Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals.  What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher…

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
With its big illuminated satin-chrome grille, LED headlamps, 20-inch alloys, and elegantly understated good looks, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature could easily come from a pricey luxury brand. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals. 

What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher priced premium brand for owners to gravitate to when they might otherwise feel the inclination to move up to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and therefore they won’t allow their mainstream volume models to wander too far upmarket in design or finishings so as not to interfere with this hierarchal brand strategy, but Mazda has no such constraints, so therefore its cars and SUVs are often a cut above their rivals. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9’s narrow LED taillights, stylishly understated satin-chrome detailing, and sleek overall shape make it a head-turner from every angle. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Take the 2019 CX-9 mid-size crossover SUV I’m driving this week. It looks like it could’ve rolled off the assembly line of a luxury manufacturer thanks to a big, stylish satin-silver grille with special night illumination that wraps around its lower half, full LED headlamps with auto high beams, adaptive cornering capability and auto self-leveling, a beautifully aerodynamic lower front fascia with integrated LED fog lamps, stunning 20-inch light grey high lustre alloy wheels wrapped in 255/50R20 all-season tires, tastefully applied satin-chrome trim all-round, and a great deal more on the outside. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Easier to see at night, the Signature includes thin white LED illumination around the lower half of its grille. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That said it’s the CX-9 Signature’s interior that really makes occupants feel pampered, much thanks to a two-tone brown and black motif that includes soft Nappa leather upholstery with beautifully detailed stitching, genuine Santos Rosewood trim on the centre console and doors, aluminum dash and upper door panel inlays, satin-chrome interior switchgear, loads of soft-touch surfacing throughout, fabric-wrapped front roof pillars, LED overhead and ambient lighting, plus more, while areas not seen are stuffed full of sound-deadening insulation, the windshield and front windows are made from noise-isolating glass, and plenty of additional refinements to the body shell, steering and suspension systems make everything from the way its doors close to the CX-9’s overall driving dynamics feel as if it were a luxury-branded SUV, while providing a much quieter interior. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
A vertical stack of LED fog lamps join special 20-inch alloy wheels in Signature trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The driver and passengers alike will be comforted in other ways too, for instance in the knowledge that the CX-9 Signature is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road when it comes to advanced driver assistance and safety systems, with all the usual active and passive safety features complemented by adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward obstruction warning, Smart Brake Support and Smart City Brake Support autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, new seatbelt reminders on the second- and third-row seats, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
In similar fashion to how Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV pulls its taillight design from the beautiful F-Type sports car, the CX-9’s tail lamps are inspired by the lovely little MX-5 sports car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The CX-9 Signature offers an impressive assortment of electronics too, such as a head-up display that projects key information onto the windshield ahead of the driver for easy viewing, a 7.0-inch colour TFT display within the primary gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen on the dash top with new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, new SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link data services with information on real-time traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices, and sports scores, a new four-camera 360-degree surround parking camera with a bird’s-eye overhead view, navigation with detailed mapping, 12-speaker Bose audio with Centerpoint surround and AudioPilot noise compensation technologies, plus SurroundStage signal processing, satellite and HD radio, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, text message reading and response capability, plus much more for just $51,500, which is superb value when comparing to luxury branded crossover SUVs with similar equipment (check out all 2019 Mazda CX-9 trims and pricing at CarCostCanada, plus make sure to learn about any available rebates and save even more by getting the 2019 CX-9’s dealer invoice pricing).

