There’s been a lot of focus these past couple of years over the futures of some of the ‘smaller’ Japanese auto makers. It’s tough out there, just ask Suzuki (which is pulling its cars –not its popular motorcycles– from U.S. shores).
But there are companies that are rising to the challenge. A couple of them feature prominently at the L.A. Auto Show. First, Mazda, which is famous for its vehicle grilles that look like its cars are smiling. Look now, because the grin is going away, and that’s a good thing. After years of partnership with Ford, Mazda is now on its own. Mazda last year introduced its new CUV, the CX-5; a start-from-scratch family hauler that looks good, and performs better. The AWD Grand Touring version would be perfect for taking up to a ski weekend at Arrowhead. It’s very comfortable to take on a long drive, with enough spirit to keep the driver engaged.
As a follow-up, this year, Mazda has debuted its new Mazda6, the company’s new mid-size 4-door, that will try to carve out a space for itself in one of the most competitive segments of the industry (think Accord, Corolla, Fusion, Optima, Malibu). Starting around $21K, the Mazda 6 looks, feels and sounds far more expensive. New styling shows a cabin, pushed back on the body, to make it look rear-wheel drive (it’s not).
Both Mazdas use the company’s new “SkyActiv” technology — design-speak for lighter parts, more efficient engines, better mileage and better handling. Whatever, it works.
And for all those who say such main-streaming puts Mazda at risk of losing its iconic zoom-zoom status, good news: they’re not messing with the Miata. Sorry, “MX-5” (but always a Miata in our hearts). Or, not messing with it much. A limited Special Edition takes the most successful roadster in the world, and gives it an automatic retractable hardtop, premium and suspension packages, and sends it out the door. That this car still is such a hoot to drive, after more than 30 years in production, is a testament to Mazda’s dedication to keeping driving fun. –And hopefully a sign it will continue to do so, for many years more.
(Photos courtesy manufacturer)