Category Archives: Mazda

2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring (954)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring midsized crossover 6-seater.

I generally put a lot of miles on all my test cars at about 100 miles plus per day both on the highway and around town. This is a comfortable versatile crossover that looks good. I see it as a great family car for those with a limited budget for automobiles, but still want all the electronics we all seem to need in the 21st Century. And we know that our kids are so in touch with new technology that is the future for them. It is also a fact we spend a lot of time in our cars and kids under driving age must accompany us wherever we go. So having connectivity is more important every day. Not many cars today have wireless connection but that is coming.

Moreover this Mazda 5 is built with all the really important safety features like brake force distribution and stability and traction controls. These features are the hidden or at least not obvious, but important never-the-less. They are ones we should be aware of, understand, and demand them for the safe handling they provide. They are “invisible” until you need them and are in danger of getting out of control. It is then that they kick in and don’t allow you to make a big mistake. This Mazda has it all and it is all included in the MSRP price. I rather appreciate when they include all that neat stuff that we shouldn’t do without.

General Information: 

Parts from the US / Canada 0%, Japan 95%. It is assembled in Japan, Classification is Midsize. Cars from Mazda: Mazda 2,3,5,6, MazdaSpeed3, CX5, 7, 9, Mx5 Miata, RX-8 & Tribute.

Opinions and Observations:

I spend a lot of time on the road and observe, as you do I’m sure, how much we see the CHP issuing tickets. That, to me, is a sign the state needs revenue and the CHP needs the revenue to protect their jobs. Yes, they are back again but you know as well as I do, they are not here in a role of HIGHWAY PATROL that is ostensibly there to serve us who pay them. You won’t notice them remove debris from the road to keep us safe. Nope – we must be ever diligent at 70 MPH to avoid the danger we pay the CHP to remove and thus dodge and swerve in danger maneuvers around tires, ladders, bumpers and all manner of junk. Now THAT is a danger they seem to ignore, while they sit along the roadside with their “impressive” radar guns to be sure you don’t exceed the posted speed limits.

So I say to the CHP we know your presence is not to protect and serve but to be the instrument of “tax collection” for a wasteful, out of control, government. Me – I’d rather see us lay off a bunch of those “Highway Patrol persons” – because we the people just can’t afford them.

So this is a friendly reminder to all you drivers to be smarter than the problem and slow down and pay attention to what you are doing out there on the highway. Then you can avoid yet another hidden tax in the use of the highways.

The exception is: If you are driving and texting or touching up your lip gloss I think you know you deserve those fines because you endanger all of the rest of us. $300 to $1,000 fines – I’m not sure how excessive they are even if they are arbitrary.

Handling & Performance:

I enjoyed zipping around town which is where we spend most of our driving time while at the same time it is a great commuter that is comfortable even for longer trips. I never wanted for or felt the engine was laboring. But if you want neck breaking acceleration you won’t be happy if you expect 0-60 mph in less than 9.5 seconds.

Styling:

Nicely designed with flowing lines that work. They also included lots of thoughtful features that everyone in the family will appreciate.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Priced right considering all the standard features.

Conveniences and comfort:

Outstanding in class with well thought out design for seating 6 people.

Consumer Recommendation:

Look at some of the more expensive competitors I’ve included below and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised you can do better for your transportation dollar.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda 5 $24,000, Honda Fit $20,000, Kia Soul $17,000, Ford Transit Connect $22,000, and some other close competitors a step up in price that are worthy of comparison: Kia Sorento $24-34,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $24-38,000, Toyota Venza $29-40,000, Honda Crosstour $29-38,000, Ford Escape $23-31,000, Chevy Equinox $25-33,000.

Good News:

Effectively competes with some upper classmates, well priced, great around town and open road midsize car that seats 6.

Bad News:

A little less fuel efficiency than is common in today’s world because growing gas prices will only go higher. It seats 6 but it will be a little tight most noticeable on those longer trips.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 157 horsepower inline 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, front wheel drive, 17” alloy wheels, rain sensing wipers, rear wiper with washer, 6-passenger seating, 2nd row captain chairs with under seat storage and fold out table, 50/50 split fold sown 3rd row seats, leather heated front seats 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes with EBD (electronic brake force distribution), electronic power assist steering, traction control, stability control, front and side curtain airbags all three rows, tire pressure monitor, independent front and rear suspension, auto headlights, rear lift gate with spoiler, climate control, 2nd row vents, audio with Sirius sat radio, USB audio input, Bluetooth phone and audio system, power windows and locks, power moon roof, remote keyless entry, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, tilt and telescopic steering column,

Gas Stats:

$3.41 / Gal avg. December 31, 2012

www.fueleconomy.gov

For more information.

22 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $24,470.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

2013 Mazda2 Touring MT (948)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2013 Mazda2 Touring MT. Small, cheap? Smaller for Mazda is the MX-5 Miata. This Mazda 2 has a rear seat, and it fits 5 average size people comfortably. They make good use of the space and it even has decent cargo area. Amazing how much they can get into a small outside dimension car. Cheap – yes and the fuel economy is very good at up to 35 mpg.

If you impress your friends with this car, they are really wise and grounded and you have chosen your friends wisely.

It is a low weight vehicle and only has 100 horsepower but you will be surprised how well it uses that power. I never considered it a negative for me on my commute and I felt safe and stable all the time.

General Information:

Parts from the US / Canada 0%, Japan 95%. It is assembled in Hiroshima, Japan, Classification is Compact. Cars from Mazda: Mazda 2,3,5,6, MazdaSpeed3, CX5, 7,9, Mx5 Miata, RX-8 & Tribute.

