Camouflage Can’t Disguise A Winning Heart
While the recent struggles of its larger countrymen have been well publicized, Mazda finds itself at something of a quiet turning point. It would be hard to blame the Japanese automaker for kicking back and enjoying the warm fuzzies it’s earned over the years with cars like the MX-5 Miata and Mazda3, but as a small company going it alone in a pond full of bigger, better-funded fish, it still has much to prove.
Among the competencies Mazda must demonstrate, it must show it can build the powertrain technology necessary to reach fuel economy goals mandated by the U.S. government, rival automakers and the buying public. The only hybrid models it ever sold here were built under contract, and to this point, no other alternative fuel vehicles have found their way into its North American showrooms. What’s more, Mazda’s last attempt at a styling language, the flowing folds of Nagare, came in for critical praise on the showcar circuit thanks to stunners like the Furai and Ryuga, but the philosophy never really gelled in production form (its awkward, Jokerian pulled-smile and ribbed sheetmetal choices triggered more confused looks than praise). Compounding matters, the company recently announced it was pulling the plug on its iconoclastic RX-8, whose rotary engine and lightweight construction were brand cornerstones.
So… has Mazda lost the plot? As it turns out, not a bit. In fact, after spending a few days grilling company executives and driving prototypes of its forthcoming 2013 CX-5, we think the company seems as clear about its identity and mission as it’s ever been, and the proof is in the CX-5’s pudding. The new small crossover singlehandedly attempts to answer most of our nagging questions by packing Mazda’s new SkyActiv blueprint for eco-friendly enthusiast driving (“sustainable Zoom-Zoom”) and the seeds of Mazda’s new Kodo design language, so we couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.
Shucking off Hurricane Irene’s wrath, we flew to Iceland to get our first taste of the CX-5.