By on July 9, 2018

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]

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55 Comments on “Mazda’s New Engines Will Test Whether Buyers Can Still Stomach a ‘Car’...”


  • avatar
    DaJoNel

    I love what Mazda’s been doing with their Skyactiv line of engines and chassis. Their models sit up-market of mainstream while maintaining competitive (or cheaper!) pricing for a better-equipped product. I’m impatiently awaiting the Skyactiv-X CX-9 for purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I would love to see more power out of a CX 5

      • 0 avatar
        DaJoNel

        I would, too! The 2.5T is rumored to be coming to the CX-5. We can hope! Skyactiv-X has the potential to usher in some power improvements. I’d love to see the CX-9 see a sizable increase, but I’m assuming we’ll see them focus more on the fuel economy gains.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I don’t see the 6 as being upmarket or cheaper than it’s competition. It’s pretty, but that’s about it.

  • avatar
    barksdale

    Bring the Mazda 6 WAGON with the turbo… pretty please Mazda?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I simply can’t fathom why Mazda gave up on the sporty-car market. It’s hard to imagine a more natural direction for this brand.

    I also don’t understand why they’re not selling more overtly-sporty CUVs either – that’s a market that no one has really tapped. Am I the only one who can see BMW or Audi CUV intenders checking out a $35-40,000 Mazda that offers similar performance? They’ve got the style, and the interiors are more than lux enough. All they need is more balls.

    If you’re selling zoom zoom – I mean, high performance entry luxury – then you have to have stuff with actual zoom zoom and/or performance on the showroom floor. Look at what happened with the sales of the 6 – is it any accident that its’ sales nosedive has leveled out now that the thing has actual performance cred? I don’t think so.

    Let’s hope these guys got the hint already.

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      Regulatory compliance. zoom zoom.

    • 0 avatar
      mittencuh

      Mazda gave up on the sporty car market? They have the only RWD manual roadster for sale on these shores, they offer a manual in their compact in all trims, and their family sedan too. Their SUV offerings are lauded for their handling prowess compared to competitors. Mazda’s product line has never been about 0-60 times but about smiles per mile while being light and efficient and I don’t see what’s changed.

      • 0 avatar
        bufguy

        Mazda should turbocharge the CX5. It would clearly set them apart from the CRV, RAV 4 and Rouge…The CX5 already has the looks, the handling and upscale image…Give it an engine that can compete with BMW, Audi, Mecedes that can compete with there 2 liter turbos

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “I simply can’t fathom why Mazda gave up on the sporty-car market. It’s hard to imagine a more natural direction for this brand.”

      Everything is sporty now.

      It’s like how Volvo can’t own cars with crumple zones and safety engineering anymore, because everyone does it.

      Ever gone corner carving in a minivan? I have, and it was fun. I passed a couple of $60k sports cars in my minivan. All of us were driving so far inside the envelope that our speed was determined by our g-force tolerance, and I came out ahead because my usual passengers were at Grandma’s house.

      When my minivan can pass a line of expensive sports cars, just I mind getting shoved into my seat bolstering a little less than the next guy, everything is sporty.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Exactly this, a CX 3 and CX 5 with a gutsier engine seems like such a natural

  • avatar
    Fred

    If Mazda proves anything it is that internet commenters are not mainstream buyers. They need to look at the Camry which is panned by most yet it sells the best.

    • 0 avatar
      xtoyota

      Fred:
      Your right on target

      Put on a 10 year and 100K warranty would really help move the metal

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Fred is spot on. It doesn’t mean that Mazda doesn’t have a market, it just means that they shouldn’t try to move metal in the same volume as Toyota or Honda – it just ain’t gonna happen.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I think Mazda is doing great with the available resources. The 6 is downright svelte in signature trim, updates to other vehicles looking great. Turbo engine helps alot.

    The mazda3 with sparkless ignition and a 2.5 could tip hp scales over 200 hp and 200 lb-ft in a 3000 pound car. Not quite a hot hatch but will be really warm.

    What Mazda needs to pump up sales is an 8-9 speed transmission and a CUV to to slot between CX5 and CX9. The transmission could be worth a few mpg across it’s lineup in addition to stretching out the legs of the 2.5 turbo a bit, more low end grunt for naturally aspirated vehicles.

    I would also suggest that they make a cross country version of the 6 wagon. The 6 wagon is stunning, I’m sure a jacked up version would have some decent numbers and maybe even compete with the sedan for top selling body style for the model.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My Mazda5 suffers from road noise which makes it less than refined.

      It also can eat a set of tires in as little as 15k miles. And, if you put off buying a $700 set of tires, every revolution of the tire shakes the inside of the car like an empty 55 gallon drum. And bad tires are dangerous.

      New tires make it a pleasure to drive, but the Hondas and Toyota I’ve owned go 4x longer before these problems appear.

      I’d be much more likely to buy another Mazda if these problems were fixed. Well that, and an electric drivetrain.

