Alert members of the B&B know that applying skiffs of paint and wallpaper to create a new trim can be a great way for an OEM to grab attention on a model that’s between development cycles. Mazda has dabbled with a Carbon Edition in the past but is now applying a similar treatment to other vehicles in its range.
Believe it or not, people do still actually buy small cars in this country. Yes, there’s a continuing mass exodus for SUVs and crossover-type vehicles but a few level-headed souls remain who choose to open their wallets for an affordable compact machine.
This migration of buyers has pushed several major automakers to put their efforts into this segment In The Bin which, fortunately for us, means the remaining competitors are some good’uns. One of the best? The little Mazda 3.
We’ve spent the last few years wondering how Mazda’s upmarket push would impact its focus on performance. But keeping tabs gradually devolved into holding out hope that the brand wouldn’t totally snub fun-to-drive products to broaden its appeal. While there’s a wealth of Japanese brands ready to sell you comfortable and well-appointed automobiles, there aren’t many devoting a sizable amount of resources into maintaining engaging driving dynamics for the whole of their lineup. Mazda used to be the exception but now seems interested in banking on its above-average styling and novel luxury aura to drive sales.
It’s not a bad strategy but appears to have come at the expense of performance. Despite Mazda products rarely being famous for the output of their powertrains (unless we’re talking in the context of size), the brand is not making up the difference in handling anymore. It also hasn’t built any new Mazdaspeed performance products in years and doesn’t seem interested in trying.
The bad news comes at you daily, it seems. No, I’m not talking about the pandemic, the state of our economy, politics, or the dumpster fire that passes for public discourse these days. I’m talking about bad news that hits even closer to our hearts – the slow demise of the traditional manual transmission.
Pundits may wring hands. Activists may cling to Save The Manuals hashtags. But we know that automakers, while occasionally misguided by trends, are not collectively idiots. They only build what can sell – and very few cars with three pedals will sell anymore.
Mazda may be our last hope. The company that singlehandedly revived the affordable roadster market offers a stick in this, the 2020 Mazda 3 hatchback. Might it finally revive the enthusiast we hope lies deep within every compact car buyer?
While other manufacturers are downsizing engines and sticking turbos anywhere they’ll fit, Mazda has attempted to maintain a home for naturally aspirated motors — engines it believes should be sized appropriately for their intended application. On paper, this appears to be giving the competition an edge. Yet Mazda remains committed to offering the right tool for the job, introducing naturally aspirated Skyactiv engines with unusually high compression ratios. The latest, Skyactiv-X, combines spark-controlled gasoline combustion and compression-ignition diesel tech with a 24-volt mild-hybrid system.
The system delivers 178 horsepower and 164 lb-ft of torque in 2.0-liter guise, plus MPG improvements of up to 20 percent vs the old Skyactiv-G. But there’s a problem. With Mazda attempting to go upmarket, an economy-focused powertrain has to deliver in whatever region it’s sold, and introductory Skyactiv-X units are now viewed as too small for the United States. The result? The technology’s delayed arrival in North America, despite its deployment via the new 2.0 liter found in the 2020 Mazda 3 and CX-30 sold in Japan and Europe.
Mazda’s Salamanca plant is adding the CX-30 to its production line, ensuring its cars-and-crossovers strategy launches as planned. With the Mexican facility already manufacturing the Mazda3, it’s not a shock to see the compact added to the factory lineup as the pair utilize the same platform. In fact, Salamanca is already undergoing retooling to make sure it can incorporate the CX-30 and there were swirling rumors that the company’s official factory announcement would happen sometime this month.
While no formal announcement has been made, the company confirmed the move with Automotive News on Wednesday. Miguel Barbeyto, president of Mazda Mexico, said the facility had been selected partially due to the CX-30’s role as a global product. Mexico has free-trade agreements with numerous nations that Mazda believes will help it efficiently distribute Mexican-made product throughout Europe and North/South America.
Mazda has filed a recall for 25,003 of its 2019 Mazda3 cars due to a risk of the wheels falling off. Lug nuts were found to have loosened and come off the car, though there have been no reports of accidents or injuries thus far. Having personally had wheels depart my cars more than once, I can attest to this leading to a less-than-ideal day and hope to encourage affected customers not to wait on this one.
Wheel bolts, or studs, on the car are pressed in from the back of the wheel hub. When the lug nuts are tightened on the studs, they essentially sandwich the hub, rotor, and wheel together. Mazda found that the studs where not fully seated in the back of the hub as the vehicles left the factory, allowing them to be drawn in the remainder of the way as the forces on the wheel were naturally applied through driving. This, however, would also gradually reduce the torque on the lug nuts.
