Chasing the active lifestyle crowd, or perhaps cluing in that the CX-5 is an excellent machine but there’s room on the lot for a variant with a smidgen of off-road cred, Mazda introduced the CX-50 earlier this year. Think of it as a CX-5 in hiking boots and an L.L. Bean coat.
Now, the brand is taking it a step further with the CX-50 Meridian, a trim that brings all-terrain tires and a smattering of exterior accents to imply it’s ready for the trail – or at least that gravel patch at the mall.
Americans have got a fever, and the only prescription is more crossovers. Virtually every automaker trying to do business in this country has some sort of lifted wagon – if not a handful. Large ones, small ones, performance ones, economy ones. No convertible crossovers anymore, thank goodness. They’re shoehorning a crossover into nearly every possible market segment.
Here, we have the 2023 Mazda CX-50, with a name very much like their popular CX-5. And it’s very close in size to said CX-5. Of the six distinct non-electric vehicles offered by Mazda, four are crossovers – but why did they bring us something so very clearly similar to something they’ve been selling well for many years without replacing it?
Oh, and don’t give Mazda any ideas about a Miata crossover, please.
The Mazda Miata has been with us for well over three decades, becoming the best-selling two-seat sports car in history along the way. Miatas were popular as quasi-sensible commuter cars in North America well into our current century, which means that I should have been seeing at least a couple in every junkyard I’ve visited for at least the last 15 years. In fact, I still see many more discarded MGBs and Fiat 124 Sport Spiders than I do Miatas, so this reasonably intact ’93 in Crystal White paint caught my attention immediately (naturally, there was an ’81 Fiat Spider 2000 a few rows away).
We reached a conclusion to the first Ford Festiva (or Kia Pride, Mazda 121, SAIPA, etc.) in our last installment, which saw the little hatchback finalize its Ford duties in 1993 and its Kia responsibilities in 2000. And while it continues life today as a Wallyscar in Tunisia, our coverage here moves on to Ford’s not-so-anticipated follow-up entry to Festiva, another Festiva! It’s an Aspire to you.
We return to the Ford Festiva once again today, as the subcompact Mazda-designed hatchback stormed North American shores. It did so wearing a Ford badge and a South Korean VIN, courtesy of a Kia factory. But North America wasn’t the only place it landed.
As we learned last time, the Festiva was built in several different countries and assumed many identities over an extensive history. The Festiva still has not reached the end of its life, but we’ll cover that in a separate article. We pick up today in North America, circa 1987.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2019, you’ve probably realized that just about every major carmaker has plans to go “fully electric” at some point in the rapidly approaching future. That’s going to mean big changes in the way we buy and use cars, obviously— but change is hard, and not every company is going to be willing or able to make those changes.
That equally obvious fact begs the question: who’s not gonna make it?
We return to our Rare Rides Icons coverage of the Ford Festiva today. An important world vehicle for the likes of Ford, Mazda, Kia (and eventually many others), the Festiva arrived at a time when rear-drive subcompacts were being replaced by much more efficient models that were front-drive. And the Mazda-designed Festiva was certainly more efficient and more front-drive than the Fiesta it replaced.
We return to our coverage of Kia sedans today and discuss a midsize from just prior to the flagship Enterprise we discussed last time. Kia offered the first midsize car to bear its branding in 1987 when it introduced the new Concord. Concord was essentially a broughamed, front-rear clip swap take on the GC platform Mazda 626. Mazda discontinued the GC 626 that year and immediately sold the platform and tooling to Kia. A couple of years later, the Concord spawned a lesser sibling called the Capital. Capital looked very similar to the Concord but sold to a more economically-minded customer with its much lower level of equipment and low-powered engines.
When the Capital finished up its run in 1997, it was replaced by a compact car Kia had on sale for a few years already: The Sephia. Sephia wouldn’t do for Concord-level customers though, and upon the sedan’s discontinuation in 1995 they were directed to an all-new Kia. The company was ready with its new midsize to bookend the Concord, and it went on sale the same year. Though the new car was again on a donated platform, it was the first time Kia had some leeway to design a midsize of their own. It’s time to discuss Credos.
We’ve reached the end of the Nineties in Kia’s midsize-or-more sedan story. It was a time of modernization across Kia’s portfolio, and 1998 and 1999 were years of expansion in particular: Kia introduced an impressive nine all-new models across those two years.
