We have all heard Mazda’s slogan “Zoom-Zoom”. Generally I have regarded it as one of those marketing slogans that applied more to its performance MPS models than to the range in general. Then I travelled to the home of Mazda — Hiroshima in Japan — to get some insight into the company. It is no marketing slogan — it is, in fact, a complete company philosophy.
Mazda is going through some major changes after it parted company with long-time partner Ford. It is now a standalone operation including its business in SA. The company is busy working with the existing dealer network to re-establish itself in the market and it has some ambitious plans. This month it will launch a salvo of new vehicles including the new Mazda3, Mazda6 and the updated CX-5 crossover. It also recently unveiled the long-awaited latest generation of the bestselling roadster of all time, the MX-5.
I will give you more information on what I learned about the company while in Japan in coming weeks, but I was given the opportunity to put some of the new models through their paces at the Mazda Miyoshi Proving Ground. First up was the updated CX-5 which has received a makeover inside and out. It also has the 2.2l Skyactiv diesel engine generating 129kW and 420Nm. Skyactiv is a pillar of the brand and incorporates lightweight construction with more efficient engines. To give you an idea, most engines utilise just 60% of the fuel for actual performance and efficiency, the rest is wasted. Instead of going the hybrid or small capacity turbocharged route, the company’s philosophy is to extract more power and better efficiency from the existing internal combustion engine. The philosophy works. The CX-5 provided instant torque delivery in a package that is comfortable at average speeds but can also reflect that Zoom-Zoom notion when you feel so inclined.
The new Mazda6 also utilises this technology in its 2.5l petrol engine. The model is more upmarket than the previous generation and is the one that reflected the least Zoom-Zoom character. It is now more luxurious, more refined and sets out to compete with the likes of the new Honda Accord and the Lexus ES. The Kodo design, meaning body in motion, is clear in all the new models with that prominent front grille, sculpted flanks and elegant but sporty rear. The six is responsive but it is more of a cruiser than a luxury sports sedan. Where it does excel is in its interior which is superbly designed.
The same is true of the Mazda3 which, like the six, is an entirely new vehicle. It has hints of Alfa Romeo Giulietta in its design although I would say it is a better looking car. It has a 121kW, 210Nm Skyactiv petrol engine under the bonnet. The engine is responsive and the level of grip in the corners would embarrass any VW Golf. “A car should react as the driver intends,” said Kengo Fukushima, deputy programme manager for the Mazda3. “This cannot be measured by just acceleration or horsepower. We aim to create a oneness between car and driver.” The three perfectly epitomises the philosophy of the Mazda chairman, Seita Kanai, that a Mazda should be a real driver’s car. He is adamant his vehicles should provide “driving pleasure and out-standing environmental and safety performance”.
They all do just that, at least in the performance stakes anyway. We will need to put the new models through their paces to see how the efficiency and environmental claims stack up. Like the six, the interior of the new Mazda3 is impressive. It matches the sporty exterior styling with brushed chrome inlays, thick padded trim on the dashboard and a central rev counter in the instrument cluster. It also features a new iDrive style infotainment system with a tablet-like screen mounted on the top of the dash. It is a major improvement over previous generations.
Then there was the new Mazda2, which will only arrive in SA during the first quarter of 2015. If ever there was a car that has the potential to be a game changer against the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen Polo then this is it. Boasting a 1.5l Skyactiv diesel mill generating 77kW and 250Nm it was not only awesome to drive, but its dynamic nature had me in awe of the engineering. I am already starting to drool at the prospect of the rumoured MPS performance version.
It too features the Kodo design but, while it is a good looking car, it was the interior that created discussion. It is top notch in terms of design and quality with the same tablet-style infotainment screen as the three and an interior that offers lots of space along with a slightly sporty bias. Mazda SA could not reveal pricing but if the local operation manages to get the pricing right I can easily see it being described as the class leader. It really is that good. Many have questioned Mazda’s future, but as far as its cars are concerned and its ability to inject a Zoom-Zoom philosophy into them, it has the perfect formula. It could well be about to enter the most exciting era in its history.