First Drive: 2016 Mazda CX-3

Mazda has introduced the CX-3 as an all-new nameplate to take advantage of the growing subcompact crossover segment and I had the chance to drive it on some demanding roads through the canyons north of Los Angeles. With Mazda you know the company will try to make every vehicle in its lineup fun to drive, and with the routes selected I suspected they were particularly proud of how the CX-3 would perform. The vehicle exceeded even those lofty expectations.

Exterior

The CX-3 is shorter and lower than Mazda’s best-selling CX-5 with a long front hood and large wheels. It’s a beautiful vehicle as you can see from the photos and is the fifth vehicle in the U.S. with Mazda’s KODO—Soul of Motion design language. The designers tried to create the look of pent up energy so the vehicle always looks like it’s moving forward. I also love the front end as the Mazda grille continues to evolve and the headlights make the vehicle look alive. It’s a much more aggressive and interesting look than the smiley face impression of some Mazda models of the past. The CX-3 comes with 16-inch wheels and the option for 18-inch wheels that contribute to the distinctive look. Overall the design of this vehicle gives Mazda an obvious hit even before you sit inside and then start driving.

Interior

What I remember most about the CX-3 interior is that the seats were very comfortable and would hug your body, which was particularly helpful as I powered through the curves on our drive route and made up for the lack of power seats. The overall design of the interior is quite bold and should appeal to most consumers, with a prominent 7-inch touch screen and standard rear camera. The various color combinations in the interiors we also very impressive.

Standard features also include a push-button starter, Mazda Connect infotainment offering Bluetooth phone pairing, audio streaming, and USB ports for phone charging and entertainment connectivity. Optional features include blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, which frankly would be hard to live without these days for this spoiled driver.

Performance

As expected, the CX-3 isn’t one to just rely on its good looks. The vehicle handled beautifully on the route through the winding curves as we enjoyed the canyons north of LA. The CX-3 showed nice responsiveness and acceleration, particularly in Sport mode, and it hugged every turn daring you to push it harder.

All trim levels (Sport, Touring and Grand Touring) come with a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission producing 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. While CVTs are getting better I’ll take a six-speed transmission any day and you can feel it in the linear acceleration.

The CX-3 also incorporates Maxda’s SKYACTIV Technology, so while front-wheel drive comes standard, Mazda’s predictive i-ACTIV AWD system is also available on all trim levels. This system improves handling in bad weather by using sensors to route power to the most surefooted wheels as you’re driving.

Overview

The subcompact crossover segment is growing quickly, and Mazda characterizes the CX-3 as their attempt to “defy the category.” The Mazda team acknowledges there may be some overlap with the Mazda3 hatchback for consumers but that didn’t deter them. There are many impressive options in this category but frankly the new CX-3 is the must-drive vehicle in this class if you’re out test-driving options. It’s one of the best vehicles we’ve tested in 2015 and we’re confident you’ll be impressed.

  

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First Drive: 2016 Mazda MX-5

Mazda prides itself on building cars that are fun to drive, and the Mazda MX-5 roadster, also known as the Mazda Miata, has been the purest expression of that principle for several decades. The original MX-5 was a huge hit when it was first released in 1989, and now Mazda has completely redesigned the roadster using the original version as an inspiration.

I had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2016 MX-5 on some incredible mountain roads just north of Los Angeles as Mazda introduced the new vehicle to the press, and it was by far one of the most enjoyable driving experiences I’ve had in the past several years. I had a smile planted on my face all day as I pushed the MX-5 through challenging turns through the scenic mountain roads. The MX-5 is a fine-tuned machine that will impress anyone who still appreciates the driving experience.

Exterior

Browse through the photos of the new MX-5 and you’ll see design that matches the impressive driving experience. After years of making incremental changes, the look of the MX-5 had grown a bit stale. It looked adequate but hardly inspiring.

Mazda went back to the drawing board and came up with a beautiful, modern design featuring sharp lines and curves worthy of this iconic roadster. I particularly liked the red Miata we tested with the black wheels.

Mazda designers created a lower and sleeker profile, giving the impression of a vehicle gripping the road, which perfectly represents the sensation you feel when driving the MX-5.

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Car Review: 2015 Mazda 6 i Touring

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We’ve been big fans of the third generation Mazda6 since we first drove the 2014 model when it was introduced several years ago. In a midsize sedan segment that’s crowded with plenty of quality options for consumers, the Mazda6 still stands out for its styling and sporty handling.

Not much has changed for the 2015 model, though you’ll find some upgrades in the Touring trim level with keyless entry and ignition and a new option package that includes an upgraded sound system, sunroof and satellite radio.