For its larger sedan lineup, the dated Potentia (a rework of the Eighties Mazda Luce) continued on in its popularity in the South Korean market. Potentia was updated from its original 1992 looks for 1998. However, that same year Kia introduced a new large luxury sedan to its lineup. The company once again relied on friendly product partner Mazda. Let’s talk about Enterprise.
After years of speculation that Mazda would someday bring back rotary-powered performance, the company is finally willing to confirm that our collective hope was not in vain. However, there will be no rear-drive RX model spinning up its triangular Wankel beyond 8,000 rpm because piston-free rotary engines are difficult to seal. Despite making oodles of power for their size, they’re not well optimized for everyday driving and tend to offer the kind of fuel economy and emissions that get regulators’ panties in a twist.
Given the circumstances, Mazda’s rotary will be returning as a range extender for the MX-30 PHEV.
There’s an argument to be made Mazda is the little car company that could. Representing a sliver of the American market compared to its larger competitors, the Hiroshima-made vehicles are typically infused with the type of driving fun that’s seemingly been surgically removed from the vehicles with which it competes.
Actually, the term ‘Hiroshima-made’ is no longer totally correct. With the introduction of the 2023 CX-50 crossover you see on these digital pages, Mazda now has a manufacturing footprint in this country to the annual tune of 150,000 vehicles. It’s only fitting they’d deploy this new capability for the type of rig most Americans prefer: An all-wheel-drive crossover with an off-road attitude.
When Mazda announced it would be discontinuing the midsize Mazda6 sedan for the U.S. market, some were crestfallen. With the industry having spent the better part of a decade moving away from the body style to support models they could associate with higher price tags, there’s been a deficit of good sedans of late. But a seed of hope was left intact when the company announced it would be pulling the Mazda 6 from our market.
You see, the company had long been teasing a rear-drive variant utilizing a powerful inline-six motor. Mazda was also going upmarket, indicating the possibility of the model returning to do battle with midsized German products with a higher price tag. But it’s looking like the concept is going into the trash bin along with Mazda’s suggestion of bringing back RX performance vehicles and creating rotary range extenders for EVs.
Today’s Rare Ride represents the rarest subset of a vehicle that was for most, an afterthought. A sporty coupe ignored in its day, the MX-6 was by most accounts a handsome car that was fun to drive. Particularly elusive is the MX-6 behind today’s article. It has a manual transmission, is turbocharged, and has four-wheel steering. Could it be any cooler (Chandler voice)? Let’s find out.
There’s a gaggle of Mazda owners in Seattle, Washington, that have reportedly been stuck listening to National Public Radio (NPR) over the last few weeks. The manufacturer has addressed the problem, saying the local affiliate had broadcast images files with no extension causing an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older HD radio software. This effectively bricked the infotainment system on some vehicles, locking them into listening to NPR and out of literally everything else.
The original Mazda 626, sold here for the 1978 through 1982 model years, was a rear-wheel-drive machine that looked quite European in a Peugeot 504-ish way. Its front-wheel-drive successor was straight-up aimed at gaijin car shoppers who might consider a Camry, Accord, or Stanza, and it came packed with affordable luxury features and cool gadgetry. Here’s an ’85 LX sedan with one of the raddest 1980s audio systems imaginable, found in a Northern California self-service yard earlier this month.
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.
Mazda has announced that the 2023 CX-50 will debut on November 15th, foreshadowing its production launch in January of 2022 at the Alabama plant it shares with Toyota. That means odds are good that the model will share more than a few components with the Toyota Corolla Cross. But Mazda has been adamant that CX-50 is a unique vehicle riding on its very own platform.
Unique is a relative term, however, when the upcoming model represents another “lifestyle vehicle” designed to convince consumers that a jack-of-all-trades crossover is ready and willing to drag them up the side of a mountain. Officially, Mazda is claiming this one caters to adults with particularly active lifestyles and has surrounded it with nature-themed marketing materials. That presumably has something to do with the CX-50 boasting “enhanced all-wheel-drive capabilities.”
In our last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, we considered the Mazda Protegé, Mitsubishi Mirage, and Subaru Impreza sedans from 1998. Most of you preferred the Protegé as your Buy of the three. Today we fast forward to the same offerings in 2008, and see if things shake out differently.
Mazda had elected to make all future CX SUVs default to all-wheel drive, rather than front-wheel drive, as it continues to shift its products upmarket. However, the announcement was curiously hidden within the marketing materials for the refreshed CX-5, rather than being allowed to stand on its own.
