By on January 30, 2020

Image: Ford

I took a walk the other night, taking advantage of unseasonably mild temps to enjoy a little exercise and fresh air. One damp, gloomy block after another passed until I saw her. Under a streetlamp, in front of a drab walk-up. Beckoning to me without saying a word.

I stopped in my tracks and stared, mouth slightly agape ⁠— not unlike George Costanza in that episode with the producer’s 15-year-old daughter.

“Why aren’t you more popular?” I thought.

The arresting object under the streetlight was, in classic TTAC writer fashion, a base-model compact car. A Mazda 3 to be exact. Showroom new, by the looks of it, and outlined in perfect profile. Few automakers have mastered the art of lending RWD proportions to a FWD car quite like the folks at Mazda.

Its updated KODO design language is *chef’s kiss* ⁠— well, the sedan, anyway.

And what have you read about on these digital pages over the past several months? The shockingly steep descent of the Mazda 3, a vehicle Mazda actually spent a fair bit of time and money on to boost its appeal. I probably passed ten 2020 Toyota Corollas during that walk.

Up here in Canadialand, the Mazda 3 retains its base engine and broad manual transmission availability, making the entry-level model a better value than in the United States. Even the carryover 2.0-liter makes 155 hp and 150 lb-ft ⁠— a far cry better than the base Corolla L’s 139 hp and 126 lb-ft. Manuals can be had on both bases. After freight and a raft of government-imposed fees, the slinky Mazda comes out $926 cheaper, and does so with standard 16-inch wheels.

With the previously mentioned attributes and available all-wheel drive, not to mention the continued presence of a five-door model, Mazda 3 sales sank 20 percent in Canada in 2019. The Corolla? Down 2.5 percent. In the U.S., the gap was even wider.

There’s criticism to be levelled at the Mazda, what with its uplevel positioning in the States (a situation the automaker desperately wants to change), but few would disagree that, inside and out, the 3 is the looker the Corolla ain’t. And yet it suffers, standing ignored and tearful on the sidelines of the compact car dance as Ms. Sarah Plain and Tall takes off with the star quarterback. On his other arm? The Honda Civic.

Choice is something we enjoy in the Western world. And in a diverse marketplace like this, there’s always winners and losers.

What car or truck model surprises you with its (relative) unpopularity?

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51 Comments on “QOTD: Unlikely Wallflower?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    As long as we’re on the subject the Mazda CX-5’s lukewarm response to the oh so popular compact crossover market is always a surprise. It’s highly rated and reasonably priced, but I hardly ever see them and I don’t understand why

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Is it possible that people actually buy CUVs because they need the utility in an age of smooshed midsized cars and the CX-5 suffers because it is lacks luggage space and back seat room?

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      LIE….

      I can tell you about my CX5 shopping experience. 2 years ago i was looking at a small CUV. The short list-CRV, CX5 and Forester. The CX5 was put in the NOGO list fast. I had to have blind spot monitor and forward radar automatic braking.
      This was only possible on the top level CX5. That was too pricey and it had leather seats(fake ? real? never got that far). I m weird. I hate leather. Hot in the summer. Cold in the winter. Hello Forester. Simple logical controls. massive glass. LOW BELT LINE I CAN SEE OUT HOORAY !!!!
      Solid structure. Quiet. Zero vibration.

      • 0 avatar
        lunosalpha

        The mid level touring trim has blind spot monitoring and automatic braking. I have a 2019. I also had a 2016.5 before that. i don’t like the way Mazda has calibrated the safety systems on this. It’s way too sensitive. The blind spot monitoring will trigger when a car is in the desired lane but 3-4 car lengths back, far from the blind spot. The auto cruise and braking also kick in sooner than needed if at the lowest setting. I almost prefer my 2016.5 without those systems.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      The CX-5 is doing quite well where I am. I see dozens of them, of all model years, but definitely including the latest style.