      • 0 avatar
        DaJoNel

        Mazda already has the highest CAFE with no electric drivetrains and Skyactiv-X is said to improve fuel economy by 25% or so, so I don’t think they need electric right now. Mazda loves their ICE, and I don’t blame them.

        Road noise and related refinements were issues on older Mazdas; 2015 and newer has seen night and day differences and the new 2018 models have gotten a lot quieter, too, albeit while sacrificing some acceleration due to the added weight of soundproofing.

      • 0 avatar
        Dootz

        Luke, you’re foolishly ignoring what may be causing your tire issues. Go get your alignment checked.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Agreed. I have purchased 2 new cars that were misaligned on delivery. 15k, unless it is a track toy or a monster V8 that routinely makes a burnt offering to the gods of speed in the form of tire smoke indicates a problem. The Pep Boys specials on my F150 are over 20k and still run quietly.

      • 0 avatar
        AtoB

        @ Luke

        The 5 and the 3 from which it is based both suffer from a well documented problem with the rear suspension design. The rear tires have a non-adjustable negative camber from the factory which causes excess tire wear. Don’t worry, there is a fix and its not too expensive. Replace the stock Mazda rear upper control arms with an adjustable set. It’s cheap at ~$100, readily available from several manufacturers. for sale on Amazon, and bolts right in. Adjust the camber to the minimum. Your tires will last much longer. I did this a few years ago and my tires have lasted much longer with no noticeable effect on handling (Note I don’t push the limits)

        As to the road noise quieter tires should help. I have found as tires wear they get louder and as you point out on these cars they wear quickly. You could try adding a bit more soundproofing ala Dynamat but I’m not sure that would help all that much.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Ato,

          I am owner of 2 Mazda3 cars and I don’t know what you guys (Luke) talking about. My OEM tires lasted 55K and I replaced them with Pirelli P4, which made car quiet. OEM Bridgestone tires were much more noisier.

  • avatar
    Clueless Economist

    People will line up for the new 3, if it looks like the concept, gets 50 mpg on thebhighway and costs less than $25k

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      More like there will be $3500 on the hood the first year trying move the Mazda 3 off the lots. I’d estimate 3-5 people per dealer will biting at the bit for this new 3.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Yeah, the problem with the 3 is that people by in large arent really pining for any car like the new 3 like they once did.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        It could enjoy a sales bump, at least temporarily in the US. But you are right, everyone wants crossovers. The 3 and 6 aren’t going to move the needle very much in this sales environment. Doesn’t really matter how good they are.

        Those are global models though so I would suspect that we will continue to see them here in the US as long as global sales support their continued existence.

  • avatar
    wyndage

    Unfortunately, as something of a Mazda fanboy, test-driving a Mazda 6 Signature and an Accord EX-L 2.0T last weekend left me wondering what was wrong with the Mazda’s powertrain.

    The Accord was a seriously _quick_ car. But I’d have totally believed the salesman if he’d told me that the window sticker was wrong, and that the particular Mazda 6 I drove did not, in fact, have a turbocharged engine.

    Zoom-zoom was simply not what came to mind when driving the Mazda 6 2.5T. It was very plush inside, though.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      I drove both within an hour of each other in late May. Did not find the difference in power all that vast. Was able to floor both from a standing start on an uphill on-ramp with no other traffic around. The Honda was perhaps 100 feet quicker to 75mph (120 klicks) for the merge.

      On the highway, the Mazda was quieter and more relaxed with better steering.

      My main remembrance of the Accord was tire noise. Tire noise. All the time, especially around town. It also had no gear hold for all the steep downhills we have around here. I hate riding the brakes, so a few downshift paddle clicks with the manumatic in manual mode is convenient.

      Around town Accord is livelier-feeling when pushed, I’ll grant that. For all the rest, including climbing those hills at both low and high speeds with no gear shifts due to superior torque, it was Mazda for me. It even rides better besides being quieter. Neither is an agile car – too long and big.

      Hop in a regular Mazda 6 if you want to feel slow.

      Because of the tire noise, louder than my old car, the Accord loses for me. The Mazda is a calm car, the Accord a bit frenetic. Interior no contest win for Mazda.

      I’ve never owned either make myself, so went in with an open mind.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I haven’t driven one, but I thought the acceleration figures publications got for the Mazda6 2.5t were disappointing.

      People can talk about Jinba Ittai and the “feel” of the Mazda all they want, but at the end of the day if I’m springing for an uplevel engine option then the *actual numbers* on the stopwatch do matter to me.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      How quick a car “feels” and how quick it actually is don’t always jive.

    • 0 avatar
      Dootz

      @wyndage there’s nothing wrong with the Mazda6’s 2.5T engine, it’s just tuned for more low-end torque

      The difference between the Accord and Mazda6 is that the Accord has 4 additional gears to aid in acceleration.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      @wyndage

      I drove both within a few hours of each other. I’d say the Accord felt stronger from 0-30 than the Mazda. The Mazda really started to pull past 30. I think thats the real problem people are having is that they are expecting that initial kick like the Accord has.

