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 mainstream compact car segment is the perfect example of the infamous “driving appliance.” The Corolla and Civic sell in enormous volume because they are the middle-of-the-road “white bread” option, not in-spite of the vanilla. Unlike many in the automotive press, I don’t find anything wrong with that. In fact, I love me some Wonder Bread. But sometimes you feel like a pumpernickel, and that’s where the 2014 Mazda3 comes in. Mazda was so excited about their new loaf that they invited me to spend the day with them in San Diego. Want to know if you should spend 5+ years with one? Click through the jump.
For a car company that seems to have a perpetually precarious existence, things are going well at Mazda. Sales of their new range of products, like the CX-5 and the Mazda6, are relatively strong – I say relatively because the Mazda6’s volumes are about 10 percent of the Toyota Camry, and the whole brand sells fewer cars than Honda does Civics. But Mazda is banking on the new Mazda3 to help them get real traction in the market place. Not only is there a new car, but a new factory in Mexico as well, which will help insulate Mazda from then yen’s penchant for yo-yo’ing, as well as any future Fukushima-like disruptions.
By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block while the Elantra has been around for a few years. At this stage in life, Hyundai is trying to inject vitality into the Elantra name by adding new models. First we got the four-door sedan, then a two-door coupé followed by the Veloster which is just a four-door hatchback Elantra (yes, I know Hyundai calls it a three-door, but I know better). If you’re confused by door counts, the new Elantra GT is a five-door. Say what?
The spyshots were right all along. This is the hatch version of the 2015 Mazda3. We’ll get an official look at the car today at 2:30 PM EST, along with technical details. Europe will get 1.5L and 2.0L gasoline SKYACTIV motors making 99, 118 and 163 horsepower respectively. Expect the 2.0 to make it here, along with the 2.5L engine in the CX-5 and Mazda6. Europe will also get the 2.2L diesel used in the 6, which would be a real treat, and a nice rival to the Golf TDI. No weight figures have been announced, but the new 3 should be a good deal lighter than the current model. No word on a sedan model either.
EDIT: The North America spec 2.0L makes 155 horsepower. No word on a North American diesel. The i-ELOOP regen braking/capacitor system will power the car’s entire electronics, as well as an all new HUD system. Production will take place first in Japan, then in Mexico starting in Spring, 2014. Sales start in September. Sedan to debut in 2 weeks. Weight should be down by a couple hundred pounds, wheelbase is up 2.4 inches while overall length is down by 1.8 inches.
Every time we see images of the 2015 Mazda3, it looks better and better. This one, which appeared on a Russian site via Jalopnik, is the clearest image we have yet. It looks like a lower, more compact CX-5. Hopefully it’s not as slow. Mazda is apparently set to reveal the car in New York on June 26th with a streaming webcast via Xbox Live.
A weak yen and a slew of new models has Mazda within sight of profitability. With Mazda heavily dependent on exports, the yen’s 16 percent decrease in value relative to the U.S. dollar could not have come at a better time for Mazda, as it readies a whole slate of new products for sale.
If you were to read certain outlets, you may have the mistaken impression that Mazda is making a move upmarket. More than one industry gadfly took Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi’s assertion that he wants to see Mazda become a “premium” brand as evidence of managerial incompetence. How could the world’s last independent auto maker have the gall to gun for the Germans and upscale Japanese marques when they are currently a bit player in the global auto sector?
The words “Mazda” and “premium” will be forever linked with the stillborn Amati brand in the mind of car enthusiasts. Cancelled at the 11th hour, Amati was supposed to be Mazda’s luxury brand that would go head to head with Infiniti, Lexus and Acura. All we got out of it was the Millenia.
As dismissive as I tend to be of the internet product-planning brigade, their constant cries of “Bring rear-drive, V8 full-size Aussie sedans to America” may have some credibility – the market for these cars in Australia seems to be going teats up, with SUVs and small cars taking their place.