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Check out the CX-9 Signature’s fabulous interior! You’ll see a lot more of it in my upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other features that provide CX-9 Signature owners with a premium-branded experience are proximity access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a new frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, new power-folding side mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a reworked overhead console with always appreciated sunglasses storage and a better designed LED room lamp control switch, front and rear parking sensors, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with premium cross-stitching detailing, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support and memory, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with power lumbar, three-way heated and new cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, rear side window sunshades, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Move up to the Signature and you’ll get this ultra-helpful split-screen 360-degree overhead parking monitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The changes to the CX-9’s steering and suspension systems not only provide the higher-quality, more premium-like ride noted earlier, but were also designed to deliver greater linear behavior at high speeds, and I’ll let you know how Mazda succeeded in my full road test review. Likewise, I’ll comment on how the carryover its G-Vectoring Control technology feels while seamlessly shifting more torque to the front wheels during corner entry and then sending it rearward upon exit, how i-Activ AWD deals with inclement conditions (although we only had to deal with a rain storm during our weeklong test), how the dynamic pressure turbo-enhanced SkyActiv-G 2.5 four-cylinder engine responded to throttle input at takeoff, when exiting fast-paced corners and while passing on the highway, and whether or not the SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission was still up to snuff in an era of seven-, eight-, nine- and even 10-speed autoboxes, not to mention CVTs, despite the inclusion of manual actuation and Drive Selection with a Sport mode. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9 Signature even one-ups some of its premium-branded rivals by including real Rosewood trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is very clear in its specifications that the engine makes 250 horsepower with 93 octane gas or higher, but I’m going to correctly guess that the majority of journalists refill it will much cheaper 87 octane, so the engine is probably only making the 227 horsepower claimed with the lower grade gasoline, but this said its extremely robust 310 lb-ft of torque doesn’t change with the budget fuel and only needs 2,000 rpm to release full twist, so I wouldn’t worry too much about thrust. 

As for the rest of the story, make sure to come back for my full review…

Power isn’t my thing. Most who have it don’t know how to wield it, and being libertarian in mindset I truly only want enough power to rule over my personal space. The MX-5, with its modest 155 horsepower…

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The MX-5 gets a completely revised 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine for 2019, with 181 hp. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Power isn’t my thing. Most who have it don’t know how to wield it, and being libertarian in mindset I truly only want enough power to rule over my personal space. The MX-5, with its modest 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, has always fit very well into such ideals. 

Over the years I’ve heard some complain that its response off the line is somewhat tepid when compared to other sports cars in the category, and when considering these are the same folks unsatisfied with the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86’s much more potent 200 horsepower engine their frustration probably has some merit. I’d rather have high revs and sensational sounds combined with a light curb weight when piloting a four-cylinder powered sports car, yet even with such reasonable expectations the outgoing mill left me feeling a bit flat. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The RF strikes a unique and attractive side profile. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Enter the 2019 MX-5, with a revised 2.0-litre four-cylinder capable of spinning 700 rpm higher before redline, from 6,800 to 7,500 rpm, while power is up 17 percent to 181 horsepower, and torque has increased by 3 lb-ft to 151. 

How did they do it? A few trick engineering tweaks included lighter weight pistons and a redesigned flywheel, plus Mazda also modified the rear differential ratio for quicker response off the line and faster acceleration overall. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
Sharp coupe-like roofline a real head-turner. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

And what about the dull soundtrack? A new sport exhaust system certainly ups the excitement ante, but rather than spill the entire bowl of beans now in this Garage preview I’ll go into greater detail about all of the above in my upcoming road test review. 

Until then, here’s some background info: a six-speed manual comes standard, while a six-speed automatic featuring manual-shift mode, paddle shifters, and Drive Selection modes is optional. This tester gets fitted with the former, exactly the way I’d choose it if mine, and exactly the way I’ll enjoy it best throughout my test week. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The BBS alloy wheels and Brembo performance brakes aid the MX-5’s overall driving dynamics. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

You might also notice a retractable hardtop, this particular MX-5 being the RF version introduced last year, which gets a sharp looking coupe-like all-weather roof that conveniently powers away when you’d rather feel a wisp of mother nature’s breath in your hair. It’s only slightly easier to live with than the regular soft top, but for those who live, work or just travel through crime-ridden neighbourhoods, it brings an element of security to a car that’s never had such locked down advantages before. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The RF’s retractable hardtop can draw a crowd. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