    • 0 avatar
      HuskyHawk

      Seriously? I own one and see dozens of them every day. It’s wildly popular here in New England and is the clear best offering in the compact CUV space.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Attention TTAC this, “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” is making conversation and commenting even MORE difficult then your weird new format.

    What is the problem?

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      And I though I was the only one on double secret probation. ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Parent Torstar Corp is very anti-comments. They allow exactly 0 on their newspaper site. It’s stock price is $0.40/share. They are selling assets like a fire sale.
      TORSTAR CORP Probability Of Bankruptcy = 70%
      https://www.macroaxis.com/invest/ratio/TS-B.TO–Probability_Of_Bankruptcy

      • 0 avatar
        Carson D

        Do they get help from Trudeau?

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        The Torstar Board and management are imprisoned by the Atkinson Trust, which they seem to think requires them to support the newspaper at costs. Hence, the sale of viable businesses like Harlequin in oorder to double down on the newspaper. To the detriment of the public shareholders.
        Touch wood (he said, tapping forehead), I haven’t experienced any of the login/commenting issues that seem to bedevil Lie2me and others. Which is a puzzle, makes you wonder what triggers the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      LIE…

      LOGIN is even more difficult than the normally difficult login. Thought it was my crappy laptop.

      • 0 avatar
        warrant242

        It’s a shame how far this site has fallen.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “It’s a shame how far this site has fallen. ”

          It is NOT all the fault of the site or the current Staff.

          A lot of damage was done by trolls and hatemongers in the past that forced many of the ‘regulars’ to seek their automotive commentary gratification elsewhere.

          I believe that I’m the only one left from MY group of auto industry “regulars” who followed Robert Farago, and aside from Buickman, Mikey, 28CL and Scoutdude I don’t see many screen names I recognize.

          The trick now is, how to attract more eyeballs to this site?

          Else it will go the way of the MSN, Yahoo and other autoboards now defunct.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      For once I don’t have to log in 12 times.

      You win some, you lose some.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Glad that’s not just me. The flagged for moderation started around the same time that I finally got around to signing up for a VPN service, so I was ready to blame that.

  • avatar
    fusaichi_pegasus

    the market that the mazda 3 is aimed at doesn’t have a lot of money to be taking chances at a car purchase, so they go with reputation, and as you mentioned its Civic and Corolla.

    Id look at a Subaru before a Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      To add to that, if overwrought looks are a thing for your car purchase and you are young the Voltron inspired Honda + being a Honda has to be a much better idea than a Mazda for a similar cost.
      If it is a pure money transaction, Mazda doesn’t win anymore either, with their attempt to move upmarket. Perhaps their average profit per transaction will make more money than before overall, I don’t know.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I was always disappointed that the Impala wasn’t more popular, going all the way back to the W-body of the 00s. GM did the usual GM thing and split their sedan effort in two, and a half dozen rebadges besides, none of which were very good. The Impala was the least bad of them for at least 3,800 reasons. Seeing it outsold by 5 consecutive generations of thoroughly underwhelming Malibu never added up.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    The Infiniti QX50. As far as compact CUV’s go it’s pretty damn nice. You’d think with the popularity of this class of vehicle it would be a hit. Having not driven it the only thing I can think is the CVT ruins it. But then people buy crazy amounts of the Rogue.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    Even more so with the Mazda 6.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    The Ford Flex. I think it is beautiful. Most people disagree.

    Other possible reasons it undersold:

    It is a Ford, so the quality is somewhere between “meh” and “bleh.”

    It is not an SUV-style vehicle; it is a throwback to the station wagon, which I thought was cool, but I guess not.

    You could not get an engine that was more powerful than you “needed.”

    Anyway, RIP Ford Flex. Only me and your mama loved you.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    No idea if 20 people have already made this joke, since I’m flying blind, but I’m surprised functioning comment software doesn’t sell better to the owners of this website.