From the 2022 model year onward, all Mazda products carrying the CX designation will come equipped from the factory with i-Activ all-wheel drive. For now, this pertains exclusively to the U.S. market and will undoubtedly result in vehicles carrying a higher price tag. AWD typically requires shoppers to tack another $1,500 (give or take) onto the MSRP and we doubt Mazda will be giving away the extra parts for free.
Mazda has announced pricing for its first all-electric vehicle and it’s not exactly coming across like a square deal. The manufacturer has announced the base model will start at $33,470 before an obligatory $1,175 destination charge. But the small crossover is only capable of completing 100 miles on a single charge, making it seem as if Mazda designed the car specifically to mock EV advocates.
While we frequently chide electric vehicles for skimping on the fundamentals, Mazda’s take on the segment is inexcusable. There were battery driven vehicles debuting a decade earlier with modestly sized packs capable of covering similar distances to the MX-30. Those considering one would almost certainly be better served by a Nissan Leaf and it doesn’t even need to be a brand new one. However Mazda is doing what it can to sweeten the pot, resulting in some interesting marketing decisions.
On Friday, Mazda officially confirmed it will be discontinuing its 6 sedan and CX-3 crossover for the United States after the 2021 model year. But we don’t want you to get too bent out of shape over this prematurely. Mazda is plotting to evolve its lineup with new engines (including inline-sixes) and rear-drive-dominant architectures designed to deliver the desirable dynamics the brand is known for.
We might end up seeing the sedan returning to our shores before anyone has had a chance to miss it, though perhaps under a different name.
Mazda’s first electric vehicle will arrive in the United States later this year, though technically it’s just going to be California while the manufacturer considers the viability of selling to regions beyond the West Coast. The rollout makes sense as America’s 31st state has been hungrier for electric vehicles than other parts of the country.
But the 2022 MX-30 will only begin its life here as a battery-powered product. Mazda has said it’s also planning to sell a plug-in-hybrid version of the crossover equipped with a gasoline-dependent rotary engine/generator sometime in 2022, making it something that might be able to stand on its own in areas where the distance between charging points makes owning a pure EV unpalatable.
In our last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, we took a look at three subcompact American CUVs competing at the $25,000 price point. Most of you seemed to agree they were all terrible, but the Trax edged out the Buy in the comments.
Let’s see how you feel about the Japanese competition.
While researching information for the recently featured Mazda Lantis, your author came across some other Nineties forbidden fruit from the good people at Mazda. Particularly interesting was the Xedos 6, which, like the similar-looking Millennia, was also a part of Mazda’s early Nineties luxury push.
The Mazda MX-5 is the automotive embodiment of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ Despite having gone through several generations since its debut in 1989, the Miata has remained remarkably consistent. But the industry believes there’s a subset of motorists who absolutely cannot live without vehicular connectivity and active safety technologies, even on a petite roadster that’s supposed to be focused on entirely on driver engagement.
This is why Mazda sells the luxury-oriented Grand Touring trim and has decided to continue sprucing it up for the 2021 model year. Though we cannot say this makes it the best option for everyone.
We all asked Mazda for more power. It was a cry rising up from virtually every corner of the automotive industry – enthusiasts, observers, analysts, insiders, owners, fans – largely due to the fact that Mazda marketed an entire lineup of vehicles as machines for keen drivers, and none of those machines offered meaningful horsepower.
The Mazda 6 dropped its V6 engine after the 2013 model year, which led to horsepower maxing out at 184 in the following iteration. The Mazdaspeed 3 and its sub-14-second quarter-mile likewise called it quits in 2013. In 2014, the Mazda 2 was still fighting with a measly 100 horsepower. While Ford sold Escapes with 245 horsepower (and 275 lb-ft of torque), the 187-horsepower Mazda CX-5’s naturally aspirated 2.5-liter was merely enough. In fact, up until 2018, the only Mazda with more than 200 horsepower was the roughly 4,400-pound Mazda CX-9.
By way of the CX-9’s 2.5-liter turbo, 2018 brought more than 300 lb-ft of torque to the Mazda 6. The same engine appeared in the CX-5 for 2019 (when Mazda amped up the MX-5 to the tune of a sub-6-second 0-60 time), and is now finding its way under the hood of the Mazda 3 and Mazda CX-30.
