’s BT connection. It was crisp, clear, and had decent bass.

So, where does that leave the Mazda 6?


2014 Mazda 6 GT: the Verdict

I couldn’t decide how I felt about the thing. In fact, the 2014 Mazda 6 GT seemed a little like a woman I used to date years ago- which is to say “beautiful, but incredibly frustrating”. Like the car, I used to love looking at her. She was an excellent playmate, too, but I couldn’t really figure her out and never managed to convince her to do anything productive with herself. In my twenties, that seemed OK- in my thirties?

Utterly stymied by the Mazda and unable to decide what I thought of it, I turned to the wife. While highly educated and extremely intelligent, the wife has almost no knowledge of car culture. She was, then, totally unaware of the fact that, as an automotive journalist, I am “supposed to” love the 2014 Mazda 6 GT. I asked her about the car, and she had generally positive things to say. Good-looking, roomy, yadda-yadda. It was when I asked her what she thought a car like the 2014 Mazda 6 GT might cost that she dropped a bomb on me: “I think more than the Corolla,” she said, referring to my last tester. “So, I dunno, $18,000 or $18,500.”


My wife is pretty good at guessing prices. She was within 10% of the sticker of both the Toyota Avalon and Lexus CT200h we tested, and nailed the Chevy Sonic with such precision that I’m convinced she peeked at the sticker while I wasn’t looking. Still, the price she put on the 2014 Mazda 6 was nearly $15K shy of the car’s $32,845 sticker.

So, where does that leave the 2014 Mazda 6 GT? I think it leaves it exactly where I have it, which is to say in a weird sort of “Why is this a thing?” limbo that it will never, ever escape- at least, not without some kind of massive infotainment overhaul, all-wheel drive, or a 35% price cut. There is, however, an alternative. A product that gives you all of the benefits of the 2014 Mazda 6 GT’s sexy curves, brilliant handling, and 40-ish (claimed) MPG fuel economy while getting fairly close to the car’s $18,000 “feels like” price.

That alternative? The 37 MPG 2014 Mazda 6 Sport with manual transmission, which stickers at just $20,990.

If you stick to your guns, drive a hard bargain, and show up at your nearest Mazda dealer an hour before closing time on the last day of the month, you’ll get to drive home the best looking $18,000 car cash money can buy.


Mazda6_1 Mazda6_2 Mazda6_3 Mazda6_4 Mazda6_5 Mazda6_6

Originally published on Gas 2.

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Mazda CX-5 Closes In On 100,000 Sold Wed, 19 Feb 2014 16:15:20 +0000 2013 Mazda CX-5. Picture courtesy

Mazda moved nearly 80,000 CX-5s from the lot to the highway in 2013. If the automaker has its way this year, the C segment crossover may break 100,000 units sold.

WardsAuto reports Mazda North American Operations CEO Jim O’Sullivan his employer can hit the 100,000-mark again with the CX-5, placing the crossover alongside the Mazda3 within the company, and the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V in the overall C segment crossover record books.

Factors cited by O’Sullivan in his hopes for the CX-5 include a recovering United States auto industry, brand awareness among U.S. consumers, reduced fleet volume, a new plant in Mexico that will build the Mazda3 while allowing more capacity in Japan to be used for CX-5 assembly, and a growing enthusiasm for the C segment and small crossovers:

We’re seeing really good, organic growth from our current-generation Mazda3 customers that have bought maybe (the old compact) Protege, then Mazda3, (and) now (are) moving into crossovers and the CX-5.

Speaking of crossovers, O’Sullivan says Mazda is looking at entering the B segment with a subcompact crossover slotted under the CX-5. The so-called CX-3, expected to be based upon the Mazda2, would see production in Mexico beginning July 2015.

Finally, the CX-9 will undergo a new redesign for 2016, and will make use of the automaker’s SkyActiv brand of fuel efficiency technology upon introduction late next year.

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Hyundai, Mazda Eyeing Small Crossover Market Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:30:14 +0000 2011_Mazda2_Touring_--_11-30-2010_2.jpg

The growing small crossover segment, featuring the likes of the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore, Honda Vezel and Kia Soul, may soon find two new players in the game as both Hyundai and Mazda have their eyes on the prize.

