Four Mazda vehicles were given a test drive: a sports car, two sedans, and a favorite SUV. Let’s start with the Miata MX-5. While this is the last year for this model, with a redesign for 2016 on the way — this version is still worth a look. Under the hood is a 167 horsepower engine with a 5-speed manual gearbox. A 6-speed manual is optional, as is a 6-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters. Power is reduced to 158, but the car was just as quick as the manual version. Gas mileage is rated at 21/28 which is what was recorded during the test drive.
Driving this car is great fun. A real sports car, with quick handling and great brakes. There is no spare tire, so carrying a few cans of Stop-Leak in the trunk is a good idea. The base car comes with the traditional soft top, but an optional electric hard top is available. It allows open air commuting, but in bad weather, just press a button and there is a solid roof over your head. A nice feature, but an expensive one. In fact, the base price of the MX-5 is only $24K. This test car was loaded up with leather, hard top, and all the goodies, so it was $33K. Still, a nice sports car that makes driving fun again.
Next was the Mazda 6 Sedan. This car was an upscale Grand Touring version which means it was loaded up with everything, so it was $34K. The engine is a 2.5 liter putting out 184 horsepower. Gas mileage with the 6-speed manual is listed at 25/37 mpg. The automatic tranny is listed at 26/38. This car is fine for daily commuting, with a nice interior and comfortable ride. But it also acts like a sport sedan with plenty of power, sharp cornering ability, and strong brakes. It wants to be driven hard! There are a few complaints. First, the auto-dimming mirror can’t be turned off, so using the mirrors at night is a pain as the glass is blacked out. Secondly, on a sunny day, the dash reflects into the windshield. But the rest of the interior is very good, with simple controls, roomy glove box, and quality materials. If there is no need for a lot of options, the base Model 6 sedan can be had for about $23K.
If the Mazda 6 is too expensive, the Mazda 3 Sedan is the way to go. It is really the same car, but just a bit smaller. Cheaper too, starting at $18K. This car was loaded up, so it was $26K. Under the hood is the same engine and gearbox as the Mazda 6 on the premium package, but the base car has a smaller 2.0 liter motor cranking out 155 horsepower. The automatic transmission offers great performance. This version had the 6-speed manual– it is a slick unit that makes driving a pleasure, and works well with that high winding engine. Add to that a suspension that loves tight corners, and strong brakes and it is almost as much fun to drive as the MX-5 sports car! The interior and exterior are almost a copy of the Mazda 6, but of course has less room inside. However, it is enough for four adults, and the trunk seems big enough, so no complaining on that point. If there is no need for the extra room of the Mazda 6, the Mazda 3 is a better pick.
Most people think of an SUV as boring to drive. Not so here. Like the Mazda 3, the Mazda CX-5 is also based on the excellent Mazda 6 sedan with all the good features. Consumers are offered the same two engine and gearbox choices, but because of the body shape and extra weight, fuel consumption drops a bit. This version had the bigger 2.5 liter motor which is rated at 26/33 mpg. In the real world, it got 28 on long highway trips. In an area where the roads are slick due to rain or snow, for better traction, the all-wheel drive can be ordered. However, doing so drops the gas mileage rating to 24/30 mpg. Because of its higher ground clearance, the CX-5 can be taken off-road. If there is AWD, this rig does great in soft sand. But realize this is a car chassis, not a Jeep, so dirt trails need to be taken lightly. That front nose hangs low too, so be careful when entering desert trail dips. But there is plenty of room inside for camping gear, easily loaded up. Back on the pavement, the CX-5 has the same great driving characteristics as the sedans. Overall a nice SUV. In fact, any four of these vehicles is an excellent choice.
Mazda is an underrated brand that deserved your attention!