The reality of Mazda’s split from Ford was brought home last week when the Japanese brand celebrated their independence by launching three new generation vehicles — the Mazda 3, 6 and CX-5.
A number of factors meant the divorce in South Africa didn’t occur in sync with many international markets. But new Mazda managing director David Hughes is upbeat about the prospect of going alone and reporting directly to HQ in Hiroshima, Japan.
‘‘We need to rebuild the brand and repair some damage and get back to the market share we experienced in 2008,’’ said Hughes at the launch. Wasting no time, Mazda will launch a number of new models in the next six months and by the beginning of 2015, will have 50 dealers throughout southern Africa. And after a brief period spent behind the wheel of the Mazda 3, 6 and CX-5, they have vehicles that will get many motorists taking notice. There are common elements across all three vehicles, the main one being that they are all so darn attractive.
Each has its own individual styling — from the Mazda 3 with its increase in width and length and distinctive front grille, to the Mazda 6 with the proportions and look of an executive sedan and a degree of sportiness courtesy of a lower stance than previously. Then there’s the SUV CX-5, with bold styling. Skyactiv technology also plays a role across the range and is Mazda’s take on providing environmentally friendly performance. Each of the vehicles comes with a choice of four levels of comfort and technology. But even the entry-level Active version comes with a surprising range of equipment.
The Mazda 3 will be available in both hatch and sedan versions and will continue to offer the current 1.6-litre petrol engine (77kW; 144Nm with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission). Also on offer will be the Skyactive-G 2.0-litre petrol engine (121kW and 210Nm with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic). With the Mazda 6, engine choices are quite different. You do have the same two-litre engine you find in the Mazda 3, but you also have a more powerful 2.5-litre power plant (138kW and 250Nm) and a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel (129kW and 420Nm).
These engines will be mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. When it comes to the CX-5, engines are the same as with the 6 but you get FWD on the range, apart from the top-end 2.2-litre diesel which has AWD. As for the interiors, the vehicles are attractively finished with soft-touch materials. Black cloth seats are standard in entry-level models, while black leather is used in the top-end vehicles.
What Mazda have done is spec their vehicles with a plethora of features — from the entry-level model up. Drive-wise on the launch, the vehicles handled very well. Even when we had foot to the floor on the open road, the ride was solid with little outside noise heard in to the cabin. It will be good to get behind the wheels of each vehicle soon for a more comprehensive evaluation of their capabilities. But with these three vehicles, there is a hint that Mazda is back with a purpose — and about time. All vehicles come with an impressive three-year unlimited kilometre service plan/warranty/roadside assistance.
Mazda 3 2.0 petrol
Engine: 1 988cc 16V 4 cylinder
Power: 121kw at 6 000rpm
Torque: 210Nm at 4 000rpm
Fuel: 6.2l/ 100km
Price: From R232 900 to R326 300
Mazda 6 2.5 petrol
Engine: 2 488cc 16V 4 cylinder
Power: 138kw at 5 700rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 3 250rpm
Price: From R342 000 to R430 500
Mazda CX-5 2.2 diesel
Engine: 1998cc 16V 4 cylinder turbo
Power: 110kw at 4 500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1 800rpm
Price: From R316 600 to R456 100