Automotive News Europe and Automotive News report the two automakers are planning to release subcompact CUVs of their own down the road, with Mazda tying theirs to the newly redesigned Mazda2 due out later this year. The crossover would slot underneath the current CX-5 in Mazda’s home market, and would be priced between 1.5 million and 2 million yen ($15,000 – $20,000 USD).

Mazda also aims to bring the mid-size CX-9 to Japan as soon as 2015 following its next redesign; both new models would expand the automaker’s crossover lineup to three vehicles in their home market.

Meanwhile, Hyundai’s subcompact crossover is in the study phase according to Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski:

We’re always looking at segments that we’re not in right now that maybe we should be based on where the market’s going. We’re very intrigued by this B-segment CUV.

Zuchowski also announced that his employer may also bring a smaller luxury sports sedan within a couple of years, which would form a trinity with the Equus and Genesis sedans.

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Birthwhistle: Mazda’s SkyActiv Program Influences RWD Design In FWD Vehicles Sun, 16 Feb 2014 19:15:19 +0000 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior

As other manufacturers downsize their offerings to meet ever-increasing fuel economy milestones, Mazda’s SkyActiv program utilizes engine geometry to hit those marks, resulting in the automaker’s current offerings looking rear-wheel drive while feeling front-wheel drive.

In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Mazda Europe design boss Peter Birthwhistle explained that since the automaker’s SkyActiv technology allows for engine size to remain larger than the competition, the layout of the exhaust system results in the passenger cell being pushed back to accommodate a “sloped angle” where the pipes exit from the engine. In turn, the overall look is that of the traditional long hood/short deck RWD layout in spite of the power going toward the front.

Turning toward alternative power, Birthwhistle mentioned a few offerings in the works, including a hybrid variant of the 3, a rotary-powered range extender that may see use in a future plug-in hybrid, and a move into electric vehicles. That said, the designer sees a lot of continuing potential with the internal combustion engine:

There’s still a lot of potential in conventional engines. They remain very inefficient in terms of things like heat loss. Get that sorted out and there’s amazing potential in gasoline engines in terms of fuel economy.

Looking further into the future, Birthwhistle also believed that by 2100, most cars will be automated personal pods, with small cars made for weekend warriors to use on track days.

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It Might Be A Quarter Life Crisis, Just A Stirring In My Soul Thu, 13 Feb 2014 12:00:57 +0000 IndyTrack 054

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the Mazda MX-5. In that time, the Miata has cemented itself as the preeminent sports car for a generation of driving enthusiasts. Roughly a million of them have been produced. Having already written an encomium to my first car – a 1997 Miata - I am reluctant to go down that road again, not least because I have a habit of tearing up when I read it or see pictures of my old car. But I’m going to anyways.


When I wrote that essay, I was struggling with whether to sell the Miata or not. Eventually, I did sell it to someone I knew, who promised to do what I was unable to do: garage it in the winter, wax it in the summer and approach it with a level of gratitude and appreciation that I frequently find myself constitutionally incapable of possessing.

Many of you will remember that I foolishly bought a shitty Volvo wagon in the mistaken belief that I could get away with having a trouble free beater. Eventually, I sold it and cut my losses after it nearly got me killed. A short time later, I bought another Miata, a 2003 Shinsen version that was owned by an older gentleman who no longer wanted to get in and out of the car every day.

My new Miata is qualitatively better in every way. It is newer, faster, sharper and did not suffer through 15 Canadian winters (it lived in Florida most of its life). But it does not have that modern day Elan look, the smell of hairspray and cracked leather, the atomized experiences of youth and misadventures contained in its metal flesh.

It was not the car that I was in during one evening drive, with the sun setting and the crackling Pioneer head unit tuned to the spotty classic rock station. I felt a boundless sense of optimism, the feeling that I could be anyone or do anything, no matter how foolish it may seem in hindsight. I wondered if life would ever get any better than that particular moment. I’m not sure it has.miatawinter

Most of all, I feel an ominous sense of loss, not just for my first car, but for my own innocence. Selling the Miata was the first time I attempted to put a dollar value on what a friend of mine described as a “4-wheeled rolling time capsule”. I sold the green Miata shortly before I broke up with my first girlfriend, and on one of my last drives with the car, we had a particularly awkward date.


