Stunning Mazda6 Debuts at Moscow Motor Show

August 30th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Mazda showcased the very latest in design and technology when the all new third generation Mazda6 Sedan made its much anticipated debut at the Moscow Motor Show.

Featuring the full range of SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY and the KODO – Soul of Motion design language it is the first Mazda vehicle to feature i-ELOOP, Mazda’s unique brake energy generation system which begins charging the capacitor the moment the driver takes his foot off the accelerator. This is then used to power electronic components of the vehicle resulting in greater fuel economy.

Mazda New Zealand, Managing Director, Andrew Clearwater, believes the first thing that will strike people about the new Mazda6 is its stunning look.

“The Mazda designers have built on the Mazda Takeri concept vehicle which created great interest when it debuted in 2011, to develop an exterior design that conveys tenacity, dignity and a sporty flare. The new Mazda6 really is the complete package of looks and performance and will make as big a mark in the mid-sized segment as its first generation predecessor did in 2002.’

The KODO design has also realised a vehicle that has a spacious comfortable interior and a refined Human Machine Interface (HMI) that creates a cockpit in which the driver can savour the joy of driving.

Driver safety is a real focus in the new Mazda6 and it includes a number of advanced safety features. Rear Vehicle Monitoring (RVM) and Adaptive Front Lighting system (AFS) improve driver awareness and improved field of vision at night, Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) allows the vehicle to avoid or reduce the severity of an accident even if the driver takes no action and Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) uses a camera to warn the driver of unintentional lane departures.

The new Mazda6 will be launched in New Zealand early in the New Year.

Mazda RX-8 Spirit R 2012 Review

August 27th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

We can barely go a week in the auto industry without hearing of a car that beats all previous records for its kind at an auction. Whether it’s a 1950s Ferrari, a 1960s GT40 or a 1970s muscle car they all have two things in common: they are in limited supply (either now or originally) and they were what the young adults of the day aspired to.

Fast forward to now and have a look at what the baby boomers want. They want the car of their dreams so they can recapture their youth. Mazda’s RX models have always been popular and even now are commanding a premium. Check out how much you can purchase an unmolested RX-2, RX-3 or RX-7 for. The RX-7 Spirit R is holding its value well with used examples with 40,000kms fetching around $35-40,000, and they’re not even old yet.

While this is not intended to be investment advice, you have to look at what this final RX-8 is. Only 12 have been imported into New Zealand and just a handful remain. It could potentially be the last rotary-engined car Mazda makes (unless it can make its 2007 concept 16X motor appealing and far less thirsty), and only 2000 examples are being made. You can guarantee that more than 90% of these will be driven almost daily, some will be modified and some will meet an untimely end.

In 30 years time, when the current crop of teenagers become empty nesters with disposable income, how many Mazda RX-8 Spirit R models will still be roadworthy? And how many will only have a handful of kilometers on the odometer?

So, you could buy a Spirit R for $56,695, put it in storage and hope it appreciates enough for your retirement fund. But that’s just speculation, and we’re not sure whether you’d be able to resist getting in it for a back-country blat.

Sink your (hopefully not-too-ample) rear into the deep bucket seats, fire up that rotary engine and it settles into a motorbike-style purr. Blip the throttle and the revs rise quickly up to 8500 – the red line. Perfectly positioned for your left hand is a short-throw, rotary-themed gearstick ready to select one of the six manual gears.

Give it some gas, lift that clutch and the Renesis engine’s unique tone rises with your acceleration. Dip the clutch and grab another gear. Rinse and repeat. Heel/toe on the downshift for a smile-inducing faux-racing experience. Now, it’s not fast by any stretch of the imagination. Compared to the turbo RX-7s that I hankered after when I was in my early 20s, the RX-8 is pedestrian and restrained, and that is possibly to try to tame the massive fuel consumption that rotary engines are famous for. You will be filling up at the pump frequently in the Spirit R as the quoted fuel economy is 12.1l/100km and you won’t be driving it to get good fuel economy.

The suspension is taut and, because the car rides on massive 19-inch wheels with low profile tyres you can feel exactly what it’s doing on the road. Red brake calipers peek through the wheels. At the rear there’s a dual exhaust and on the flanks there is the special Spirit R badge. There are rotary hints in the design language throughout the RX-8 from the bonnet to the knob that adjusts the seat back.

The front seats are the highlight of the interior. They hug you like an over-zealous aunty (but without the slobbery kisses). Their two-tone red and black theme is carried through to the rear seats which are really only good for storing things. Access to the rear seats is using the ‘suicide door’ that will only open once the front door is open.

Sitting in the driver’s seat your instrument view is dominated by the rev counter. The speedometer is a small digital display within the rev counter. Rotary engines rev up large, but not while they’re cold, so the rev counter incorporates a temperature-dependent redline for the engine.

