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Brawlers: 2014 Mazda 6 / Mazda 3

We have an $80,000 base-price cap for the vehicles invited to 10Best, and for good reason: It’s easier to build a great car if it will command a great price. And frankly, the thrill of some megabuck über-cars fades even more rapidly than those machines accelerate. Don’t misunderstand us; we’re not saying that squabbling over the keys to a Ferrari is not worthy of fisticuffs, or that driving a Bugatti shouldn’t be on your bucket list. But the cars of privilege are extremists, pulling everything else along in their wake. It can be just as gratifying to slide behind the wheel of those mainstream models that have tucked into that slipstream.

Mazda proves it with two such standouts named to 10Best this year: the 3 and the 6. Even when they’re well equipped, you could own the pair for less than 80 grand and still have enough change to buy a new Miata. Mazda’s venerable roadster dropped off our list this year, not for being eclipsed by a direct competitor, but in deference to its new siblings—cars brimming with the sort of vigor and personality that the Miata brought to the summer of 1989.

The compact 3 and mid-size 6 are perfectly timed products from a company that many had presumed down for the count. Two years ago, Mazda was losing billions, and analysts talked of a potential bankruptcy. Abandoned by Ford, its longtime partner, Mazda would need its next crop of cars to stand on its own, with zero margin for error. Tiny Mazda finished just 13th in U.S. sales in 2012, at the back of the pack with lowly Mitsubishi. That’s not much higher than Maserati, which wishes it had a sedan as beautiful as the 6 in its stable.

The new 6 delivers Mazda’s 2010 Shinari concept essentially intact to its 637 U.S. dealers. The 6 not only looks like a million bucks inside and out, it drives like it. Mazda’s long-held reputation for selecting suspension bushings is on prominent display in the 6, which has an imperturbable chassis that is always comfortable and controlled. Its steering, suspension, and structure coordinate deftly. A six-speed manual is available, yet its automatic shifts so quickly and effortlessly that the 2.5-liter four feels more robust than any 184-hp engine has a right to.

The uncommon commonality of this pair of Mazdas is that both are so much better than expected. Mazda tells us its parts work better together because of its Skyactiv concept—a holistic approach to design, manufacturing, and fuel-saving technologies that began with the previous-generation 3. But it’s in these newest models that Skyactiv seems most alchemical. Stiffer and lighter structures—the 6 sheds more than 200 pounds in its redesign—translate to improved handling. Engines with a lofty 13.0:1 compression ratio and direct injection help boost fuel economy as high as 41 mpg on the EPA highway cycle. Keeping with the company’s iconoclasm, its optional i-ELOOP electrification system makes Mazda the first automaker to employ capacitors in a regenerative braking system.

In some ways, the 3 is the more impressive car here. Whether it’s the hatchback or sedan, we can’t stop admiring the long hood and Italianate grille of the new 3, which hides its front-drive underpinnings as well as anything since the original Oldsmobile Toronado. Interior appointments, including an excellent infotainment system with a central command knob, set a new, Audi-like standard for the class. An optional head-up speedometer display projects its data onto a transparent pane on the dash, fighter-jock style, and keeps your eyes up and on the road.

Mazda offers the 6’s 2.5-liter in the 3, as well as an entry-level 155-hp 2.0-liter four, but neither is neck-snappingly powerful. The Mazdas aren’t here because of their brawn. These are finesse cars, balanced and ergonomically perfect. Their cowls are low, their sightlines are unencumbered, and Mazda hasn’t done anything silly such as jacking the front seats’ H-points to make its cars feel more like crossovers; its excellent CX-5 already serves that purpose.

Indeed, Mazda is punching above its weight class when it comes to product. For a company that builds one-sixth the number of vehicles of giants like General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagen, its achievements are nothing short of shocking, like Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Mazda has no luxury brand to generate Lexus-size profits, not even a high-margin pickup truck in its lineup. No, Mazda just sells efficiently built small and mid-size cars and crossovers, all of them entertaining and none with a base price above $31K. In an industry in which most carmakers are trying to be everywhere at once, Mazda’s dedication to doing what it does best earns it our highest acclaim.

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The post Mazda CX-5 With SKYACTIV Technology appeared first on Budds Mazda.


Nov 14, 2016 Mazda6 Buyers Quiz

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Nov 14, 2016 Mazda6 Buyers Quiz

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The post Mazda6 Buyers Quiz appeared first on Budds Mazda.