The 2015 Mazda6 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. We had the 2015 Mazda 6 i Touring for a week and were very happy to have the manual transmission version. We expected it to be fun to drive and it was.

Exterior

Our tester came in Deep Crystal Blue with Sand interior, which works very well on this well-designed vehicle. The design is both aggressive and more refined than previous models, so we expect it to be very popular with a younger demographic. This design should also have staying power as well. Our Touring package offered 19-inch alloy wheels add to the overall appeal of the exterior.

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Car Review: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT

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Hot summer days demand drop-top cars to truly enjoy this time of year in the Midwest, and the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata answered the call for us. We drove and drove the MX-5, soaking up everything this car and the summer breeze had to offer, and never left the wheel disappointed. After a week of driving, it’s no wonder to us that the MX-5 is still by far the best-selling two-seat roadster in the world.

EXTERIOR

The MX-5 Miata was developed primarily for the North American market, and throughout the vehicle’s history, the region has come through to remain dominant in global sales. Available with two distinctive and easy-to-operate head wraps, the 2014 MX-5 Miata comes standard with a Z-fold design soft-top or an industry-leading Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) as tested. The soft top, available on all trim levels, continues to set the industry standard with its simplicity and ease of use. With a central latch handle, the top requires only a simple hand motion to fold and stow behind the seats. The top itself descends into a cleverly designed storage well, thus leaving the 5.3 cubic feet of cargo space completely untouched.

An available option on Club and Grand Touring trims only, the PRHT is stored in the same manner as the soft top, again not affecting storage space. Designed to perform in any climate, PRHT models outsell soft-top models by a 4:1 ratio worldwide. Using a single-button operation, the PRHT offers one of the fastest power-operated open-and-close cycles for a hard top in North America at an efficiently expedient 12 seconds.

The true red paint coupled with the shiny black hard top looked amazing and really popped with the dark gunmetal 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 205/45R17 street-sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires.

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Car Review: 2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring

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The new 2014 Mazda3 S is a big deal, because the redesigned compact vehicle is the Mazda’s best-selling and most recognizable nameplate worldwide with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold. We had the chance to drive the 2014 Mazda3 S in bitter cold temperatures with plenty of snow on the road to really put this car to the test.

EXTERIOR

This is one fine looking ride, and in titanium flash mica, the skin has a sleek and aggressive look. Lower and leaner than its predecessor, this third generation Mazda3 shares almost nothing with its older siblings other than a name. All new from the ground up, the 2014 Mazda3 sits on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, which is 2.4 inches longer than the previous generation, yet the five-door is 1.8 inches shorter in length at 175.6 inches. Whether equipped with the standard 16-inch full-cover steel wheels or higher trim-equipped 16-inch and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, each set expresses dynamic motion from hub to rim. The Mazda3’s cab rearward posture and raked profile further emphasizes agility and speed.

From the dynamic signature wing of the five-point grille, to the expansive sheet metal cresting over sleekly slanted headlamps, to the wide-stance muscular fenders, to the taut character lines flowing from panel to panel, sculpting into a chiseled rear featuring provoking taillights, KODO begets the Mazda3 a presence unlike any other. Yet such style is not without purpose as the five-door and sedan models achieve best-in-class coefficient of drag (Cd) at 0.275 and 0.255, respectively, when equipped with i-ELOOP and an active grille shutter. A new-to-Mazda feature, the active grille shutter is mounted in front of the radiator and automatically opens and closes in accordance with driving conditions to improve aerodynamic performance while contributing to real-world gains in fuel economy.

INTERIOR

Mazda took things to a whole new level with the cabin space of the 2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring. The interior will impress, starting with the driver-oriented cockpit. The pedals have been laid out symmetrically to the left and right of the driver’s center-line with a hinged organ-type accelerator pedal as standard for added safety and comfort. Designed not only to appeal to the senses, each control and function also is specifically placed with intuitive utility in mind. The less time spent focusing on adjusting knobs and tapping touch-screen commands, the more time a driver is engaged with the actual act of driving, being alert to what is on the road ahead and, therefore, being able to react quickly, accurately and safely.

For added precision, the base of the A-pillars have been repositioned 3.9 inches rearward to afford greater range of vision for both the driver and front passenger. The outside mirrors also are mounted onto the doors instead of the base of the A-pillar to expand the scope of visibility when looking over mirrors from the driver’s seat.

All-new for Mazda vehicles and being launched with the 2014 Mazda3 is a next-generation human-machine interface (HMI) system. Based on the heads-up cockpit concept, the new HMI system aims to help drivers maintain proper posture, concentrate on the road and drive more safely, even while handling larger amounts of information. The information used is divided into groups, and an innovative screen layout is employed to let the driver safely balance the primary job of driving with other peripheral information.

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