Question Of The Day: Has Mazda Lost Its Zoom?

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
question of the day has mazda lost its zoom

Ladies and gentlemen, today I must reveal a depressing opinion about Mazda: I believe they no longer zoom.

Yes, folks, that’s right: I believe that Mazda, everyone’s favorite “zoom zoom” brand, once home to all the cool “zoom zoom” cars, is no longer in the “zoom zoom” business. In fact, if they were to make those commercials again today, the little boy would say “sip sip,” and the ad would show Mazda’s lineup slowly descending a hill in top gear in order to maximize average fuel economy.

For those of you who have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, allow me to back up a bit. The year was 2005 – or possibly 2002, I have no idea – and Mazda was putting out these “zoom zoom” commercials in order to point out how it was more fun than all the other automakers. What would happen in these ads was:

1. A little boy – inexplicably dressed in funeral attire – would stand by the side of the road and whisper “zoom zoom” while the camera panned uncomfortably close to him.

2. They’d start playing this high-energy song, whose entire lyrics – this is true – were “Zoom

ZOOM zoom! Yeah zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom.”

3. The entire Mazda lineup – including the B-Series, which was an outdated small pickup that moved with the grace of a garage door – would speed recklessly through the desert, uprooting sagebrush and various species of lizards.

Although I’d love to make fun of these commercials, I must admit that I actually enjoyed them immensely. You got the sense, when you were watching them, that Mazda was cool and fun and youthful, and other people must’ve agreed, because how else do you explain them selling all those yellow Protege5s?

More importantly, however, Mazda of ten years ago had the exciting lineup to justify these ads. There was the high-performance MazdaSpeed6, which had more power than the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. There was the sporty MazdaSpeed3, which had more power than the Acura NSX. And there was the RX-8, which consumed more oil than a NASCAR race. And who can forget the turbocharged MazdaSpeed Miata, which soon gave way to the highly enjoyable “NC” MX-5?

But in my opinion, the brand long since has changed.

Now, before I assail Mazda for making un-zoomy products, I should note that they aren’t currently using the “zoom zoom” tagline anywhere in their advertising. In fact, a quick trip to their website reveals they aren’t using any slogan, and instead their press images primarily involve bright red vehicles in dimly lit settings.

And it’s a good thing that Mazda has abandoned its “zoom zoom” slogan, because the brand isn’t really in the zoomy business any longer. I think many of you agree with me here, or at least call me names in the comments.

To help prove my point, consider the Mazda6, which is the single most attractive midsize sedan in human history. Seriously: when we all die, and humanity moves on, there will come a day, deep in the future, when the curator at the Louvre says: “We need to make room for the 2014 Mazda6. Can we move the small, faded painting of that grinning woman? Lisa something?”

But here’s the problem: as beautiful as the new Mazda6 is, it isn’t sporty. Oh, sure, it handles a little better than most competitors, and it has big wheels that make it look like an expensive luxury car; the kind of luxury car that might have illuminated door sills and free baked goods in the dealership waiting area.

But its most powerful engine makes 174 horsepower. One seventy four. This is Honda Civic territory. This is Ford Focus territory. This is 1990s family sedan territory. And to make matters worse, another unfortunate Mazda6 fact: every single competitor offers more power. Even the Toyota Camry – long considered the automotive version of un-lined typing paper –has a V6 version that makes 268 horses and reaches 60 mph in under 6 seconds.

It isn’t just the Mazda6 that’s got me worried. While Ford’s subcompact Fiesta has a high-performance version with 184 horsepower, the tiny Mazda2 is saddled with only 100. While the Volkswagen Golf R is about to debut with 296 horsepower, there still isn’t a MazdaSpeed3 – though some rumors say it’s on the way. The brand of the RX-7 and RX-8 now makes three SUVs and a minivan. And instead of pursuing speed, Mazda has instead earned the EPA’s distinction of most fuel-efficient automaker – an honor, yes, but not a zoomy one.

But if you aren’t yet convinced that the fun is gone from Mazda, here’s the real kicker: that zoom-zoom kid? The one in the commercials? Who got all excited about the Mazda6 powersliding over an endangered turtle habitat? He’s at Notre Dame Law School, where he’s currently on the dean’s list. The dean’s list!!! In other words: even the zoom-zoom kid has given up on having fun!

Now, I admit that Mazda is just now coming out with the all-new MX-5 Miata, which is the brand’s link to the high-performance world. And I understand that some of you might think that this alone makes Mazda sporty. But here’s my counterargument: Ferrari.