The rest of the instrumentation and dashboard is looking long in the tooth. This is a run-out model and it’s showing signs of the RX-8’s 8-year history. While the RX-8 is pitched as a sports car it is lacking some minor features that are standard on almost all cars now, like a trip computer and Bluetooth phone integration.

Interior features include a 300W, 9-speaker stereo, cruise control, a handbrake level that looks like it’s out of Top Gun, and racing pedals.

The RX-8 feels go-kart-like. You sit low and the handling is responsive. It was hilarious getting out of the RX-8 into my next test car: a Toyota Land Cruiser. Driving the Land Cruiser felt like I was flying in a crop duster because it was so tall and wallowy in comparison.

The RX-8 turned heads during my time with it. Even though it’s been around for a few years, the new wheels and bodykit make this the best-looking RX-8 there’s been. It’s come of age. The question now is what value you’ll get from it, whether that’s monetary in the future, or by putting a smile on your face now.

Check out second hand RX-8s for sale here.

Price: $56,695

Pros

  • Could be an investment (if not for the future, at least for you to invest in having some fun driving)
  • Handles well
  • Intoxicating rotary engine sound
  • It’s the best-looking RX-8

Cons

  • Dated instrumentation
  • High fuel usage for the performance

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

Mazda CX-5 AWD Diesel Limited 2012 Review

August 15th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

We’ve already had a CX-5 – the 2WD petrol GSX, which we drove back in May – and we were impressed. The CX-5 is a vehicle that performs well on many levels – it’s aesthetically pleasing, fuel economy is good, interior features abound and, for an SUV, it handles well.

Now we’re in the top-of-the-line CX-5 AWD Diesel Limited. It’s a substantial $14,000 more than the GSX and for that you get a lot of extra features plus a more frugal (and torquey) diesel engine. You can read more about the GSX by clicking here (opens in a new tab).

Externally there are only two visible changes (apart from the AWD badge). The power sliding and tilt glass sunroof and the 19-inch wheels with 225/55R19 tyres as opposed to the 17-inch wheels of the standard car. These wheels make the CX-5 look even sharper and Mazda has managed to implement them without making the ride crashy and harsh.

There are two other external features that are all but hidden: bi-xenon auto leveling, adaptive front headlights will help you see more clearly at night as they swivel to help you see around the corners and will adjust based on whether another vehicle is approaching. The ultra-observant will notice a slight difference in the wing mirrors: a small icon illuminates orange to warn if a car is in your blind spot.

On the inside, this blind spot warning system (BSM – Blind Spot Monitor) beeps at you if you’re about to pull into a lane when another vehicle is there. This is useful feature, but it’s far too sensitive on the CX-5. It beeped at parked cars if I indicated to turn into a side road, at concrete motorway barriers as I exited (particularly in spaghetti junction where there is no hard shoulder) and occasionally for no apparent reason.

Along with the lane departure warning system the BSM provides for safer motorway cruising. The lane departure system activates at higher speeds and monitors the position of your car in relation to road markings using a windscreen camera. If you are about to drift out of your lane without indicating a low frequency burst of noise is played through the stereo.

Other features to aid visibility and maneouvring include the rear view camera and parking sensors front and rear. These are welcome because of the narrower visibility through the rear window.

The rear camera image is viewed on the 5.8-inch screen. This touch screen doubles as your entertainment and communication hub. There’s hands-free Bluetooth phone integration (wouldn’t connect to my Nokia N95, so you might need a newer phone), and iPod integration as well as the usual CD/radio/WMA options.

Mazda has been trumpeting its Skyactiv technology. This is a whole engine/gearbox/chassis/body revamp. There’s a low-friction six-speed automatic gearbox that’s lighter and smaller than its predecessors. The engine has been redesigned to produce more power while using less fuel and it has intelligent stop/start (automatically turning the engine off when you come to a stop). The chassis and body have been redesigned to be lighter but stronger, improving fuel economy. There is also a tyre pressure monitor that warns you if your tyres are starting to get flat – something which affects fuel economy and safety.

In the diesel the Skyactiv technology results in a much lower compression ratio than conventional common rail design engines, therefore components can be lighter and it can rev slightly higher (up to 5200rpm). The 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder engine liberates 129kW, but it’s the 420Nm of torque that gives it the bolt out of the gate. Drive it sensibly, though, and you might reach the quoted 5.7l/100km. I averaged 7l/100km but did drive it around town for most of the time.

Mazda has done an excellent job of making a typically poor handling SUV-style vehicle handle much more like a normal sedan. The CX-5 does sit tall, giving you good visibility, but the handling exudes quiet confidence. It is not a ‘driver’s car’, and it’s not designed to be. The CX-5 doesn’t create an ‘involving’ driving experience. Certainly, some journalists that hanker for the rawness of sports cars will decry this, but that’s not what the population wants. The popular wants a car that functions, has the right amount of room, is comfortable, well-appointed and doesn’t commandeer an unduly large percentage of cerebral power to drive.