Handling & Performance:

It is a delight to zip around town in, and on the open road highway it performs well and you will go a lot of miles as inexpensively as it gets these days. The 5-speed manual transmission is easy to shift and is the reason it performs so well on 100 horsepower. An automatic transmission is available for those who don’t like manual transmissions. I didn’t test the auto trans but saw no real drawback with the manual.

Styling:

“Pea Popper” is the first impression for me at first sight. But there are smaller cars like the Mercedes Benz Smart Car that will only seat 2. The design of small compact cars is amazing how they can give the feeling it is larger than the obvious small outside shell. Simply a no-nonsense car to get you from point A to B. It won’t win any beauty contest with me but it won’t pick your pocket either. It is as low maintenance as they get. The pretty ones will not only pick your pocket they will break your heart.

Fit and Finish:

Very good in class.

Cost:

All around – great value with prices starting at about $15,000. The field of competition is very close in price.

Conveniences and comfort:

A lot of standard convenience features as well as those that enhance safe driving with such things as Stability and Traction control. I think every car these days should be equipped with Hands Free Bluetooth but for the money I could buy a portable device.

Consumer Recommendation:

Small cars concern some but that is over-played. I have driven ‘em all and recommend you test drive this car that seats 5 relatively comfortably. I wouldn’t hesitate taking it on a long trip but then I’ve taken a vacation for the week in a Corvette with wife and two small kids. In comparison this is an SUV.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda 2 $16,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12,000, Chevrolet Sonic $14,000, Ford Fiesta $16,000, Honda Fit $15,000, Hyundai Accent $15,000, Hyundai Veloster $17,000, Kia Rio $14,000, Mitsubishi i $29,000, Nissan Versa $15,000, Scion iQ $15,000, Scion xD $15,000, Smart fortwo $12,000, Toyota Prius c $19,000, Toyota Yaris $14,000.

Good News:

Spacious interior in a compact, that gets up to 35 mpg, fun to drive.

Bad News:

Light small car that some will be uncomfortable from a perceived safety point of view.

Standard Equipment:

1.5 liter 100 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, front wheel drive, stability and traction control systems, front side and side curtain airbags, 16” alloy wheels, rear window defogger and wiper, rear roof spoiler, 5-passenger seating, tilt leather steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cloth seats, air conditioning, 12 volt outlet, power ABS front disc and rear drum braking system with Electronic Brake Distribution, anti-theft engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitor, power steering, power mirrors, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, auxiliary audio jack and USB, audio with 6 speakers, trip computer and LATCH system.

Gas Stats:

$3.67 / Gal avg. November 20, 2012

www.fueleconomy.gov

For more information.

29 City and 35 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $16,210.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2012 – An Automotive Love Affair

2012 Mazda5 Sport (890)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2012 Mazda 5 Sport through the eyes of colleague Vince Bodiford.

Vince says – The Mazda5 is a unique blend of different automotive ideas – it’s part minivan, part SUV and part sedan. The resulting package is what Mazda calls a “sport activity vehicle,” or SAV, that we found to be abundantly useful and fun to drive. It doesn’t fit into a mold, it can’t be defined by a segment. It suits a family, but thrives in an active lifestyle setting. One could say it’s a vehicle right where everything else isn’t.

The 2012 Mazda5 incorporates motifs from Mazda’s “flow” design language which they say is inspired by the beauty of nature. The outside styling is consistent with the Mazda design language. The profile is low and long, with a high beltline, Mazda signature front grille, and a large greenhouse with lots of glass. The coolest feature of the styling is a curvy “wave” running the length of the side that is pressed into the sheet metal. It’s an interesting look that is a break from the cookie-cutter minivans of yesterday.

Mazda design carries over nicely into the interior, which is large and very user-friendly. The driver-oriented design of the interior positions the peak of the meter hood as the tall point, with all lines flowing from there to comfortably wrap around the driver. The instrument panel flows from the cockpit to the center panel and on to the passenger-side dashboard in a liquid effect. The same flow continues on through the lines of the seat pattern, connecting seamlessly with the second and third row seats to create a strong sense of unity throughout the interior.

The MAZDA5 features “theater-style” seating. The stepped floor means each row is mounted a little higher than the one in front to improve visibility for all. The driver, too, benefits from excellent visibility, improving primary safety as well as making driving more enjoyable.

But good design would be lost if it were not for content and comfort – and the Mazda5 scores high points on both. Bring your lifestyle along for the ride, with available Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, GPS mapping, and a long list of accessories. All the seats have a “captain’s chair” feel and are comfortable, removable, and adjustable.

The base engine (tested) is a 157-hp, 2.5L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (VVT) and a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed Sport automatic transmission. This combination provides ample and linear power, and easily delivers up to 28-mpg – which is remarkable for a true six-seater.

The chassis is sturdy, quiet and delivers and excellent ride. Handling is crisp, steering is very accurate with a light steering wheel feel. Braking is achieved through 4-wheel anti-locking disc brakes, with available traction control.

For this test, we drove the 5Sport all over the city, and also took it for a short road test out of town. We began to think of the car as having a split personality – high-density urban people-mover on one hand, and comfortable family touring sedan on the other. And since most of us ask a lot from our cars, the Mazda5 seems well equipped to do many jobs for us, and do them well.

The Mazda5 is available in three trim levels – the entry-level Sport, Touring and top-grade Grand Touring. All three trim levels offer the versatility, features and style that consumers in the market for a multi-activity vehicle want, at an affordable price.