I loved her very much, and she loved me, but her mercurial disposition and extreme introversion made even basic interaction a challenging and unpredictable undertaking. That night we shared dinner in near silence, and I felt  frustrated and fed up with the situation. But I still remember us getting in the car, the rumble of the stainless steel exhaust, the “clomp” of the vinyl top folding down and the chilly night time air blowing around us. Suddenly, the mood lightened, and her stern expression gave way to laughing and giggling and her palm resting on mine as I rowed through the gears on the way home.

I will never forget the day I sold my car, the hours before when I picked up its hardtop from the storage unit, and had my brother take some final photographs with me standing next to it, just like I will never forget the eerie sense of dread and deja vu I felt on the drive over to her house on the night I broke up with her. It bore an uncanny resemblance to how I felt on my last drive in the green Miata on the way to the new owner’s house. By the summer’s end, two of the most important anchors in my life were gone.

When I missed her most, I would think of moments like these, rather than the extended silences, the impossible communication and the impatient, ever-so-contemptuous way that she’d speak to me. The longing for her is gone, but I miss those memories, and I miss my old car. Now, I’m dating someone new, someone as opposite from her as one can be. I am very happy. I have a new Miata too, but I am not quite as content with the car. I imagine that my feelings towards my new Miata are akin to what someone who has lost a parent feels towards whoever the surviving parent takes up with afterwards. You may harbor great affection for them, but it does little to extinguish the feelings of love and loss that still linger.

Even so, I am thankful every time I get back into it, now matter how rapid or opulent the prior week’s press car may be. I am grateful to own a car with a real cable throttle, a low belt line and a responsive chassis. Every now and then, I think of getting a new car, but I will not sell mine. I will hold on tight and not let go until the last possible second. I will not make the same mistake twice.

Here’s to the next 25 years.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Chicago 1989: Where Are They Now? Thu, 06 Feb 2014 17:10:25 +0000 1989-Acura-NSX-prototype-during-Chicago-Auto-Show-public-days

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of two of God’s most perfect creations: The Mazda Miata and the Acura NSX. Long-time readers will know that I have a strong affinity for both of these cars. The Miata was the first car I ever owned, while the NSX remains a focal point in my relationship with the automobile.

Automobile Magazine takes a look at both of those cars, as well as three others – the Lexus LS400, the Infiniti Q45 and the Nissan 300ZX – in what is considered to be a very strong draft class for the Japanese auto industry. Four of the five cars still exist in one form or another, with the NSX said to be just around the corner – though that’s been the word since it was discontinued roughly a decade ago.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect is that even today, these cars still stand the test of time, whether it’s a pristinely preserved Miata or a tired LS400. Get behind the wheel of any of them, and they still manage to thrill and excite, even if they don’t seem quite so fresh.

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Piston Slap: Norwegian Longroof Reformism? Wed, 15 Jan 2014 13:01:03 +0000 volvo1978

TTAC Commentator Sjalabais writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am and have always been a car guy. Since I am an academic with two left hands and sausage fingers, my flavour have been indestructible 70s Volvos, of which I have owned a couple.

Now I am a father and a bit cash-strapped, with the need for an occasional 7 seater. A Volvo V70 with rear facing extra seats has been voted down in the household assembly, I am thus looking for a blob-shaped car. My location is Norway, but my issue is recognisable for any car guy in this situation, I fear.

My problem is that I can only afford roughly ten-year old quality vehicles, or newer cars with awful reputations. The latter include 2004-2006 VW Touran and Opel Zafira, the former 2002 Honda and Toyota models. In between I find the rusting time bombs by Mazda and the remarkably substandard build quality Mitsubishi Space Wagon. A Previa or Grandis would be acceptable, though they are a bit on the large end of the scale and usually very expensive to buy and maintain.

