Earlier this year, nearly eight years after Ford started divesting its controlling interest in Mazda, the Japanese brand finally replaced the last of the products that shared hardware with the Dearborn brand. Mazda’s biggest vehicle was also its oldest with the original CX-9 lasting nearly a decade before a complete redesign. Now that the CX-9 is new and fresh, does it finally fit in with the rest of the family from the brand that says “driving matters?”
The sub-compact crossover utility has been one of the fastest growing market segments in the industry over the past few years. As of the time I sit to write this in January 2016, there are 10 entries available in the American market with several more to come in the next few years including Ford, Hyundai and probably GMC. Of the examples I’ve driven in the past year including the Chevrolet Trax, Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V, each has elements to recommend it, but like Goldilocks looking for a place to nap they were each too hard or soft in some respect. Did Mazda get it “just right” with the CX-3?
The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans will actually mark two very important anniversaries in the history of the world’s most famous endurance race. It will be the 50th anniversary of the first of four consecutive victories by the legendary Ford GT. It also marks the 25th anniversary of Mazda’s only victory with the rotary-powered 787B. Just after Ford announced it’s return to France next year, Mazda’s Nubohiro Yamamoto told Top Gear magazine that he would like to see the Japanese brand return to the endurance race.
The typical American car buyer is a fickle beast, constantly evolving and chasing the latest fashion. You might think that as the second biggest purchase that most people make after their home, selecting a vehicle would be a more rational decision, but in reality it is often far more emotional. That’s probably why the crossover utility vehicle has become one of the hottest segments in the market with the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape each selling more than 300,000 units in 2014 and numerous other models in the segment topping 200,000. For Mazda, the compact CX-5 is the brand’s second best seller, just behind the Mazda3 and selling nearly twice as fast as the midsize Mazda6 sedan. I recently got to spend a week with the 2016 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD to see if it lives up to the brand’s fun-to-drive philosophy and came away impressed.
As someone that is terribly fond of driving, especially in fun cars, I’m not terribly enthusiastic about the prospect of human-driven cars becoming obsolete some day. Then again, I’m old enough and there are enough technical, legal and ethical problems to overcome that the fully autonomous car may not arrive in my lifetime. Alternatively, if all cars were as enjoyable as the 2015 Mazda3 s Grand Touring, there might not be any customer desire for cars that handle the driving.
The 2015 Mazda6 represents an endangered species. Don’t worry, Mazda is in no immediate danger of going defunct, in fact it’s currently in a real renaissance period. What makes this particular car a dying breed is the fully manual gearbox.
For the 2015 model year, the number of midsize sedans available in America with a three pedal layout has dropped by nearly half. Both the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata have lost their stick shift options as a result of extreme customer apathy, leaving only the 6, the VW Passat and the Honda Accord.