This “large” small car is also affordable. Pricing starts at $19,345 for the Sport model with manual transmission. Factory Limited Warranty is 3-years/36,000 miles and 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. There are no exact rivals for the model, but the nearest comparisons are the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV-4.

Overall, we like the Mazda5. With sporty performance, pure athletic head-turning design and a roomy interior, the Mazda5 defies category labels while being quite unexpected.

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., many Mazda cars are styled in Southern California, and sold through over 900 dealers. Last year, Mazda celebrated its 40th Anniversary in the US. For more information, see you local Mazda dealer, or visit MazdaUSA.com

Recognized Competition:

Mazda 5 $19,000, Chevrolet HHR $19,000, Dodge Nitro $22,000, Ford Transit Connect $22,000, Honda Element $21,000, Honda Fit $18,000, Jeep Patriot $16,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $22,000, Nissan Rogue $21,000, Subaru Forester $20,000, Toyota Matrix $19,000, Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen $20,000.

Gas Stats:

$3.81/ Gal avg. Oct 22, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

21 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $19,345.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2012 Mazda 3 (884)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Mazda 3 Grand Tourning. I could have used the added space on my recent road trip in the Mazda 2, although it was fine for two. That speaks to need, right? Common sense will tell you what size car you will need if you think ahead a bit. Son Mike texted me from Utah – “It’s a boy”. Number 5 for them and I can only say I’m glad they didn’t begin their family any earlier. Even so wife Lindsey is only in her mid thirties and could pump out a few more over the next 5 years. I guess they won’t need seating for more than 7 for a while so the big SUV they have is just fine.

General Info: 

0% of Parts are from the US and Canadian; 99% come from Japan including the Engine & Transmission. It is assembled in Hiroshima, Japan. Class is Compact. Cars from Mazda – CX-7, CX-9, Mazda 2,3,5 & 6, MAZDASPEED3, MX-5 Miata, RX-8, Tribute, Tribute Hybrid & Truck..

Opinion:

My Opthomologist knows that I review cars so she asked my advice. “My daughter is a senior in high school and I’m most interested in getting her the safest car possible when she goes to college next year”. How about this brand or that she asks?

Honestly it is not the brand so much as knowing your daughters level of responsibility and where they will be commuting. So we discussed the real important and latest features available in today’s world of automotive technology. Generally that means you need to move up a notch in class and therefore price to buy and operate. But no matter what the brand, I suggest you pick a car that includes Dynamic Braking Control, Vehicle Stability Control and sensors to detect cars in your blind spots.

You will also have to consider if she is even ready for a car, or does she need one where she’s going to college.

Youthful inexperience can be dangerous and taking corners way too fast is a common mistake. That’s where the smart braking system comes in handy as it will automatically correct for ‘stupid’. Oh, that’s right, at that age they already know everything, you say.

At the end of our discussion the Doc says her daughter is looking at NYU and in New York a car is a handicap rather than a help, so you’re off the hook. There are no places to park, and if you do find a place to park it is like paying rent on a brownstone walk up.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent handling as I found on the Crest Test. Angeles Crest Highway is now opened up here in the San Gabriel Mountain Range area of California so I was able to give this Mazda 3 a chance to show its cornering characteristics. It was really quite capable in ‘class’. However the Laguna Seca racing decals didn’t make any difference that I could tell. The 167 horsepower inline 4 cylinder engine is lively and the 6-speed manual transmission is well geared.

Styling:

It is sporty and youthful in the style of today’s look.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

I’m so impressed with the value there is in today’s cars in this class with an average price of about $20,000.

Conveniences and comfort:

The real comfort you will feel comes from those neat safety features like ‘blind spot’ sensors that is a part of this Mazda 3. When you signal to move to another lane the car system beeps to alert you of a car that is already in that lane even though you can’t see in your rearview mirror.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda 3 $23,000, Audi A3 $27,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $18,000, Chevrolet Cruze $17,000, Chevrolet HHR $19,000, Dodge Caliber $17,000, Ford Focus $17,000, Honda Civic $16,000, Honda Civic Hybrid $24,000, Honda CR-Z $19,000, Hyundai Elantra $16,000, Hyundai Elantra Tourning $16,000, Kia Forte $15,000, Kia Forte Koup $17,000, MINI Clubman $25,000, MINI Cooper $23,000, MINI Countryman $25,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $15,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution $34,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback $17,000, Nissan Sentra $16,000, Scion tC $18,000, Subaru Impreza $18,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $16,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $16,000, Toyota Corolla $16,000, Toyota Matrix $21,000, Volkswagen Golf $20,000, Volkswagen GTI $24,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $20,000, Volvo S30 $25,000, Volvo S40 $28,000.

Good News:

Comfortable, sporty, fast and fun to drive and great safety features.

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 167 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, front wheel drive, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, stability control, traction control, dual remote power mirrors, air conditioning, audio with CD changer, remote keyless entry, power windows & auto door locks, leather seating for 5 – power driver, second row folding seat, tilt leather steering wheel with controls and telescoping column, trip computer, cruise control, LATCH Anchor system & child safety door locks, power sunroof, front and side airbags, tire pressure monitor, .

Gas Stats:

$3.89/ Gal avg. September 11, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

22 City and 29 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $23,010.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Mazda 2 Touring (882)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Mazda 2 Touring 4-door compact car that is more capable than it first appears. It is new to the U.S. market for the 2011 model year, but sold in other markets since 2007.  It shares a platform with Ford’s Fiesta, meaning the chassis and general body structure are common, but the suspension components, drivetrain and interior are all unique to Mazda.