The Toyota Avensis Verso comes attached with a halo and is priced accordingly. The same is true, to a lesser degree, with the Honda Stream. Both have tiny engines that suck the fun out of blob-shaped 7 seaters that comes so naturally with them. That’s why I have tended to focus my interest on strong, but ugly Mitsubishi Space Wagons. But their paint, chassis, engines, clutches and transmissions are dead at 10 years and/or 150000km driven.

So would it be advisable to go for a low quality car like the Mitsubishi that’s been refurbished by owners desperate to sell before the next big investment? Or should I pay more for an older, but more reliable and well-build Honda or Toyota?

Sajeev answers:

What a difficult question for someone who lives in America!

Actually no, because there’s one universal truth for any used car buyer: buy the used car with the most service history, the newest wear items (tires, brakes, etc.) and the most original body/interior you can find in your buying area.

Of course, nobody will blame you for avoiding a vehicle known for colossal engine/transmission failures, or anything else that might “rub” your family the wrong way.  So perhaps you must buy the cheapest of the cheap: perhaps a Honda/Toyota with high miles but an extensive service record is your best bet. Or maybe a low mile Mitsubishi/Ford/Renault/etc…who knows!

Time to punt: what say you, Best and Brightest?


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Mazda Delays Diesel Again Thu, 09 Jan 2014 17:18:06 +0000 skyactiv-d_main_ttl_ovr

Mazda is delaying the launch of the North American-spec SKYACTIV-D diesel engine, as engineers grapple with getting the engine to meet both emissions and performance benchmarks in North American spec.

A report by Automotive News suggests that Mazda is struggling with getting the diesel mill to where they want it without the inclusion of an exhaust after-treatment system. AN‘s Ryan Beene spoke with Mazda PR head Jeremy Barnes, who offered an explanation for the series of delays

“There are challenges with meeting the emissions standards without after-treatment systems,” Barnes said. “We believed our Skyactiv technology can meet it — and it can — but the challenge is engineering a car that delivers the kind of performance that a Mazda needs to have and we’re unable to do that given where we are right now.”

AN reports that in addition to forgoing an after-treatment system, Mazda is investigating alternatives including a urea based after-treatment, or a special catalyst to reduce nitrous oxide emissions.

Mazda has also had other issues with the SKYACTIV-D motor, involving diesel fuel leaking into the oil sump which could lead to a clogged Diesel Particulate Filter. The only real fix for the issue so far has been a modified dipstick and a request for owners to vigilantly monitor oil consumption. In America, where diesel engines are a rather unknown quantity in passenger cars and deferred maintenance is the order of the day for many motorists, this would likely be an unacceptable solution.

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Mazda Says Skyactiv 2 Engines Will Debut Around 2020 & Boost Fuel Economy 30% Wed, 08 Jan 2014 11:00:37 +0000 skyactiv-g_main_ttl_ovr

While other automakers explore hybrids and new tech in their pursuit of better fuel economy, Mazda is concentrating on refining the more than century old internal combustion engine. The automaker told Automotive News says that it expects to achieve 30% better mileage with its next generation of ICEs than the fuel economy of its relatively new line of Skyactiv engines currently being rolled out. Called Skyactive 2, the next gen gasoline and diesel engines will debut around 2020, according to Mitsuo Hitomi, who heads Mazda’s powertrain development. “If we want to dramatically improve fuel economy from here, the only route is through lean burning,” Hitomi said at briefing at Mazda’s Yokohama technical center.

Hitomi said Mazda is driven by a need to meet tougher European carbon dioxide emissions standards of 95 grams per kilometer in 2020 and 65 grams per kilometer in 2025. ”The next step is the 2020 European regulations,” Hitomi said. “[Skyactiv 2] must help us with that.”

Mazda’s current gasoline Skyactiv motors, which are still propagating across the automaker’s lineup, got their improved fuel economy by by pairing direct injection with higher compression ratios, allowing a leaner fuel/air mixture.