      The problem I ran into with the Accords transmission hunted a good bit. Folks are faulting the Mazda for only 6 gears. At least it didn’t hunt.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The Honda Odyessey minivan is as quick as the Mazda 6 2.5t in Motr Trend testing.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    For a year now Willems has managed to NOT understand how the Mazda X engine works. I have attempted correction at least three times, but he is incorrigbly unable to change his incorrect mindset.

    Just for the record, every power stroke of the engine is initiated by a spark. In lean mode, the “compression-ignition” is achieved by setting off a small pocket of rich air fuel mixture by a Spark. This raises cylinder pressure so much the lean mixture explodes like a diesel.

    If the author cannot grasp the concept, it is my opinion he should refrain from making witless remarks such as “gasoline engine that’s mainly sparkless”.

  • avatar
    madferret9

    Mazda 3 sales are slumping because the latest gen car hasn’t changed much since 2014. I have a 2007 Mazda 3 so when replacement time came around, testing the 2018 was an obvious choice. The 21018 car is completely different, it’s not fun to drive, the visibility is horrible, the interior claustrophobic, outdated infotainment system. The engine is programmed to neuter power to the front wheels so you can’t spin them. I couldn’t believe they haven’t addressed the road noise in the cabin *at all*, it was no better than my 2007 model. I hate to say it, but I think Mazda is losing touch with what differentiates their brand.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      But loved by the automotive press, who can’t seem to figure out why Mazda can’t capture more market share. Maybe the market is smarter than we give them credit for.

      • 0 avatar
        Rasputin

        Or maybe the “press” (of any type) is stupider than we give them credit for. I will put my money on that reason.
        [No offense meant to any particular writer here at TTAC.]

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Mazda has the worst retention rate a couple of years ago. I don’t think much has changed.

        https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/07/19/mazda-faces-huge-challenge-keeping-customers/87278842/

  • avatar
    MA128

    The power was sorely needed and is most welcome. Now if we can only get a manual transmission in a top trim level, I’ll trade in my BMW 128. Our family (including grown children) owns two CX5s and a Mazda3 sedan. In all we have owned 9 Mazdas beginning with my 1976 Cosmo. BMW has lost its way from an ethusiast’s perspective and – except for Porsche – only Mazda understands how to integrate the position/weighting/effort of a car’s major controls. All that remains is to cure the NVH levels.

    BTW Steph – “anyways” is not a word.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Reviews I’ve read and watched for the Mazda 6 2.5 tubro have been mixed. Many reviews have been disappointed in the lack of punch off the line and pull at the top end. Others have praised the mid-range punch (meaning of course that passing and at speed driving is more confident, less stressed.) I enjoy watching a few different reviews on YouTube, I haven’t gotten the chance to watch the “Savage Geese” review titled: “Slow No More.”

    I’ll drive it myself and decide.

    I will say I’m always in favor of 310 lb ft of torque on a fairly flat plateau.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I feel like a lot of articles lately just driving home that the market for people who like cars or sports cars is dying.

    Sedan sales way down, even on brand new or refreshed cars.

    The new Miata isn’t particularly old and it’s struggling.

    I forsee a future of CUV or a pickup. And it makes me fairly sad as I come to terms with it.

    I understand why CUVs and pickups are popular. I don’t fault buyers. But I do honestly feel we are looking at a drastically smaller number of choices in 5 years.

  • avatar
    Dootz

    Add the 2.5T to more vehicles, and start adding AWD to your sedans. There, now Mazda can compete with the Germans on power, and start fighting sales with Subaru in the AWD segment.

    Subarus have absolutely no draw whatsoever outside of having standard AWD. The only fun Subarus are the WRX/STI and the BRZ (shouldn’t really count due to the partnership from Toyota). Their interiors suck, and the CVT drains any power that’s left over from the AWD parasitic loss in Subaru’s attempt to up MPG.

  • avatar
    brettc

    So when’s the CX-5 diesel coming? Ford went and threw a diesel in a Transit Connect, but Mazda continues to tease their offering without actually offering it for sale.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    I’d give this new engine 6-8 years of real world driving before even thinking about a purchase. And by that time the Mazda 6 will probably be dead.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    While I’d want a 6 wagon with AWD and the turbo 2.5 it’s not going to happen. Best case is they put the 2.5 turbo in the revised CX-5. I’ve seen a few in Soul Red and my god that is a gorgeous color in the sun.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Young and fun drivers have smartphones. Mazda is lagging on putting Android Auto into their cars. The actual vehicles are fine. But when the CX-5 is supposed to be “the best” according to critics, it’s a huge minus that the latest phones can’t integrate with the car.

    The new leading-edge technology isn’t sparkless ignition. It’s integration with your life. The car already enabled transportation and the returns are minimal now. The real advancements are in whole-life integration.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    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.

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    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.

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