I’ve gotta believe the market for this little car will be for younger buyers or those just starting out or simply on a tight budget. I would buy this car for my kid to get through college. Why, because it is like the VW Beetle that helped get me through my college years.

And like the VW we were confident to take it anywhere. I took this Mazda 2 on a road trip and I wouldn’t have known how totally impressive it is in all regards if I hadn’t. It seats 5 if it has to but comfy for 4 on the highway. It might be a stretch for luggage if all four don’t pack carefully. But two of us took way more than needed and still had plenty of room. And fuel economy doesn’t get much better. It gets high marks from for me and my passenger Richard who couldn’t stop telling folks what a great car it is.

General Info: 

0% of Parts are from the US and Canadian; 99% come from Japan including the Engine & Transmission. It is assembled in Hiroshima, Japan. Class is Compact. Cars from Mazda – CX-7, CX-9, Mazda 2,3,5 & 6, MAZDASPEED3, MX-5 Miata, RX-8,Tribute, Tribute Hybrid & Truck..

Opinion:

Changing lanes: The Mazda 6 comes to mind that had a sensor to warn you of cars in your blind spots, but there are other perils on the highway that you should think about. Some dangers are not obvious and not always present. Debris! Force yourself to make it a habit of looking ahead between lanes before you make the move. Between lanes is where objects are quickly moved by other cars hitting them. There isn’t much you can do about objects in the middle of your lane, but debris between lanes can be avoided.

It never seems to fail that if there is something between lanes “Murphy’s Law” says you will change lanes just in time to hit whatever is there. Panic, however, can turn a flat tire or slight damage to your car, into a serious accident. So look ahead and you’ll have a chance to avoid such road hazards.

Handling & Performance:

Richard asked if this Mazda has a rotary engine’? No but I had to wonder if the Wankel engine is still used in any models in Mazda’s lineup – so I asked Meridith at Mazda. She said no… but it is not off the table completely. “It is just put to rest”. I’m sure Wankel would be saddened but it has been a less than perfect engine for the automobile over the years. Meanwhile the Rotary has  some aircraft applications. Don’t be surprised if it returns someday soon to the automobile.

As to handling I’m not as convinced as some that it takes the corners all that well, but then I tend to push the corners a little harder than the average driver. I’m looking forward to driving it on the track in November and reconsider cornering characteristics.

As to power I have to say Mazda engineers get a lot of performance out of 1.5 liters and 100 horsepower that will pull the grades in 5th gear and only on a couple of occasions did I need to shift down to 4th, right when RPM dropped below 3,000. Impressive.

Styling:

Yes, you can call it a ‘pea popper’ and the wild green color on my test vehicle is even brighter that a pea. It reminds me of a rebellious youth who colors their hair wild colors. The general design gives it that not quite grown up look, but make no mistake, this is full grown and you will either love it or not. The girls think it is cute so that explains why the guys aren’t impressed.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

In today’s world it is clear anyone can own a new car that is not only affordable to buy, operating cost is also low with 35 hwy miles per gallon. Thanks Mazda.

Conveniences and comfort:

I missed the ‘blind spot monitoring system’ of the Mazda 6. But more importantly Richard and I were so impressed with the comfortable seats and solid handling. This will help Mazda 2 become a winner with consumers.

Richard commented that on a long ride these Mazda 2 seats are more comfortable than his wife’s new Ford Fusion. He had just returned from a road trip in the Ford and thought it was terrible compared to the Mazda.

Consumer Recommendation:

If price is a consideration and you need a good commuter that is also road worthy on longer trips  you will have to give the Mazda 2 careful consideration. When I saw it is assembled in Hiroshima, Japan I had an instant flashback to when I stood at ‘ground zero’ where the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. Memories linger of the people I met there in 1959 who were scared physically and I imagine mentally. It touched me deeply, and I suspect this Mazda 2 has a bit more meaning for me than simply being a nice little car.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda 2 $16,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12,000, Chevrolet Aveo5 $12,000, Chevrolet Sonic $14,000, Fiat 500 $16,000, Ford Fiesta $13,000, Honda Fit $15,000, Hyundai Accent $14,000, Kia Rio $12,000, Kia Rio 5 $15,000, Nissan Versa $ n/a, Scion xD $15,000, Toyota Yaris $13,000.

Good News:

Exceptional fuel economy, and outstanding comfort.

Bad News:

Different styling that will make it unattractive to some. Richard didn’t care for the shifter up on the dash but I didn’t have a problem with that design.

Standard Equipment:

1.5 liter 100 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, front wheel drive, vehicles anti theft, 4-wheel power ABS front disc and rear drum brakes, stability control, traction control, 18” alloy wheels, dual remote power mirrors, air conditioning, audio withCD changer,  remote keyless entry, power windows & auto door locks, cloth seating for 5, 60/40 split fold down rear seats, tilt leather steering wheel, trip computer, cruise control,LATCH Anchor system & child safety door locks,  front and side and side curtain airbags.

Gas Stats:

$3.85/ Gal avg. September 2, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

29 City and 35 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $16,680.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Mazda CX9 SUV (879)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Mazda CX9 – which was a Rental from Enterprise while on Vacation in Sandpoint, Idaho, USA. Not a press car but this is a great way to see a new car that has been abused by renters… know what I mean?!