It’s a car that gives you the kind of features that, on European equivalents, would cost tens of thousands more. Convenient features such as just being able to walk away from the car and it locks itself, opening the boot to find that the boot blind is connected to the tail gate and lifts cleverly out of the way,and being able to fold the rear seats to form a flat floor combine with premium features such as the Bose 231W, 9-speaker audio system and theTomTomsatellite navigation to create a car that seems like it should cost more. For the money it’s not quite perfect, but it’s not far off.

If you’re looking to purchase a CX-5, try here (opens in a new window).

Price: $55,990

Pros

  • Excellent all-rounder
  • Useful safety features
  • All-wheel drive
  • It’s almost perfect, except…

Cons

  • Blind spot warning system far too sensitive

Technical specifications

Vehicle Highlights
Price $55,990+ ORC
Style 5 door Crossover SUV
Fuel
Tank capacity (Litres) 58 litres
Recommended fuel Diesel
Fuel consumption - combined 5.7 litres per 100km
Emissions standard Euro IV 149g/km
Engine
Engine type 2.2 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC SKYACTIV-D intercooled turbo diesel engine with i-stop
Capacity (cc) 2,184
Compression ratio 14.0:1
Maximum power (kW) 129kW @ 4,500rpm
Maximum torque (Nm) 420Nm @ 2,000rpm
Throttle control Electronic (drive-by-wire)
Transmission SKYACTIV-DRIVE (6-speed Automatic) with manual shift function
Drive All Wheel Drive
Dimensions
Number of seats 5
Doors 5
Overall height (mm) 1,710
Track – front/rear (mm) 1,585/1,590
Overall length (mm) 4,540
Overall width (mm) 1,840
Wheel base (mm) 2,700
Kerb weight (kg) 1,685 – 1,687
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 1,800
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 750
Cargo room volume (VDA) 403 litres (rear seats in use) 1,560 (rear seats folded)
Chassis
Steering Electronic power assist
Tyre size 225/55 R19
Rim size 19 inch
Wheel Type Alloy
Brakes – front Ventilated disc
Brakes – rear Solid disc
Comfort
Air conditioning Dual-zone climate control
Cabin Air Filter Ventilated pollen filter
Bluetooth® handsfree phone connectivity Yes
Steering column – adjustable Tilt and telescopic
Cruise Control Yes
Stereo
CD player Single disc MP3/WMA-compatible
Auxiliary input USB, iPod® and 3.5mm MP3 player compatible
Speakers 9
Bluetooth® audio Yes
Premium Bose® amplifier and speakers Yes
Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls Yes
Interior
Cup holders Yes
Interior illumination Cargo room lamp, ignition key surround, map reading spot, power window switches
Leather wrapped shift knob Yes
Leather wrapped steering wheel Yes
Seat trim Leather with 8-way power adjustment (driver) and heating function (driver and front passenger)
Sunroof Power-sliding and tilt
Rear seats 40/20/40 fold
Satellite Navigation In-dash, TomTom
Multi Information Display 5.8-inch colour, with touch screen control
Exterior
Windscreen wipers – front 2-speed with rain-sensing function
Windscreen wipers – rear With intermittent function
Door handles Body coloured
Mirrors Body coloured with power adjustment
Aerial Shark fin-type
Headlamps Auto on/off Bi-Xenon with auto washers, auto leveling, Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) and daytime running lamps
Windows Powered with one touch driver function
Fog-lamps Front
Body kit Sports grille, rear spoiler, dual exhausts
Smart keyless entry Yes
Push button engine start Yes
mazdacare
Genuine Scheduled Servicing 3 years/100,000km (whichever occurs first) at no extra cost
On Road Assistance 3 year unlimited kilometre Mazda On Call Roadside Assistance
Warranty (years/km) 3 year unlimited kilometre Mazda Genuine Factory Warranty

 

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

Mazda CX-5 GSX 2012 Review

May 23rd, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

I never call the Thames Coast road by its proper name. I call it ‘The Road of a Thousand Bends’. Apart from a couple of short straights at Manaia and a few villages dotted along the coast it is a relentless barrage of tight (often blind) corners wedged precariously between the sea and steep bluffs.

If you have a car with great dynamics this road is frustrating during the day but awesome at night. During the day there’s a procession of boaties, campervans and sightseers meaning you can’t stretch the vehicle’s legs; late at night, though, you can Continue reading “Mazda CX-5 GSX 2012 Review” »

Mazda3 MPS 2012 Review

April 10th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

It’s interesting driving the cars that you know are going to be coveted by the future generation of performance-hungry young drivers. Because of our fairly cheap insurance in New Zealand, people under 25 can afford to insure cars that would be uninsurable in many other countries. As we have a sister title, NZ Performance Car, I’m acutely aware of the type of cars that will be making their way to the next generation once they’re a few years old.

