Mazda's New Engines Will Test Whether Buyers Can Still Stomach a 'Car'

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
mazda s new engines will test whether buyers can still stomach a car

Showroom visitors in June continued carrying Mazda in a positive sales direction, even as those same buyers continue to shy away from the brand’s car portfolio. Hold on — that’s not necessarily correct.

On a year-to-date basis, all of Mazda’s passenger cars sit in the red, but the sensuously styled Mazda 6 sedan, fresh from yet another, um, refresh (this one designed to push the model upmarket a bit) barely qualifies. Since the massaged 2018 model went on sale in April, year-over-year sales increases in that month, May, and June mean the model now posts only a 0.9 percent YTD sales decrease. Almost back in the black, for this year, anyways.

Despite it outward appearance staying nearly the same, the 2018 refresh brought a long-awaited turbocharged engine to the Mazda 6 line. As well, there’s upgraded powerplants destined for the two remaining cars in Mazda’s barn. Nothing sweetens the pot like extra power.

Perhaps the addition of an available turbo 2.5-liter making 227 horsepower (250 with 93 octane) and 310 lb-ft of torque explains some of the Mazda 6’s 35.8 percent June sales gain. After all, this was a model that was dropping fast, year after year, as buyers fled the midsize sedan segment. Or maybe it was the premium interior features (Nappa leather, real wood trim) that sealed the deal.

Regardless, any sign of buoyancy is a cause for celebration at Mazda HQ.

As the 6 enjoyed some newfound wind in its sales, the compact 3’s sales fell 16.1 percent, year over year. Over the first half of 2018, 3 sales have fallen 11.3 percent. The MX-5 Miata isn’t making headway, either, with June sales down 23.3 percent, year over year, and year-to-date sales down a full third (33.6 percent).

For 2019, however, Miata buyers gain added punch from the two-seater’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter. The newly rev-happy motor’s horsepower grows from 155 to 181 ponies, with torque seeing a slight boost from 148 to 151 lb-ft. Whether or not this tips the scales in some buyers’ minds remains to be seen. The only real competition in its price range is Fiat’s MX-5-based 124 Spider, and there’s already not many takers for that.

The Mazda 3 is a different story, as buyers currently enjoy two gasoline four-cylinders and two bodystyles that each seat five passengers. That’s enough versatility to ensure its place in the brand’s stable, though not necessarily on shopping lists. Yet another engine upgrade could be the key to a sales rebound. For 2019, Mazda’s new 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X four-cylinder makes its debut beneath the revamped model’s hood, promising greatly increased fuel efficiency and torque from a gasoline engine that’s mainly sparkless.

As no other automaker offers such an engine, Mazda stands to gain serious bragging rights in the low-cost, non-hybrid, non-diesel field. Depending on the final MPG figures, as well as early reliability, the automaker could attract buyers who weren’t initially thinking of an ICE-only vehicle.

Overall Mazda sales say a 15.9 percent sales increase in June, with sales over the first half of 2018 rising 14.2 percent. The brand’s utility vehicle line takes all the credit for that latter figure, with sales of the CX-3, CX-5, and CX-9 up a collective 35.4 percent, year to date.

[Images: Mazda]

Join the conversation
2 of 55 comments
  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Jul 10, 2018

    If the Skyactiv-X is actually released and is available by the time my lease is up I might text drive one just for fun. Right now my plan is to finish the lease and then buy the car because I'm tired of the perpetual payment cycle. X seems like an interesting idea, especially for somebody who is usually trundling along in traffic.

  • Carroll Prescott Carroll Prescott on Jul 11, 2018

    I think there should be a 10% surcharge on the price of all CUV's and SUV's and that money should go right into the interstate budget. Let the gas guzzling vehicles start paying the tax and stop bothering to make up gas taxes on hybrid and electric vehicle buyers. And I own neither.

  • Arthur Dailey 'In its marketing VW highlighted the Type IV's upscale features like draft-free air circulation, a thermostat-controlled auxiliary heat system, and six-way adjustable front seats that were able to fully recline. The 411 had front and rear crumple zones, a padded instrument panel, a collapsible steering column and steering wheel with padded spokes. Brochures touted the 411’s suspension as being similar to that of the Porsche 911, but with a focus on stability rather than speed. Complete with an independent suspension with MacPherson struts and coil springs in front, as well as a coil-sprung trailing wishbone rear suspension with double-jointed axles and an anti-roll bar. Eleven-inch front disc brakes, plus rear drums, hid behind 15 x 4.5-inch wheels mounting radial tires. 'For carrying stuff, the Type 4 sedan was shockingly adept, having a 14.1-cubic-foot trunk in front, plus 6 cu.ft. of space behind the rear seat. The wagon was even better, carrying around 48 cu.ft. inside with the rear seat folded. 'The original Type IV did have traditional controls. Modern controls were added in later production models. But still in advance of the domestics. Just under 368,000 Type IV's were sold.
  • Cprescott Union workers are only concerned about themselves. They don't care who else gets hurt when they throw a tantrum, er, strike.
  • SCE to AUX Not sure where that photo came from, but it wasn't Canada.
  • Arthur Dailey Very few probably share my view, but I believe that the T-roof option is well worth that price.Bring back T-Tops!!!!!!!!
  • Arthur Dailey Referred to in the day as a 'mini-Corvette'.