In the second generation of Skyactiv engines Mazda will increase the gasoline engines’ compression ratio to 18:1, from a current level of 14:1, the highest currently used by a major automaker. The Skyactiv 2 gasoline engine will also use homogeneous charge compression ignition, HCCI, essentially sparkless compression ignition as used in diesel engines. HCCI engines have more complete fuel combustion and lower emissions of nitrogen oxide.

Mazda says that with HCCI the Skyactiv 2 engines will be efficient enough that the company can avoid the use of CVTs or expensive multispeed automatic transmissions.

Barriers still remain to implementing HCCI in a practical automobile engine, particularly getting the system to work well at a broad range of RPMs with a variety of commercial gasoline blends as well as controlling engine and fuel temperatures.

In November, Mazda’s new CEO Masamichi Kogai said that Mazda is pursuing a goal of refining the internal combustion engine because dramatic results can be achieved cost effectively with proven technologies. “We will base it on the internal combustion engine and that’s where we will put the emphasis,” Kogai said. “The evolution [of Skyactiv 2] will be the same degree as the first generation.

Hitomi also indicated that a Skyactiv 3 lineup is planned to meet the 2025 standards. Hitomi said that future engine will have a system that will limit the fluctuation of heat in the combustion chamber to reduce losses from exhaust and cooling making more energy available to the wheels.

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New or Used? : How Much Is MPG Really Worth? Fri, 03 Jan 2014 16:07:59 +0000 autoguide


Dear Steve:

My wife and I finally bought a brand new Honda Accord.  She loves it, and I now have one less worry in my life.

With that one less worry though comes two more things, in the form of two similarly sized cars. At least one of which I no longer need.

We have a 2003 Honda Civic and a 2011 Mazda 3.  The Civic has served as my wife’s faithful commuter for the last 10 years. While the Mazda 3 has served as my own daily driver and our road trip vehicle. I love the Mazda, and it has served me to an absolute T for nearly 50,000 miles.

I just don’t know if I need it now that the Civic is available. Here’s the thing. The Civic gets far better fuel economy than the Mazda 3 which has averaged only about 24 mpg. Now that my wife has a new car that will also become our road trip vehicle, I only need my daily driver to serve as a commuter car. My round-trip commute is 47 miles a day and I just don’t see myself ripping up the asphalt with the Mazda 3 while listening to NPR. So I’m thinking the Civic may be the better long-term bet. Even though I absolutely love the hell out of that Mazda.

Another random thought came to me while adding up the resale numbers. Should I perhaps sell both vehicles and maybe, just maybe, buy a new one? The Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte would be a great match and if I sell both vehicles, the cost difference between a new car and a used one may only be a couple thousand bucks.

So what should I do? Sell the Civic? Sell the Mazda 3? Buy an Impreza? Or should I just keep both used cars?


Steve Says:

The #1 mistake I see folks do in their car buying decisions is overstate the importance of gas consumption.

Enthusiasts want fast… and they want their MPG.

Commuters want comfort… and they want their NPR… and their MPG.

Retirees want luxury… and plenty of unused horsepower, and they want their MPG.

Each one of these sub-species in the automotive buying world has to deal with two big problems related to this want.

The first is that high MPG doesn’t always equate to high personal satisfaction with the vehicle. Let’s take your two cars for example.

The 2011 Mazda 3 has an enthusiast bent to it, and your list of alternatives seem to point to the desire to have a car with great handling and solid performance.

As for the 2003 Honda Civic? My wife kept one for three years. It’s a perfectly pleasant vehicle, and like most cars given that level of mild praise, it’s definitely more aimed towards the non-enthusiast crowd. If all things were equal, the Mazda 3 would likely be your easy choice.

The second problem with putting gas consumption on that highest pedestal of want,  is that gas consumption represents a very minor cost when two vehicles of comparable size and engine displacement are pitted against each other.

Let’s say you kept these two vehicles as your commuter for the next 8 years and 120,000 miles. The Mazda 3 averages 24 mpg during that time (your average), and the Honda Civic averages 30 mpg (my wife’s average).

In that time, the Mazda will consume 5,000 gallons of gas, while the Civic consumes 4,000 gallons. If the average price of gas is $3,50 during that time, you end up with $3500 extra in overall gas cost. This equates to $437.50 a year or a little less than $1.80 a commuting day.