Mazda’s MPS is one of them. OK, it’s front-wheel drive, which makes it a bit annoying for drift kings and track day heroes, but it’s a hot hatch with enough Continue reading “Mazda3 MPS 2012 Review” »

Iconic RX-8 Limited Edition SPIRIT R in NZ

February 28th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Mazda has announced that the RX-8 ‘SPIRIT R’ Special Edition is now available in New Zealand.

In advance of Mazda RX-8 production ending in June 2012, SPIRIT R will be the final special edition model, offering a striking commemoration for Mazda’s iconic four door, four seater rotary engine sports car.

SPIRIT R is named after the final limited edition Mazda RX-7 and this pedigree is reflected in stylish features that include an exclusive Recaro seat design and custom 19-inch alloy wheels.

The Mazda RX-8 SPIRIT R has a 6-speed manual transmission with exclusive features such as Bilstein sports suspension, distinctive red front and rear brake callipers.

Exterior features include 225/40 R19 89W tyres and 19-inch alloy wheels finished in stunning bronze with black centre cap. Front, side and rear spoilers improve aerodynamics and add street appeal. Black bezels within front and rear combination lamps and front fog lamps bring the race car to the fore and a SPIRIT R badge on C-pillar seals it in the Mazda history books.

The SPIRIT R is a sports car that means business with custom designed interior fittings. Distinctive SPIRIT R Recaro bucket seats are trimmed with black and red leather for effect. In addition, contrast red stitching on the steering wheel, gear shift, parking brake and door trim, set this RX-8 apart from the rest.

The limited edition RX-8 is available in three exterior colour options, Aluminium Metallic, Sparkling Black Mica and Crystal White Pearl Mica.

This vehicle is available in very limited numbers and for the same price as the standard model at $56,695 plus on-road costs. Every new RX-8 Spirit R comes with mazdacare as standard, including 3-years/100,000km (whichever occurs first) Mazda Scheduled Servicing, 3-years unlimited kilometre Mazda Factory Warranty and Mazda On Call Roadside Assistance.

Mazda3 GSE Skyactiv 2011 Review

February 21st, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Fuel economy wasn’t a strong point in the outgoing Mazda3, something that’s been rectified in the new model. In fact, it’s a gigantic 25% more efficient than the previous version. That was a little on the thirsty side, so the changes to the 2-litre, 113kW motor, and the bits that are driven by it, are welcome.

The engine has been completely redesigned. Reductions in friction and weight, modifications to the cooling system to reduce resistance, better fuel atomization in the injectors, electrically operated sequential valve timing (S-TV) – these are the things that people that belong to car clubs talk about while standing around the open engine bay. But most of voluminous amount of private buyers of the Mazda3 (because it is the second-best selling compact car behind the Corolla) will want to simply spend less time queuing to pay for fuel, and subsequently ‘up-sizing’ their purchase with chocolate bars that are two for the price of one. The very fact that the Mazda requires fewer trips to the gas station could influence the Continue reading “Mazda3 GSE Skyactiv 2011 Review” »

Mazda BT-50 4WD Double Cab Limited 2012 Review

January 20th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

We tested Mazda’s new BT-50 a few weeks ago, but in its lesser GSX guise. This week we’ve had the luxury Limited version which adds leather and reversing sensors.

It was interesting to have a second bite at the Mazda as often your perceptions change over time. I’m not a huge fan of utes – I don’t even own a pair of wellies – but the Mazda feels so car-like that you start to appreciate the benefits of having that extra height in traffic, among other things. It’s a big beast (200mm longer than the previous model) – not really designed for manoeuverability – but with the reversing sensors it’s way more palatable in the city. And that’s where this ute probably will live. Tradespeople aren’t going to worry about leather interiors; this is going to be bought by someone who wants to tow a boat or horse float (it’ll tow 3350kg on a braked trailer), while all their nautical or equestrian accessories can be accommodated in the tray.

For this new BT-50 Mazda has taken the corporate nose and grafted it onto a commercial vehicle. Porsche attempted this, putting the 911 nose onto the Cayenne (which has been beaten with the ugly stick). Mitsubishi has done it putting the Lancer Evo X nose onto the Outlander (which looks purposeful with its chiseled handsomeness). Has the corporate Mazda face transplant worked for the BT-50? Kind of. From some angles it does look a bit awkward, but it’s also striking. Awkwardness is a trait of many a car design from the wrong angle – Peugeots and Renaults are notorious for this. I like the BT-50 better the second time round though. It’s growing on me. Continue reading “Mazda BT-50 4WD Double Cab Limited 2012 Review” »