When manufacturers get it right

First off I want to say that, no, Mazda is not providing me with free cars for life, free gas, or sexual favours for writing this post — though I wouldn’t say no to any of them should they care to offer.

Sometimes a manufacturer just gets it right.

True, BMW consistently performs in areas of design, driveability, longevity and safety; but they’re BMW and they’re supposed to. When a company like Mazda performs from the bottom of the pack right to the top, that’s when you really take notice.

I had the pleasure of driving a few Mazdas back to back over a few weeks and it really opened my eyes to the brand. I always knew they were strong contenders on the market and consistently came out with good cars, but I always kind of pushed them to the side and thought the focus should stay on Honda, VW and Toyota. Well, I was wrong.

Mazda has a good thing going. When I picked up the CX-7 I expected a hum-drum kind of ride that would be practical but far from exciting. Well, I was wrong. The CX-7 is a joy to drive. It’s roomy, but not huge, and it consistently gets the job done. The styling on the CX-7 is aggressive for a crossover and gives the car that added bit of oomph you wouldn’t normally find in a family friendly ride. And with a fuel consumption of 26 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, it’s out to save you pennies too — bonus!

But practical and family friendly isn’t all Mazda’s about — far from it. The next week I was introduced to a white-hot fireball of speed also known as the Mazdaspeed3. I was given strict instructions to be extra careful as the car was on winters and the weather was still chilly. I promised to be careful but dismissed the warnings at first, until I got behind the wheel. The Mazdaspeed3 is a coiled spring waiting to explode — all the time. The throttle is so sensitive that it’s almost annoying, and yet it just shows how intense the car actually is. The exhaust note is sharp, the styling is savage without being too in-your-face. And I could even overlook the insane-asylum grin in the front thanks to the hood scoop that kind of balanced it all out. I think what I liked the most about this brand new Mazdaspeed3 was how similar it was to the Mazdaspeed Protege. It even made me long to play the Protege Song.

I was a little reluctant to give back the keys to the Mazdaspeed3, I must admit. However, I was handed the keys to the Mazda CX-9 and happily accepted. I was actually surprised by how much larger the CX-9 was compared to the CX-7. Obviously, the 9 is an SUV and the 7 is a crossover, but the difference isn’t clear until you’ve sat behind the wheel.

I have to admit, the CX-9 is my favourite SUV so far this year. Really. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this car (wait, I lie, but then it’s not just the CX-9 that has these troubles … but I’ll explain later). The design is fab, the interior space is perfect and the option to seat 7 is a bonus. Although, the rear-most seats are a bit small, even for my 5’2″ frame. I loved the handling on the CX-9, the ease it had on the road and the general comfort of the ride. I never felt large or cumbersome, which I often feel in SUVs. Mazda has managed to make a sleek people-carrier. Wow.

Now, about that problem I was talking about earlier; Mazda, I have a very serious question for you: Why in God’s name did you make the entertainment and onboard computer voice activated only? And why can’t I hook up my phone while I’m driving?! It’s hands free! I’m using my voice to direct the system so my hands are on the wheel to drive, right?! Why do I have to pull over to talk to my car?! And the menus are sooooooo loooooong. It got to the point where I just gave up connecting my phone via Bluetooth just to avoid listening to the onboard computer babble on and on and on.

As far as problems go though, that’s only minor. I mean, how many years did BMW have the uber-poo iDrive system in their vehicles? My point exactly.

So, cheers to Mazda. I know I haven’t talked about the entire lineup here, but it’s a pretty good assessment of their greatness in the auto industry. After driving these 3 vehicles back to back I also received a celebratory press release from Mazda about the Mazda3 being the No. 1 selling model in all of Canada. Hats off to you Mazda, you done good.

Drive on,
– M.

~ by drivingmsmiranda on April 14, 2010.

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