Still with me? Good. Because that level of difference can become a complete wash in the long run when you factor in repair costs to the older high mileage Civic. Maybe that will happen. Maybe not. Insurance, depreciation, resale value, opportunity cost may all sway this one way or the other. But the bottom line is this…

When you make this decision, the driving experience and the quality of the interior in particular should be the two biggest considerations. You will spend months of your life inside that car. So you need to raise ‘quality of life’ to the top of the list and gas consumption, far lower in the list of wants.

You love the Mazda, and like the Civic, and I’m willing to bet that the Mazda 3 hits those two quality of life check marks with a darker #2 pencil than the Civic. So sell the Civic and keep the Mazda. As for the list of new car alternatives, I don’t think any of them are worth the financial leap given that the Mazda 3 already hits your wants and needs. Good luck!


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EPA Declares Mazda As Most Fuel Efficient Automaker Wed, 18 Dec 2013 10:30:16 +0000 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior

Though Toyota and Nissan may be leading the charge to a hybrid plug-in future, it’s Mazda who, once again, leads the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy list for the 2013 model year with an average of 27.5 mpg.

Not only does Mazda maintain its green crown in fuel economy — in part due to its SKYACTIV diesel and gasoline engines, which the automaker expects 80 percent of their 1.7 million units sold worldwide in 2016 to possess — but also has the lowest fleetwide composite carbon dioxide emissions for the outgoing model year with 324 grams per mile. Honda and Toyota make up the rest of the podium with 27 and 25.2 mpg, respectively, though Toyota’s CO2 emissions are 23 grams per mile higher than Honda’s 329 g/mi rating.

The Germans enter the list at No. 4 with VW netting an average of 26.2 mpg, while the Americans arrive with Ford at the No.8 position, rating just 22.6 mpg. Overall, the industry earned an average of 24 mpg and 370 g/mi. Kia and Hyundai were not included in this year’s EPA rankings.

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Mazda to Upgrade U.S. Dealer Network, Cull Underperformers, Focus On 35 Key Markets Tue, 17 Dec 2013 11:00:12 +0000 Mazda-Dealership

Akira Marumoto, Mazda’s executive VP for North America, said that the company will revamp its dealer network as it aims to increase U.S. sales by a third over the next two years.  Automotive News reports that underperforming dealers will be culled and dealers in poor locations will be encouraged to open up new stores in more promising places. The company has identified 35 key metropolitan markets where it will focus its sales and marketing efforts. Mazda is highly dependent on North American sales with almost a third of its global sales taking place here.

Mazda currently has 637 franchised dealers in the United States. Marumoto, speaking at last month’s Tokyo auto show, wouldn’t say how many U.S. dealers the company thinks it needs, or how many dealers might be jettisoned or moved, but he did say that the company will be “aggressive” and that “Our initiatives are bearing fruit.” 2013 will likely be the fourth year in a row that Mazda had increased its U.S. sales.

Masamichi Kogai, Mazda’s new CEO set a goal to sell 400,000 units in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016, up from a projected 300,000 units in the current fiscal year, which itself would be an increase of about 10% over the previous fiscal year that ended March 31, 2013. Through November, sales are up 5% over last year. 400,000 units would be a record for Mazda, whose previous best year was 1986, when it sold almost 380,000 cars and light trucks in the U.S. Marumoto said that most of the additional 100,000 U.S. sales will come from the CX-5 small crossover, which competes in a hot segment, and the newly redesigned Mazda3. Lower volume vehicles like the Miata MX-5 and Mazda’s larger CUV offering, the CX-9, are hoped to show incremental increases in sales with greater profit margins than the high volume vehicles. The introduction of a diesel engine is hoped to increase Mazda6 sales as well.

