From "Zoom-Zoom" to "Driving Matters," Mazdas have always been a bit special.
When you think of a company that builds sporty cars that are also comfortable and enjoyable to drive every day, your mind may drift towards BMW. However, what if you really don't have the money to buy a German luxury car. What company do you think of then? There are plenty of budget manufacturers that build sporty models, but one that stands out for its sporty and practical cars is Mazda. The Japanese car brand was founded in 1920 and has gone through many changes throughout the years, evolving to become the premier manufacturer of fun cars.
For those of you who have a Corvette or M3 in your garage, you're probably wondering what we're going on about. Just hear us out. We aren't crazy. It's tough to say that any Mazda model is as fun to drive as a purpose-built sports car that costs twice as much. However, if you are looking for a fun car and are on a budget that skews more towards affordability than luxury, Mazda is the way to go. Not everyone thinks that a Focus ST or Subaru WRX is low key after all. In fact, when car shopping, buyers sometimes ignore these models because they have higher insurance rates and are a bit showy. Plenty of people just buy a Toyota Camry, which is an OK car. But it can't compare to the fun that can be had in the Mazda6.
We spent a week driving the Mazda6, which competes against cars like the aforementioned Camry, Accord, Fusion, and Optima. In the past, these models have been the bane of the automotive enthusiast's existence. Sure, there was the occasional V6 manual Accord, but for the most part the midsize sedan segment was pretty soul-sucking. After our week in the Mazda6, we found out that buying a midsize sedan doesn't have to ruin your life. The 6's 184 hp 2.5-liter engine won't thrill you in a straight line, but the car is very well-balanced and has very responsive steering. You can even get the Mazda6 with a six-speed manual so you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of it.
Mazda's slogan used to be Zoom-Zoom, which really captured the peppy nature of the manufacturer's cars. The new slogan, Driving Matters, still shows that Mazda is not interested in building cars that are boring.
Driving really does matter to Mazda, and there is no better representation of this than the new MX-5. Even though the newest Miata has made concessions to modern times like electric steering, an infotainment center, and driver assistance technology, Mazda has still managed to keep the car pure. The Miata has never been about gobs of power, but more about the experience of driving. When behind the wheel of the MX-5, you know that it's your responsibility to get every ounce of performance from the car. Mazda has always developed the MX-5 with the philosophy of "Jinba Ittai" which describes the relationship between a horse and rider. Like this relationship, the driver needs to be in sync with the MX-5.
If you aren't paying attention in a Miata, you will be slow, or you will spin out. When you drive a modern Ferrari or BMW M car, there are tons of computers and sensors that help you go faster. In the MX-5, its all up to you. Mazda manages to capture the essence of the MX-5 in all of its models. Obviously, the CX-9 SUV doesn't feel exactly like a two-seat convertible, but you can certainly feel the family heritage in what is one hell of an impressive three-row crossover. Even though Mazda doesn't currently have any turbocharged MazdaSpeed models or rotary-powered RX sports cars anymore, the current lineup does show a willingness to build cars that don't put you to sleep, literally and figuratively.
Looks are very subjective, but we don't think that Mazda cars have ever looked so good. The Mazda range doesn't really have any "ugly" models at the moment, and many models are starting to feel a lot more upscale. Mazda has even copied the infotainment controller that German luxury brands use, and we think that its interiors are starting to look more Audi-like every year. If you consider yourself a bit more "low-key," but don't want a car that is completely boring, then Mazda is definitely the manufacturer for you.