    • 0 avatar
      Carson D

      Nice

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      They have us showing up no matter how poorly the platform runs. I’ve been fighting the multiple logon thing forever. It’s like TTAC is run by the Social Security Administration or USPS.

      • 0 avatar
        Ol Shel

        I only have to log in once, every single time I come here, despite my aggressive use of the ‘remember me’ button.

        I figure it’s because I’m not in the MRM.

        It could be worse; you can’t comment on Jalopnik unless one of the chosen few invite you in.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “They have us showing up no matter how poorly the platform runs.”

        I’ve been coming here for over a decade now so it is part of my routine. But, the site is completely technically broken. Hard to login, hard to post comments, hard to see comments. No one new is ever going to sign up with things the way they are.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    The dash on the 3 is, well, unattractive.

    Too bad since the rest is a nice looking car.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Eh I know why the vehicles I wish were more popular aren’t more popular.

    They’re all sedans and wagons, sadly Americans value ride height over all else.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    IMO the refreshed Corolla is far better looking than the 3, with its ungainly proportions and overhanging front end. Mazda does well in Canada selling cheap base models, but their move upmarket could be a disaster as the buying public is rejecting it.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      I agree. I keep reading that Mazda styling makes it’s front wheel drive cars have rear wheel drive proportions that sacrifice interior room for style – well maybe in the past. Now Mazdas look more nose heavy than the competition while still sacrificing interior room.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The long nose look is due to the Skyactive System having what is esentially a “tri-y” header (old hot-rodders trick) to increase efficiency of the system. The header’s length causes packaging issues.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Considering the affluence of my area I am surprised I don’t see more high end Volvos like the C90. And I rarely see Tesla Model Xs or Alfas of any type. They’re right in the price band of my area, but nothing.

    I had a Mazda CX-7 Grand Touring with the turbo, and once I put some bigger tires on I absolutely loved the thing. Good looking, fast, handled well, nice interior, and AWD was perfect for the snow. But I doubt I would see even one other CX-7 per week while I owned it, and I don’t think I see a CX-7 twice a year now.

    Shrugs shoulders /

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    Mazda’s dealerships are not very good. That is one of the big problems.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Chevy Volt gen 2. I though with their style and the spec it would sell really really well.

    I was wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      In a SAAR of 17m, EVs and Hybrids don’t sell well, no matter how great their styling. People I know who have an EV or Hybrid have at least one more ICE vehicle which they use for long distance travel.

      I’m willing to buy a Rivian RT1 if it is reasonably priced but it would not be my primary vehicle.

      I think the Rivian engineering-design holds great promise and a motor at each wheel is the clincher for me. Imagine! Built-in computer-controlled one, two, three and four wheel drive. WOW!

      I remember when my first truck only had one-wheel drive. That’s before locking differentials and limited slip clutch plates.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I am somewhat surprised that the Titan XD with Cummins has been a massive flop for Nissan. That big “C” on the side of a Dodge saved them from extinction.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I couldn’t say why Mazda isn’t doing so well as I live with a 20 mile radius of 3 Mazda dealerships. They’re all on frontage roads abutting major roads and they’re clean, well-lit, and staffed with nice people who are willing to help. Then again it could be different because they’re no-haggle. In my parking lot at work there are 3 current gen CX-5s, an older gen CX-5, a couple recent Mazda3s and a Mazda6.

    I’ll say the only dealerships I’ve been in recently that made me want to take a shower were a couple Honda dealerships, the Subaru dealership, a Dodge dealership and a Nissan/Kia dealership.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I don’t get the love for the looks of Mazda cars at all. They are generally too “Schnozzy” for me. I do like that red paint though, and the interiors are ok. To be totally honest, it’s hard for me to be excited about any FWD car, regardless of make.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I think the last Hyundai Azera was a good-looking vehicle. Surprised it didn’t do better, especially nowadays when it seems like most people see Hyundai and Kia as the be-alls of the automotive industry.

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