Anyway it was a good experience and the car was holding up well against the abuse. I have tested the CX9 in the past so I had some reference point from a new vehicle driven very little,  from the factory. Kudo’s to Mazda. Everything worked and it was still Zoom, Zoom, Zooming…

General Info: 

55% of Parts are from the US and Canadian; 35% come from Japan including the Engine & Transmission. It is assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan, USA. Class is Midsize. Cars from Mazda – CX-7, CX-9, Mazda 2,3,5 & 6, MAZDASPEED3, MX-5 Miata, RX-8, Tribute, Tribute Hybrid & Truck..

Handling & Performance:

I took it off road and never had a problem with this FWD (Front Wheel Drive) version. In most cases you won’t ever need 4-wheel drive anyway although I would have preferred it in the places I was taking this SUV.

Styling:

I like it, even if it is a typical look of most of today’s SUVs that obviously appeal to a lot of people. Most all brands have adopted a similar look because that is what consumers want from an SUV.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

$29-34,000 is an expected price range for this class SUV and acceptable.

Conveniences and comfort:

As a rental car it was pretty basic. I like navigation, but I still recommend getting an add-on product like Tom-Tom or Garmin, to save money. This rental did not have Nav so I just used my phone Navigation application – VZ Navigator. . . still cheaper than a factory option. I’m sure manufacturers will give up eventually because the option is still way more expensive than I can justify. They can’t compete with portable units now but as the const continues downward they may be able to make it a standard feature in time.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda CX9 $29,000, Acura MDX $43,000, Audi Q5 $35,000, BMW X5 $46,000, Buick Enclave $37,000, Cadillac Escalade $63,000, Chevrolet Traverse $29,000, Dodge Durango $29,000, Dodge Journey $22,000, Ford Flex $29,000, GMC Acadia $33,000, Honda Pilot $28,000, Hyundai Veracruz $28,000, Infiniti QX56 $59,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $30,000, Kia Borego $26-40,000, Lexus RX 350 $39,000, Lincoln MKX $39,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $28,000, Nissan Murano $29,000, Subaru Tribeca $30,000, Toyota Highlander $28,000, Toyota Sequoia $41,000.

Good News:

In the hunt price wise in class, nice styling, very comfy and nice handling.

Bad News:

Only Fair fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

3.7 liter 273 horsepower V-6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, traction control, power moon roof, dual remote power mirrors, air conditioning,  audio with CD changer, remote keyless entry, power windows & auto door locks, power leather seats with 60/40 split fold down rear seats, seats 7, tilt & telescopic steering column,  , leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, trip computer, Bluetooth phone, cruise control, sun visors with extensions, LATCH child safety seat anchors, front and side and side curtain airbags.

Gas Stats:

$3.63/ Gal avg. August 8, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $31,055.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring AWD (862)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring AWD SUV. I must say it has been a delight driving this SUV. It is amazing how much car you can get for the money. Consider 1967 a nice Chevrolet Malibu was about $2,500 plus. Well in today’s dollars that pretty basic car would be over $40,000. And that Malibu got about 7-12 miles per gallon of gas. So relatively speaking a $30,000 purchase price and 16-22 mpg for this Mazda SUV is a great improvement. And with seating for 7 it is very versatile for a larger family.

As you surely know by now, many Japanese cars are assembled in the US. Not so with this Mazda, and for those of you who have visited Hiroshima after 1945 it is a modern city where several cars are made today. I was there in 1960 and must admit one has to wonder if radioactivity is such a big deal. An Atom Bomb dropped there in 1945 hasn’t been a problem at least as far back as 1960. At least I’m not glowing.

General Info: 10% of Parts are from the US and Canadian; 85% come from Japan including the Engine & Transmission. It is assembled in Hiroshima, Japan. Class is SUV AWD. Cars from Mazda – CX-7, CX-9, Mazda2,3,5,6, MAZDASPEED3, MX-5 Miata, RX-8, Tribute, Tribute Hybrid & Truck.

Opinion: 

Unless you are happy paying $5-6- or 7.00 / gal of gas, you’d better start yelling at congress to ‘drill-baby-drill’. The USA is #1 in world oil reserves, Russia is a distant second and the Middle East is 3rd. Our reserves are said to be 200 years worth of oil. I for one am tired of pouring our money into the coffers of middle east ‘sheiks’ and tribal elder idiots to bring them out of the stone age. It’s time for us to shore up our own country. How about you?

Consider further transportation in 200 years will be far different than gas burning engines. Six years ago I tested the Hi-Wire Hydrogen powered car and it was then estimated it would be about 5 years before it would be available commercially. We aren’t that far away from that reality and it is not so far-fetched we’ll power our cars one day on sea water unless we’re not already using ‘molecular transportation’ systems by then to ‘beam us up Scotty’.

Hey, some studies on technology are telling us in 50 years we’ll be able to download our brains onto computers. Come on, lets face it, we have nothing to fear but fear itself and some will try to scare you into believing the planet will ‘implode’ if we extract oil from the earth. I don’t think we’re that stupid.

The current federal government administration is continuing the policies of the past which serves only to push gas prices up. It is clear they want to FORCE you and me to buy greenerwhich means -30-35 mpg in today’s world. Say what bro? What about our free market capitalist system? You know, the one I learned about in college Econ 101.

Quit trying to dictate how we should live or spend my money. We rebelled against the tyranny of King George and now they’re trying to manipulate us again because they think they know better. I say, throw the bums out and Exile them all to an Island with Qaddafi and other pin head dictators and set ourselves free once again. The rest of the world is expressing the desire to have what America had more of just 50 years ago. Those countries are now being toppled like domino’s in their quest for freedom and liberty which is a natural desire of all people. Right here in the USA today’s leaders are as bad as other control freak dictators around the world and need to be replaced with common sense folks. Telling me what to do is simply un-American. The French would say, “Off with their Heads”.