Imagine a world in which the crossover SUV, the blight of our roadways, was the default transportation option. Where most vehicles are tall, bloated, with poor handling.
Some might say that we’re already there — heck, we’ve been saying that.
But in our imaginary world where the crossover has been the standard for decades, consider what the impact of a marketplace disruptor like this 2018 Mazda 3 GT could be. All of the utility of a CUV, but with better fuel economy and handling. In this bizarro world, this revolutionary compact hatchback might indeed be all the rage. Thus, I’m calling the Mazda3 “The Crossunder.”
Mazda is no stranger to creating knockout concepts – witness the Kabura in 2006 and the Shinari a few years later. At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, though, the Hiroshima designers have outdone themselves with the stunningly beautiful Vision Coupe and Kai concept cars.
Mazda hasn’t always proven capable of winning hearts and minds in the U.S. marketplace. But in buff book comparison tests, Mazda possesses a recipe for success.
Nine months ago, for instance, a 2016 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring spanked the Nissan Sentra and scored substantial victories over the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze LT and 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited in a five-car Car And Driver comparison test. Only the 2016 Honda Civic EX came close. Car And Driver was quite right in pointing out the Mazda 3 overachieved “in a world where excellence isn’t always rewarded with sales.” TTAC’s east coast reviewers came to the same conclusion four months ago.
Indeed, U.S. sales of the Mazda 3 fell to a 10-year low in 2016. Now, with sales in 2017 on track to fall to a 13-year low, the Mazda 3 has lost a comparison test.
And not just to one car, but two.
Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that — all things considered — might just be the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.
When we started this nonsense Ace of Base series all the way back at the beginning of August, our very first contendah was the 2016 Mazda3 i Sport. Since then, the boffins in Hiroshima Prefecture put their heads together and applied their considerable skill in updating their compact sedan. Can a slathering of new styling and a further refined driving experience keep the 3 in the hunt for base-model supremacy? Is G-Vectoring Control simply a marketing gimmick only found on top trims? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Over the last two months, Mazda, that great tiny bastion of four-cylinder engines and SkyActiv and adding lightness, has sold more crossovers than cars in the United States.
Yes, that Mazda. The Mazda that had to rebadge Fords to bring its first two SUVs to market. The Mazda that, only four years ago, produced two-thirds of its U.S. sales with passenger cars.
Unfortunately, the gains now produced by Mazda’s CX crossover division aren’t enough to counteract the plunging sales of Mazda’s three remaining cars. As a result, Mazda’s U.S. market share is down to just 1.7 percent through 2016’s first eight months.
The good news for Mazda? Company bosses saw this coming. As part of a long-term strategy, Mazda is sticking to its guns, unwilling to overreact to disappointing short-term results with short-term fixes.
Base model. What does that image conjure to mind? Vinyl seats? Tinny AM radio? A low rent penalty box on wheels? A few years ago, you’d be right on the money. Driving misery was available for voluntary purchase at the showrooms of just about every major car maker.
Now, though … it’s tougher to find, but there are entry-level vehicles out there that, in their cheapest guise, won’t make you cringe with each pull of the driver’s door handle. These base models? They’ve aced it. Here’s a good example.
I’m currently driving a 2011 Ford Fusion with 80,000 miles. It’s good, reliable, and utterly boring. I’ll have it completely paid off in a couple of months. Here’s where I’m going to get myself into trouble.
The responsible thing to do would be to keep the Fusion and enjoy a paid-off car. But …
While driving a rental car recently, I remembered how much I enjoy a manual transmission. There are also a couple of times a year when I could use the extra capacity of a hatch. I’m starting to look at the listings for lightly used Ford Focuses and Mazda3s with manual transmissions, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun?”
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- El scotto My iPhone gets too hot while using the wireless charging in my BMW. One more line on why someone is a dumbazz list?
- Buickman yeah, get Ron Fellows each time I get a Vette. screw Caddy.
- Dusterdude The Detroit 2.5 did a big disservice by paying their CEO’s so generously ( overpaying them ) It is a valid talking point for for the union ) However , the bottom line - The percentage of workers in the private sector who have a defined benefit pension plan is almost non existent - and the reason being is it’s unaffordable ! . This is a a huge sticking point as to have lower tier workers join would be prohibitive ( aside from other high price demands being requested - ie >30% wage gain request ) . Do the math - can a company afford to pay employees for 35 years , followed by funding a pension for a further 30 years ?
- El scotto Human safety driver? Some on here need a human safety thinker.
- Carlson Fan Stupid vehicle, that can't do any of the things a truck should be able to do. If I want something fast/quick and sporty I'll get a corvette or a 4 dr sport sedan. Taking a truck & neutering it to try and make it into something it's not is just pointless. But maybe that's the point of this road disaster