Ferrari, as you know, makes bright red sports cars for people who spend more time tending to their hair than their children. But they also make an oddly proportioned station wagon with a hood so large that it could serve as a landing area for remote-controlled drones. But is Ferrari a station wagon maker? No! They’re a sports car maker that happens to have a station wagon – just as Mazda is a mainstream, gas mileagy brand that happens to have a cool little sports car.

I also admit that Mazda products are generally more fun to drive than their counterparts at Honda, Toyota, Nissan, or other brands. But does this justify Mazda’s image as a “sporty” automaker? Does a slightly better steering feel and improved cornering abilities still make Mazda a “zoom zoom” brand? In my opinion, it just isn’t the same – but what say you? Has Mazda lost its zoom?

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4 of 230 comments
  • Kinogod Kinogod on Feb 15, 2015

    I currently own a 2008.Mazda speed three with sport springs and camber offsets and that's it. The cars is a hoot, the torque steer is fun but with 130,000 miles on it I've been waiting and waiting for a new iteration of the Mazda speed three… Something other than that Animae version that was the last speed 3. Don't like the ST Foci, questions of reliability there. Don't care for the Subie WRX as there's no hatchback version and the rally car roots feel like a rough truck. In the US that leaves me with the GTI w performance pack. But getting ahold of that car has proved difficult....despite $1000 down so a dealer tries to snag one just like I want it. I'm sad to leave Mazda. Before this mazda I had a great little protege5. Loved that go cart! Not fast but with a manual you could throw that sucker around like a toy! Really bummed that Mazda has lost its roots. In underpowered Miata is not a savior. And the gorgeous 6 is anemic as far as power goes. But I think we are seeing Mazda attempt back when gas was high to save their company. They just don't have the cash and now not the will power to create magic. Sad. I so don't want a GTI, but it's on a slow boat from Mexico

    • See 1 previous
    • Bludragon Bludragon on Feb 17, 2015

      Patience... I fully expect a speed3 will be coming sometime between summer 2016 and summer 2017. It should be competitive with the focus ST/golf GTI, so somewhere around 240-280hp and fwd (awd and 300hp are wishful thinking): It's the car I'm waiting for as potential replacement to a 2008 Civic Si. If you can't wait that long, then within 6 months expect the 2015MY refresh of the ST and the Golf w/powerpack to be plentiful and discounted. As an alternative to those, I would suggest trying (and pricing) a mazda3 2.5 w/manual. You can get one fully loaded today for less than the price of a base GTI, the running costs will be much lower too, and they are fun even without the extra tq of a turbo. There might even be a WRX back in hatchback form at some point in the next year or two as well.

  • Fronch Fronch on Apr 25, 2015

    After many Toyotas my first Mazda 6 in 2003 was a revelation, it did Zoom Zoom!!!. Then after 7 years with a VW Passat diesel (lovely car, slow pickup, eye watering service and repair costs) went back to Mazda with a CX5 Max Sport diesel (129KW, 420NM, twin turbo)that has rekindled my smile. Fantastic pickup, great response passing and cornering for an SUV. Will Mazda bring the diesel to the US?

  • 28-Cars-Later "Honda and Acura haven’t yet released an EV in the United States"Ok..."The 2024 ZDX rides on GM’s Ultium Platform and will feature Google built-in services. "Waht?
  • Theflyersfan I was just at the Mazda dealer getting one of the free scheduled maintenances taken care of and saw a couple of these on the lot (inventory...I know!!! No Mazda3s or MX-5s, but had some CX-5s and CX-50s). They are even nicer in person - the paint especially stands out. Plus the terracotta interior treatment isn't something done by Honda, Toyota, or Nissan so you can get something different. The slight price hike is worth it and it's worth it just to have something that isn't white, black, or a million shades of gray. Or get the Soul Red. You can never go wrong with that color. I just with the terracotta interior was offered with that.
  • VoGhost This new SLX looks to be quite a trooper.
  • Wolfwagen I would rather have an annual inspection that may catch something early or at least the driver can be informed of an impending issue. Government vs private is another issue and unscrupulous mechanics is another.On a slightly different topic is the inspection of salvage or rebuilt cars. In NYS it is strictly to ensure that stolen parts were not used to rebuild the vehicle. I would rather see an inspection to ensure that the vehicle has been properly put back together.
  • PeterPuck For years, Ford has simply reworked existing designs originating from Europe and Japanese manufacturers, not being capable of designing a decent car in the USA.What’s the last clean sheet design from the USA? The 1986 Taurus?And they still can’t manage to get things right.why is this? Are they putting all of the competent engineers and designers on the F150? Is woke diversification affecting them, as some rumours suggest? Are they rewarding incompetence?