Handling & Performance:

Wonderfully comfortable and capable. You can’t want for much more and it is AWD safe. Ok, so the fuel economy is not the best, especially with today’s prices between $4 and $5/ gallon, but if you have a need for seating for 7, this is likely the most economical transporation.

Styling:

Among the more stylish of SUVs. Nice job Mazda.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

About average in the field.

Conveniences and comfort:

The features included standard for the pricing noted for this CX-9 is tops. What we pay for creature comforts continues to be less of the cost of the entire package as free market technology roars forward. In spite of 22 mpg max common for this class SUV it is still the best we have if you are like my son with 4 kids requiring seating for 7. Can you imagine going on vacation or just taking the kids to school WITHOUT a vehicle of this size? Of course not.

Consumer Recommendation:

Once again if you ever doubted this class SUV is in high demand just look at all the brands. And capitalist companies do what comes naturally – they give the consumer what they want and need.

Of the manufacturers listed here I’m impressed with the Korean and American for price and I have driven all of them. The Japanese – Mazda and Mitsubishi are top condenders and next on my list.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda CX-9 $35,000, Acura MDX $43,000, Audi Q5 $43,000, BMW X5 $52,000, Buick Enclave $44,000, Cadillac Esclade $66,000, Chevrolet Traverse $31,000, Dodge Durango $31,000, Dodge Journey $30,000, Ford Flex $34,000, GMC Acadia $36,000, Honda Pilot $40,000, Hyundai Veracruz $30,000, Infiniti QX56 $62,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $39,000, Kia Borrego $40,000, Lexus RX350 $40,000, Lincoln MKX $41,000, Lincoln Navigator $60,000, Mitsubishi Enedavor $34,000, Nissan Murano $38,000, Subaru Tribeca $36,000, Toyota Highlander $35,000, Toyota Highlander Hybrid $43,000, Toyota Sequoia $60,000.

Good News:

Well priced, great safety and comfort features and powerful. Great ride that is also great looking.

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

3.7 liter 273 horsepower V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, active torque split all wheel drive, 20” aluminum alloy wheels, roof spoiler, rain sensing wipers, heater power mirrors, 7-passenger seating, tilt & telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, speed sensing door locks, power windows with remote opening, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather heated 8-way driver seat with memory, heated power front passenger seat, 4-wheel ABS vented power disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, stability control, roll over protection and roll stability control, blind spot monitoring system, tire pressure monitor, auto headlights, fog lights, power lift gate, 60/40 split fold down 2nd & 50/50 3rd row seats, Bluetooth, audio with CD and 6-speakers, climate control, keyless entry with start system, trip computer, dynamic stability control, front and side airbags, anti theft engine immobilizer and alarm, LATCH child safety system.

Gas Stats:

$4.09/ Gal avg. April 8, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 22 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $34,535.

2011 Mazda RX-8 (849)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2011 Mazda RX-8 sports car. The RX-8 is a fun coupe that revs smoothly thanks to the unique Rotary engine, and the ride is sports car impressive. Handling is agile and the steering is communicative – meaning you can sense the road through the power assist. Although the Rotary engine is smooth, fuel economy is disappointing because I expected more.

The Rotary Engine – Advantages:

Mechanical simplicity – far fewer parts than a piston engine that cuts manufacturing costs and decreased weight without valves, camshaft, rocker arms, timing belts or flywheel. That leads to less and easier repairs. Rotary engines were used early on to power aircraft due to high power-to-weight ratio. Rotary means less vibration and it will continue to run for a time, whereas a piston engine will stop running immediately under similar stresses.

Disadvantages:

Leakage between engine chambers is common resulting in a loss of efficiency over time. They are not expected to last as long as traditional reciprocating piston engines and design includes burning small amounts of engine oil, thus requiring more frequent checking and adding oil.

Applications:

A safer choice for aircraft and preferred by many in sports and racing cars, (notable in Mazda’s RX series) due to being able to run at high rpm and produce more power.

Other applications preferring a smooth operation include go-karts, personal watercraft, gas generators, motorcycles and chainsaws.

Read more at http://www.ehow.com/about_5113539_pros-amp-cons-rotary-engine.html#ixzz1BDjWyciA

Opinion:
Putting yourself in Harm’s Way – don’t do it on the highway where your full attention is imperative. I try to drive defensively and encourage you to do the same.

Be aware of where you are, in relation to other drivers, and avoid putting yourself in places that box you in, or where you can’t be seen. No one wants to have an accident – that’s why they are call accidents. Consider that if another driver makes a move in a panic, without being able to see you in their blind spots or is drunk, asleep or whatever you must be able to react to avoid an accident. It is not a case of if it will happen but ‘when’, because it WILL happen.

Handling & Performance:

The RX-8 is agile but not the quickest horse in the barn. But overall this 1.3 liter rotary engine is impressive in design and performance, in that it develops 232 horsepower out of only 1.3 liters.

Styling:

Sporty and low slung gives it superb handling, but for the same reason you’ll struggle to get in and out of either front or rear seats. The rear-hinged rear doors make it far easier to enter and exit the back seat albeit the space is suited best for little people.

That’s not a bad design but a simple fact for any sports car. Sports car enthusiasts understand that design and although my first assumption is that buyers must surely be younger. Not true. Older less agile folks overlook the inconvenience common to these little high performance vehicles.

