Mazda go for soul of motion
Japanese firm has a strong philosophy and produces exciting cars, but is that enough, wonders Campbell Spray
Living in Dublin, towards the end of one of the big commuting routes, the widest range of cars pass our front garden. Taking the dog for a walk the other morning I was stunned by the beautiful lines, size and general confident build of a large saloon caught at the traffic lights.
A Lexus I thought, or maybe the Infinity premium marque from Nissan, which was caught up in the recessionary storm a few years back. As I drew level I could see it was the new Mazda6, the saloon that many of my colleagues talk about as being the finest in its class.
It was a strange confluence as in my garage at the time was the second of two small Mazdas that I had been testing this summer and with both I was really struck by their design both inside and out. They were very high-end and brought something really good to their sectors. Mazda has not been shy of talking about and showing off its design philosophy called Kodo, the Soul of Motion.
According to the company "Kodo captures the instant energy as it becomes motion. It's the muscular beauty you see when an animal pounces, or when a human leaps into action. Everywhere you look, this dynamic poise is enhanced by elegant detail. The five-point grille, defining body lines and powerful stance all show our design philosophy in action."
Probably a lot of waffle and every car company would have a version of it but this Japanese firm takes it to extremes by changing things too often. This means that just as you are getting used to one design another hops up. That is except the Mazda MX-5, which even after 26 years keeps nicely evolving.
The two cars I had been testing this summer were the small Mazda2 and its compact crossover sister, the CX-3. Both cars are announced by large snouts, which give them a grander-than-thou attitude. And while this continues to the very well-specced interiors and space for driver and passenger, things aren't so big-scale in the back. This is especially so in the CX3 where it is rather claustrophobic for large rear passengers and - I think - children. Three people would get in at a big pinch.
My partner was very impressed by the quality of the finish inside but in both models we were travelling first class in the GT versions, although the Japanese company doesn't really go steerage and the entry-level version at €16,000 is just for show. These cars are best in petrol form, as are most small cars which aren't covering massive distances. The Mazda2 is a great city car and handles with the precision and confidence and reflects the time the company spent under Ford control.
However, on the motorway you have to work hard. Go for the Executive Mazda2 at a €1,000 premium, it will be the volume seller although you can easily get into the €20ks with diesel and GT options. The petrol economy was exceptionally good - a point that was noticed by my colleagues.
While the Mazda2 is a very passable small car but will be squeezed - and should be - by the likes of the Hyundai i10 at one end and the Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta at the other, the CX3 is a far tastier car. It promises more and with style cues from the lovely CX5 there are suggestions it could deliver.
But in many ways it falls at certain hurdles and struggles to get across the finishing line. It is cheap to fuel and tax with exceptional handling even in two-wheel mode. Yet storage is poor, and the rear load area should be easier to access in a car with small SUV/Crossover aspirations. It is well specced and rather lovely to look at but prices are high. For the Exec SE version you won't get change from €27k while the 4WD diesel with auto box is €32,270. Perhaps a bridge too far.