Two-hundred and fifty horsepower at 5,000 rpm. Three-hundred and twenty lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. Six distinct body styles. Base prices (including freight) ranging from $31,000 to $35,060. Doesn’t it kind of sound as though the officially defunct Mazdaspeed performance sub-brand is actually, what’s the word we’re looking for here … alive?
In my mid-20s I had a boss who once said to me “We all gotta grow up sometime”.
I don’t remember the specifics of why he said that, other than he wasn’t chewing me out or anything like that. I think maybe we were talking generally about post-college life and the responsibilities of adulthood.
The specifics don’t matter. What does, at least for the purposes of this post, is that the Mazda 3 is learning that lesson. With Mazdaspeed more or less shelved and the manufacturer trying to move the 3 upscale, away from its spunky past, while not leaving the “zoom-zoom” reputation fully behind, the 3 is supposed to be all grown up yet still cool.
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.
In the world of mainstream, front-drive midsize sedans, the Mazda 6 stands out. Not in terms of sales (no midsizer’s adding volume these days), but in terms of style. Despite not being the freshest face on the block, the 6 remains a serious looker.
The recent addition of a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder to the 6’s roster of niceties only boosted the sedan’s appeal, but buyers remain a fickle bunch. For 2021, Mazda keeps the model’s recipe more or less the same, but tosses a bit of additional power to the uplevel engine while slotting a new trim at the top end.
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?
The big news at Mazda right now are the two new additions to the compact 3 line for 2021. Bookending the model’s range, the fresh faces include a new entry-level trim that adopts the 2.0-liter four-cylinder ditched for 2019, plus a turbocharged all-wheel drive model positioned at the top of the heap.
It’s a tale of two very different prices.
The not-quite-subcompact CX-30 arrived at just the right time for Mazda, appearing at the tail end of what had been a grim 2019 for Mazda. Just as sales of the new tweener crossover matured, the pandemic hit.
As volumes struggle to regain potency across the industry, the new arrival in the Mazda stable helped the automaker post back-to-back monthly sales increase in June and July, replacing volume lost among the brand’s passenger cars — and then some.
If you read nothing else about the 2020 Mazda CX-9, let me be clear: this is the first car in which I’ve experienced a llama gnawing on the exterior trim, and yet I didn’t need to make a dreaded phone call to the automaker to explain any unusual damage.
Day 124 since lockdown yielded, for once, a new experience. Rather than our usual day of driving somewhere remote to get away from humanity, we drove somewhere remote to get closer to nature. Well, caged nature, at least, as we trekked to a drive-through safari/zoo in northern Ohio just to break the kids away from YouTube and Netflix for a few hours.
This biggest Mazda not only shed the licks and nibbles of captive animals – the mark from a bison’s horns wiped off with a towel – but it proved a comfortable long-distance hauler with better than expected fuel economy.
Mazda fans wanted more power, and that wish will soon be granted. As we learned via dealership codes last month, the 2021 Mazda 3 will give buyers the option of boosting their car’s output via a new turbocharged engine.
As this month is all about vehicle debuts, there isn’t long to wait before the newly potent 3 gets its own public unveiling. And thanks to a Mexican ad, the model’s power levels are already no longer a mystery.
Month after month, as the Mazda product lineup improves and as plaudits pour in, we chronicle the company’s tragic dearth of U.S. sales success. The automaker’s goals for performance in the American marketplace are modest: a good 2 percent market share, for example. Yet generating meaningful demand for deserving products – the second-generation CX-9 and the new-for-2019 Mazda 3, as examples – has proven remarkably challenging.
At least it was remarkably challenging, until a pandemic battered and bruised the U.S. auto market beyond all recognition. U.S. auto sales in the first quarter of 2020 tumbled by more than 12 percent, yet Mazda sales during the same period were off by just 4 percent. Mazda market share ticked up to 1.9 percent in Q1.
But it was Mazda’s May 2020 performance, in which the brand’s sales in the United States dropped by fewer than 300 units, that Mazda appeared downright hopeful. You won’t be surprised to learn the market fared much, much worse.
Today’s Rare Ride is boxy, brown, and well-equipped. It’s an unpopular variant of a less-than-mainstream midsize car of the Eighties. And at 38 years old, it’s managed to escape the rusty fate to which most all of these succumbed long ago.
Let’s check out the 1982 Mazda 626.
Our last two Buy/Drive/Burn entries reflected compact truck offerings in 1972 and 1982. We know you all love talkin’ trucks, so we bring you a subsequent entry in the series today. It’s 1992, and you’ve got to buy a compact Japanese truck.