According to Sports Car Marketing 54% of their readers have a net worth in excess of $2 million and 60% have an annual household income of $250,000 or more. Subscribers are serious buyers – 41% own five or more collector cars and a staggering 73% say they will buy another collector car in the next year. The conclusion they make is that high net worth readers are not just lookers but rather they are Buyers.

An interesting read on the Sports Car Market can be found at http://www.sportscarmarket.com/about/advertising/circulation-a-demographics .

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

A pricey class but the RX-8 may be the best bang for your buck.

Conveniences and comfort:

Once you get into the driver seat you will appreciate the ease of accessing all features that are numerous. If you fly a small aircraft you will appreciate the sports car experience. Bigger is better only when you need to tote a lot of folks and stuff around. Ilona and I took a road trip in a Mazda Miata MX-5 that turned into one of the more memorable travel experiences. Even further back in my younger family travel years four of us including all luggage loaded on the rear trunk rack of a Corvette made for a vacation not soon forgotten.

Consumer Recommendation:

The Rotary engine was designed in 1954 by German Engineer Felix Wankel. And although it has been embraced by few automobile manufacturers it should not dissuade you from owning this unique sports car. If the Rotary Engine is good enough for the airplane I fly it’s good enough for my car.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda RX-8 $27-32,000, Audi TT $38-49,000, BMW 1-Series $29-41,000, BMW Z4 $47-62,000, Chevrolet Camaro $23-40,000, Chevrolet Corvette $49-120,000, Dodge Challenger $23-41,000, Ford Mustang $22-38,000, Hyundai Genesis Coupe $22-32,000, Infiniti G Convertible $45-57,000, Infiniti G Coupe $36-50,000, Mercedes Benz SLK $48-53,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $19-33,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution $34-37,000, Nissan Z $31-41,000, Volkswagen GTI $24-30,000.

Good News:

Fun to drive, well priced in class and tried and true unique power plant.

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

1.3 liter 232 horsepower rotary engine, 6-speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, traction control, 18” aluminum allow wheels, power mirrors, Xenon headlights, fog lights, auto on/off lights, climate control, 300 watt Bose stereo with 6-disc CD changer and 9-speakers, power windows & locks, leather seats, 8-way power driver seat with 3 memory settings, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, keyless entry, sport tuned suspension, electronic assisted direct drive steering, front wishbone and rear multi-link suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, rear window defogger, rain sensing wipers, power moon roof, rear bucket seats with trunk pass through, Bluetooth phone, SIRIUS satellite radio with 6 month subscription, front and side and side curtain airbags and tire pressure monitor.

Gas Stats:

$3.33/ Gal avg. Jan 17, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 22 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $32,265.

2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata (839)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata. I first tested it in 1995 and there is no question it has gone through gradual changes since then. But the biggest changes have been over the past ten years to give it more power and room. But for me the 2009 with the new styled grill and some lights and cowling enhancements has launched it into a whole new era for this lovely roadster. Thanks to the design folks who have done gradual thoughtful changes to this favorite of mine ever since that first test. I know it is hard to believe it could have ever been smaller than it is in 2011, but it was. More importantly it is more well made today and those of you who have owned as many as I have tested over the years can attest to the maturing of this great little sport car.

Well, Ilona and I took this 2011 MX-5 to Las Vegas for the SEMA / AAPEX show this year and it was a pleasure. She doesn’t like to drive so I got all the pleasure, but she commented on how well the ride felt. She has never complained about the smallness and I don’t either. It is what it is and when you put it on it fits perfectly. If you’re a diver you’ll be able to relate when I say it is like putting on a wet suit – without zippers.Well I must admit the luggage area is still limited and it makes you think carefully about what you will need to wear. Fortunately Ilona packs light and if you need a suit you’d best wear it on the trip rather than trying to fit it in the car. Even so it was good the hotel had an iron and ironing board. Me, well I would have put the top down but I didn’t even suggest it, know what I mean ladies.

Handling & Performance:

Mileage numbers have not improved since my review in 1999 with 25 and 29 mpg when horsepower was only 140 then as compared to this 167 hp model in 2011. At introduction, the 1990 sported 116 horsepower and did no better in fuel economy than 1999. Handling however has improved greatly with a heavier more solid feel. It is as stable at 90 as it is at lower, around town, speed.

Styling:

Mazda has made only subtle changes in overall look over the years, but it is more substantial or stronger looking and the wider and larger grille gives it a bigger car look. I particularly love the new styling that began in 2009. Nice job guys.

Fit and Finish:

Improvement over the years is nice to see for a car you like a lot. Although it has always been well fit together it is far beefier and eliminates that tinny sound of the early models when closing the hood, trunk and doors.

Cost:

At launch it was about $13,000. Considering the passage of time and the vast improvement in the car today’s pricing is quite good with the MSRP of $23,000.

Consumer Recommendation:

The closest competition comes from GM with the Solstice and the Sky but nothing else touches these three pricewise. Clearly this Mazda and the American cars are the best buys in this class car for the money. More importantly you gain very little in driving pleasure with the more expensive foreign badges. If you have money to burn, well that’s another story, but Forest Gump said it best, “Stupid is Stupid does”. You can stretch your hard earned buck by going with one of these three in class.