Marumoto said that the CX-9 and the Miata will soon be redesigned. “Toward the fiscal year ending March 2016, we will have a new CX-9, and those are the models where we are prioritizing for profit improvement,” he said. “The MX-5 Miata, because it’s a sports car, they sell quite well in the first three years.” The next Miata is being developed in conjunction with Fiat, which will sell the roadster as an Alfa Romeo.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Mazda 929 Wed, 11 Dec 2013 14:00:31 +0000 12 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIn the late 1980s, otherwise known as the Before Lexus LS Era, American car shoppers didn’t have many choices for big Japanese luxury sedans. You had the Toyota Cressida, the Nissan Maxima, and that was pretty much it (nitpickers might add the Mitsubishi Diamante to this list, since it was possible to buy one in late 1989; the same could be said of the Lexus LS, of course). Or was it? Oh yes, there was also the Mazda 929, a car that never made much of an impact in North America. I owned an ’88 929 for a fairly brief period about ten years ago (I made a complicated four-cornered car deal that resulted in the 929 and a Volvo 244 being added to my fleet) and I thought it was a very good car. Since that time, I’ve kept my eyes open for 929s, finding about zero on the street and this ’91 in the junkyard so far. On a trip to Northern California yesterday, I spotted today’s ’89.
14 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinRear-wheel drive, semi-imposing dimensions, and a potent (for 1989) 158-horsepower V6 made the 929 a solid rival for the Cressida. Who knows, it may have stolen a few sales from the BMW 5-series here and there.
06 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin18 valves, a number you’d expect to see in some obscure prewar French straight-nine flathead. Mazda went to a 24-valve version of the 3.0-liter V6 for the 929S version.
02 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin172,969 miles, which comes to just over 7,000 miles per year.
01 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe leather in this 929 has seen better days, but you can see that this car had some credible luxury going on.

Known as the Luce in its native Japan, the 929 was Big Personal!

Eight grand less than those pricey Germans, points out James Garner.
01 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin

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2013 Tokyo Motor Show: Mazda Goes Forward With CNG, Hybrids, Diesels Wed, 20 Nov 2013 00:24:39 +0000 Mazda3 Skyactiv-CNG Concept

Mazda3 Skyactiv-CNG Concept

Last week,  Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai said that the company had no plans for a production Wankel rotary anytime in the near future, though the company most identified with the engine that goes “hmmmm” will continue to do research on rotaries. Now, at the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda is showing that its future powertrain plans include diesel, natural gas and hybrid drives.

The Mazda3 SKYACTIV-CNG Concept is a dual fuel vehicle that has tanks for both gasoline and compressed natural gas. It used a modified version of Mazda’s 2.0 liter four that’s currently available in the Mazda3. The Mazda3 is sold as the Axela in Japan and the company is also introducing the Axela SKYACTIV-HYBRID. The 2.0 L four cylinder hand has had the compression ration increased to a whopping 14.0:1 and it and a 84 HP electric motor drive the front wheels through an electronically controled CVT.

Like the Toyota Prius it used NiMH batteries and like the Prius it has a total of 134 HP. Fuel efficiency based on Japan’s JC08 standard is rated at 72.4 MPG. Finally, Mazda is announcing that the SKYACTIV-D 2.2 clean diesel engine, soon to be available in the U.S. in the Mazda, will be offered in Japanese domestic market versions of the CX-5 and the Mazda3. It will be interesting to see what kind of torque-steer the Mazda3 can develop with 310 lb-ft of twist.

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Mazda Boss Scuttles Rotary Revival Tue, 19 Nov 2013 20:03:00 +0000 Wankel-1

Plans for a ressurected rotary engine appear to have hit a snag with Mazda CEO Masa-michi Kogai claiming that the required volumes for commercial viability are unrealistic.

Speaking to Automotive News, Kogai said that a new rotary engine would need to hit volumes of 100,000 annual units, a figure considered unrealistic

“No plans now,” Kogai said in an interview Friday. “It has to be a viable commercial proposition. If we are going to adopt it, it has to be a product that can generate at least sales of 100,000 units a year. We have to be able to achieve a profit.”

However, Kogai said that research on the rotary engine will continue, specifically with regards to alternative fuels. The rotary engine has so far been able to run on hydrogen and even kerosene in additional to gasoline, and Mazda doesn’t appear to be discontinuing rotary R&D any time soon. However, Kogai’s mission is focused around improving profitability, and increasing efficiencies is his first priority.

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