Archive for March, 2013
Following exciting new models like the 2013 CX-5 and 2014 Mazda6, Mazda is getting ready to introduce the next generation of its high-volume compact, the Mazda3. After talking to several of Mazda’s dealers, Automotive News is reporting that the automaker is planning to introduce its new compact this fall, which is earlier than what was originally reported.
Aside from what we’ve seen in recent spy shots and what appeared to be a full-scale design mockup back in October, there is little information about the third-generation 3, but we can see that the car will get plenty of cues from Mazda’s stylish Kodo design language, and we expect even more technologies from the company’s SkyActiv efficiency program to come to bear. AN says that Mazda is hoping to top 300,000 sales this year in the US, and the sooner Mazda can replace the current aging 3, the better chances it has at reaching that goal.
After spending some time roaming the Hill Country of central Texas with Mazda’s new Mazda6 and CX-5 with the 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine, I got a round with the redesigned CX-9 back in Michigan. The three-row Mazda crossover comes to court in the 2013 model year with the same 3.7-liter V6 engine that we’ve sampled before (still making 273 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque), though the nose that wraps it has been updated with the same “Kodo” design language that marks out the CX-5 and friends.
I had quite recently spent time in our long-term Nissan Pathfinder, so I felt better equipped than usual to suss out the potential high and low points of Mazda’s family-facing CUV.
- A combination of a responsive throttle pedal and a surprisingly lively exhaust note made the CX-9 feel immediately sportier than the CVT’d Pathfinder I had just stepped out of. The Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission was surprisingly willing to drop gears and pile on the revs when I put my foot to the floor for a pass on the highway, and I actually never really felt prodded to use the manual mode as a result. Don’t get me wrong, the CX-9 isn’t “fast” in an objective sense, but it definitely feels adequately powerful for a largish 4,500-pound crossover. (Those seeking real speed with three rows would still prefer the Ford Explorer Sport or Dodge Durango in V8 trim, I’d wager.)
- True to form for Mazda, the CX-9 feels a shade sprightlier in terms of handling than does the bulk of its competitive set. Sitting in the drivers seat for the first time, I was actually a little shocked at how small in diameter the steering wheel is. Better yet, the front end of the large vehicle moves promptly when guided by this sporty wheel, turning in with a quickness that belies the long wheelbase, and offering a shade more road feedback than is typical of this class. I’m not sure how many buyers really care about a kind of “athletic” steering feel when selecting their next kid-wagon, but the Mazda would seem to be the top-of-class here.
- Overall fit and finish of our CX-9 Grand Touring-spec interior felt nice – I particularly liked the kind of micro-suede door inserts – if a little bit simple. There’s still more hard-plastic surfacing in the CX-9 than I’d gotten used to in our long-term Nissan, and far fewer enticing pieces of technology. Mazda is offering a new-for-2013, 5.8-inch display with which to negotiate the navigation and media controls, but the interface simply serves to make the CX-9 feel slightly less out of date than it would with the older setup. And the Mazda didn’t have the near-luxury feeling that the plusher, gizmo-laden Pathfinder does.
- There was more interruption from wind and tire noise in the CX-9 than in other similarly sized crossovers and SUVs I’ve been in lately, too. Just a shade louder, mind you, but there was enough wind noise at 70 miles per hour on the highway that I was forced to notice that I didn’t like Mazda’s stereo as much as I had the Pathfinder’s. (Maybe because the Pathfinder’s quieter cabin provided a better sound stage?)
- While the third-row seating of the CX-9 is clearly not made for six-foot, five-inch guys like me, I did have a seat in the second row to see how it measured up. Beyond feeling a tiny bit lacking in headroom, I found the three-seat-wide second row a place that I wouldn’t have a problem camping out in over goodly distances. My legs and knees had space to move around, and the seat bottoms weren’t overly short or too stiff. In other words: Your tweenage kids should fit just fine.
- My conclusion about the CX-9 in today’s market is a little mixed. I feel as though most shoppers in this segment are going to want more content, a cushier ride or more interior volume than Mazda is offering us. On the other hand, I don’t think that I’ve tested a three-row crossover that’s quite so fun to drive as this one. That strikes me as a core competency that’s not super valuable for the segment, though it might be more of a niche (driver-focused family haulers) than I understand.
Visiting an auto museum is one of the best ways we know to connect with car culture and to commune with the past and bone up on one’s knowledge. Most of us have a decent museum within a few hours drive of where we live, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to see the world’s great collections – factors like cost, time and mobility can get in the way. Videos are great, but they don’t allow us to browse at our own pace or choose what we’d like to focus on. The folks behind Google Maps have a solution – the virtual museum tour, as seen here at Mazda’s fantastic museum in Hiroshima, Japan.
The Google Maps tour allows viewers to take a walk through the main exhibition area of the museum, and you can focus on specific classic cars from Mazda, or check out displays featuring new technologies like Skyactiv. To take a quick spin through the museum – or a leisurely stroll at your own pace – scroll down to start your own virtual tour.
Mazda’s awesome Hiroshima museum now navigable by Google Maps originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 15 Mar 2013 08:26:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
In an attempt to help push vehicle safety to a higher level, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety created a stricter Top Safety Pick+ rating last year, which incorporates a brutal small overlap test and requires cars to get Good ratings in four out of the five categories (and no less than Acceptable in the fifth). Joining the list of the safest cars of 2013, the 2013 Volvo XC60, Lincoln MKZ, Honda Civic (sedan and coupe) and the 2014 Mazda6 have all received the coveted TSP+ rating.
The Mazda6 and Lincoln MKZ have both been completely redesigned, and both received Acceptable ratings in the small overlap test. The Honda Civic, coming off its emergency refresh for 2013, is the first small car to be subjected to the small overlap test, and IIHS says that one of the car’s many upgrades includes a stiffer front structure allowing it to receive Good ratings in all categories. Similarly, the XC60 gets all Good ratings thanks to, according to IIHS, Volvo updating the airbag software allowing the side airbags to inflate during the small overlap test.
The 2014 Subaru Forester has not yet been subjected to the small overlap test, so it must make do with just a Top Safety Pick rating until the IIHS tests small utility vehicles, which is expected to happen later in the spring.
Five vehicles named Top Safety Pick+ including new Civic, MKZ originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 08 Mar 2013 17:44:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.