Conveniences and comfort:

I particularly appreciate the ease of putting the top up and down. But then I owned an MGB with the classic soft top that took two people an hour to put it down. Ok, the hour is a stretch but that’s what it felt like. Thank God for technology and thank those guys who used it to design this top.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda MX-5 Miata $23-29,000, Audi TT $38-49,000, BMW Z4 $47-62,000, Lotus Elise $47-55,000, Mercedes-Benz SLK $48-53,000, MINI Cooper $19-34,000, Pontiac Solstice $24-30,000, Porsche Boxster $48-58,000, Saturn Sky $28-34,000.

Good News:

Great styling, nice ride, fun to drive, great hardtop convertible totally automatic.

Bad News:

Limited cargo and storage spaces and hard to get in and out of, especially after a long drive.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder 167 horsepower engine, 6 speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive, front & rear stabilizer bars, aluminum power plant frame, 17” alloy wheels, power mirrors, aluminum hood, power retractable hard top, 2-passenger seating, tilt leather steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, power windows and locks, driver seat height adjuster, anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, electronic power assisted rack and pinion steering, front double wishbone suspension with rear multi-link suspension, halogen headlights, fog lights, auxiliary audio input jacks, Bose audio with 6 disc CD/MP3 and 7 speakers, remote keyless entry with smart key, heated leather seats and leather trimmed hand brake and shift knob, trip computer, auto climate control, front and side airbags, anti-theft engine immobilizer and tire pressure monitor.

Gas Stats:

$2.95/ Gal avg. November 9, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

21 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $28,400.

2010 Mazda Speed 3 Sport (819)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Mazda Speed 3 Sport. Good buy, fun to drive but only fair fuel economy relative to the class. It’s hard not to put your foot into it because it is so responsive. Fact of the matter is that it’s almost too responsive. I’m not happy with the steering wheel being jerked out of my hands when I want faster acceleration. Torque Steer is the cause and it is typical of front wheel drive. The solution is for Mazda to employ all wheel drive or rear wheel drive, both of which are unavailable in the Speed 3.

To me it has always been a ‘kids’ car. The oversize air scoop on the hood and large spoiler in the rear with a low stance makes it hot for younger drivers but it is unlikely you would find grandpa behind the wheel. Take a look at the next few you see on the road and see if I’m right. Some say styling is “over the top” but my guess is some really young designers are responsible for the look.

Opinion:

“The few, the proud the Moron’s” – Ever notice how some folks are starved for attention and will do just about anything to get it. In the auto industry’s “After Market” there are some neat things you can add to your car to show your pride of ownership and love affair with your car.  You can see the latest and greatest of these aftermarket gadgets at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas, Nevada every November.

Two add-ons that just bug the heck out of me are (#2) Hub Caps that rotate whether the car is moving or standing still, and (#1) Boom Boxes or as some call them Ghetto Blasters. They have been with us for about 30 years and although the craze is about over they will find you in traffic when you least expect it and can’t escape the boom and thud sounds. . . and not a caveman in sight so it is hard to see where the obnoxious sounds emanate from. Consider that if these people really liked their tunes they could enjoy them on personal stereos with headphones and keep their music to themselves understanding others may not share their musical tastes. It is just another indication and reminder of why the “all about me” generation is fading away. It can’t go any too fast for me.

Handling & Performance:

Well what can you say… it doesn’t get much better for the money. And being it is a Mazda it will continue to truck along for a lot of years. Steering is quick and sure and that is in large part due to the FWD which is also the culprit for Torque Steer that makes driving this car less enjoyable. You also will find a lot of road noise but when you’re young I suppose there is less concern about road noise and they probably drown it out with loud music.

Styling:

Youthful, but so are baggy shorts that start at the knees and go down from there. I’m embarrassed for them, but I’m not embarrassed for this youthful Mazda Speed 3 because that is their target market and in that sense the design is “Brilliant”.

It won’t appeal to Grandpa or even parents but it is a hot item with our youth.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Excellent value in class.

Conveniences and comfort:

All conveniences are included and the Speed 3 is surprisingly roomy for a small car that purports to be in the midsize class.

Consumer Recommendation:

To me there are three close competitors in this type of youthful car: Subaru Impreza WRX and the Evo from Mitsubishi. But the Speed 3 has to be the best of the three from a cost standpoint.

Recognized Competition:

Mazda Speed 3 $23,340, Audi A3 $27-31,000, BMW 1 Series $29-40,000, Chevrolet HHR $19-26,000, Dodge Caliber $17-20,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, MINI Clubman $20-31,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution $34-41,000, Saturn Astra $17-20,000, Subaru Impreza WRX $25-35,000, Volkswagen GTI $23-24,000.

Good News:

Decent fuel economy (not great but OK), fabulously fun to drive and perhaps the best buy in class.

Bad News:

Front wheel drive is all that is available on the Speed 3 and so turbocharger causes torque steer which is really annoying and road noise is more than I like.

Standard Equipment:

2.3 liter 263 HP Inline 4 cylinder engine turbocharged and intercooled, 6-speed manual transmission, front wheel drive, independent suspension, front & rear stabilizers, power steering, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes with electronic brake distribution (EBD), traction control, 18” allow wheels, halogen headlights and fog lights, variable intermittent wipers, rear wiper, cloth and leather seats, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, audio with CD / MP3 with 6 speakers, Bluetooth hands free phone, SIRIUS satellite radio, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, tilt & telescopic column, auto locks, multi info display, cruise control, climate control, power windows & locks, tire pressure monitor, LATCH child safety, anti-theft engine immobilizer, remote keyless entry and front, side and curtain airbags.

Options:

Includes upgraded sound system, navigation, and advanced keyless entry system with push button start – $1,895.

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. July 5, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $23,195.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2010 – An Automotive Love Affair