Hope you can bear the 10-percent interest rate on your loan.
In the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn we pitted three compact pickup trucks from Japan against one another. The year was 1972 — still fairly early in Japan’s truck presence on North American shores. The distant year caused many commenters to shout “We are young!” and then claim a lack of familiarity.
Fine! Today we’ll move it forward a decade, and talk trucks in 1982.
Keen observers of the new car market have taken note of the proliferation of compact and subcompact crossovers, with new models shoved into niches seemingly too small to fit yet another jacked-up hatchback. Where once there might have been but a single model, today there are four or more edging more traditional cars off the showroom floor.
Mazda is no different. The CX-5 and CX-9 have won accolades as the driver’s choice among the myriad indifferent blobs clogging the lanes of every interstate and supermarket, while the subcompact CX-3 has proven to be a decent entry choice. But much like that one person behind you in the left lane who is determined to win the race to the exit half a mile ahead, Mazda is wedging its shield-shaped grille into any gap it can find.
Thus, the 2020 Mazda CX-30. Logically, this would be the CX-4, but a different vehicle exists in other markets (China, mostly) using that badge – and since so many consumers cross-shop dealerships between Beijing and Bay City, it pays to minimize badge confusion.
Where does the CX-30 fit on the Mazda lot? And does it fit in your garage?
For decades, the Japanese market has loved vans of all shapes and sizes, ranging from basic kei to fully-loaded VIP luxury. Rare Rides has touched on JDM van time just once previously, with a luxurious and capable 1990 Toyota Town Ace. Today we’re taking a look at what Mazda offered a Nineties Japanese consumer of vans.
They’re coming for our cars, people. “Alternative mobility solutions” are all the rage at many big automakers attempting to virtue signal (and electric-scooter) their way into social acceptability. I’m pretty certain that I heard a sweaty politician say something like, “Hell yes, we are going to take your crossover!” Even some automotive journalists have called for outright bans of private cars.
I suppose this is where I photoshop a Momo Prototipo into the infamous “from my cold, dead hands” Charlton Heston photo.
Do me a favor, friends. Let’s stem the tide. Take these car-haters for a ride in a proper sports car, like this 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Better yet, let them drive. All other worries of the world wipe away like raindrops on the windscreen as the right hand slots the shift lever into third, all while the corners of the mouth gently turn upward. The Miata is our last hope for motoring freedom.
Buy/Drive/Burn doesn’t talk trucks very often, but today’s an exception. Today’s trio are from the very inception of Japanese compact truck offerings in North America. They mostly rusted away long ago, but perhaps you remember them fondly.
Right now, it’s 1972. Let’s go.
Mazda, a manufacturer with exactly zero electric or hybrid vehicles in its lineup, plans to join the gas-free fray at the Tokyo Motor Show in October. The hesitant automaker recently announced plans to field a fully electric vehicle in 2020, with a plug-in hybrid following a year or two later.
The question now is: what form will Mazda’s first EV take?
While professional sports in America are generally the envy of the world – especially when it comes to the variety of high-level team sports available to the fan – soccer (football to the rest of the world) does wonders for maintaining a competitive balance amongst teams due to the system of promotions and relegations. For those uninitiated, the last-place teams in the top level of the various soccer/football leagues are relegated to the next lower league, while the top teams in the lower levels move up a rung on the ladder.
Imagine this system were in place in mainstream American sports. The Cleveland Browns would be competing against high school teams by now.
I can see eyes glazing over already. “Stick to cars! Stay in your lane!” – just like every sports reporter hears any time they venture into politics. I’m getting to that. Basically, Mazda has long been compared to other mainstream Japanese brands – Honda, Toyota, Nissan. But now, they’ve put forth efforts to be promoted to an entry-level luxury brand, and the newest 2019 Mazda 3 AWD sedan seen here is ready to play in that league.
While Mazda’s vehicles are often praised for being handsome and playing host to desirable driving dynamics, the latter half of that arrangement has become less important in recent years. Remember the last time you saw a Zoom-Zoom ad? Neither do we.
That’s because Mazda isn’t the same brand anymore. While some of its budget-minded performance chops remain intact (MX-5), the prevailing shift has been toward luxury — which is kind of a nebulous concept these days. In the most general sense, it means Mazda is pushing for higher-margin vehicles and fancier showrooms. But it’s not a guaranteed strategy for winning… or losing, for that matter.
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.