With a focus that’s never deviated from performance despite the MX-5 gaining refinements with each generation, even this top-line RF GT weighs in at just 1,118 kilograms with the manual and 1,134 kilos with the auto, which is just 53 kg more than the base soft top. I know, to those autocrossing or racing on the weekend, and there are many MX-5 owners that do, an extra 50-plus kilos of mass exactly where they don’t want it, up high over the head, but for the rest of us who simply want to enjoy the fastest way around the highway entrance ramp, it’s also a great way to cloak away the noise of the outside world. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The upgraded Exclusive Package interior, with its gorgeous caramel coloured Chroma Brown Nappa leather, looks fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with the engine upgrades, Mazda improved the driving environment with a new telescoping steering column, important for setting up your driving position for optimal comfort and control. Continuing on the ergonomic theme, Mazda gave its driver’s seat new easier to use adjustment levers, while the door panels and cupholders are redesigned for 2019. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
Like all Mazda vehicles, the MX-5 delivers a near premium experience for a pauper’s price. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Black metallic painted alloy wheels in 16- and 17-inch diameters are new this year as well, while the 195/50R16 and 205/45R17 tires wrapped around them, the latter standard with the RF, stop better when the MX-5 to new standard Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), while Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR) is also new this year, but requires an upgrade to GT trim. Additional advanced driver assistive systems that are standard across the line include Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), while the 2019 MX-5 continues to come with all the expected active and passive safety features too. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The standard infotainment is filled with useful features. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The MX-5 soft top is available in three trims, including the $32,900 GS, $36,900 GS-P, and $39,900 GT, while the RF can only be had in the two upper trims starting at $39,900 and ending at an as-tested $42,900, plus freight and fees of course. See all 2019 Mazda MX-5 prices at CarCostCanada, plus make sure to check the dealer invoice price of the car you choose before buying, as it could save you thousands. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The Nappa leather upholstery is rich and seats very supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

OK, not exactly as tested. My tester also had $200 worth of Snowflake White Pearl paint coating the exterior panels, and instead of standard Black leather with Red Koko stitching, or no-cost Sport Tan leather with Tan Kodo stitching, Mazda had added the $900 Exclusive Package that included a gorgeous caramel coloured Chroma Brown Nappa leather inside plus a contrasting piano black roof top to the exterior. Yes, I think I’d need to spring for this too. 

Interestingly, the aforementioned automatic transmission is a no-cost option despite its many enhancements, with the only other option being a $909 set of 17-inch matte black alloys wheels. 

I won’t go into any detail regarding standard GS-P or GT features in this “Garage” review, but instead I’ll save such commentary and my driving experience notes for an upcoming review. Until then, enjoy the photo gallery that’s a little larger than usual for a Garage story…

Canada’s subcompact SUV segment has been growing like gangbusters in recent years, and the highly successful Mazda CX-3 is one of the key reasons it’s doing so well.  The CX-3, in fact, is one of…

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Mazda’s popular CX-3 gets refreshed for 2019, making it look even better than the outgoing model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Canada’s subcompact SUV segment has been growing like gangbusters in recent years, and the highly successful Mazda CX-3 is one of the key reasons it’s doing so well. 

The CX-3, in fact, is one of the class bestsellers, sitting third out of 16 entrants at the end of 2017 (there are now 17 competitors). That’s a truly impressive feat, while it’s also one of just three challengers to bypass five figures in annual sales. 

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
New taillights plus a new rear bumper and fascia improve rear styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Having been on the market since May of 2015 and therefore mostly unchanged, Mazda felt it was time for a mid-cycle update and therefore we’ve got the new and improved 2019 model in our garage this week. Changes to the exterior include a revised grille, new taillights and updated wheels, while the cabin gets some nicer materials, a new set of seats, plus a redesigned centre console that incorporates a de rigueur electromechanical parking brake switch replacing the previous model’s old-school mechanical brake lever, and by doing so frees up significant space between the front seats while helping to modernize the driving experience. 

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Leather is now standard in GT trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional 2019 updates include advanced blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), the latter utilizing a near infrared laser to detect vehicle activity up to six metres ahead before applying the brakes automatically to avoid a potential accident, all of which even gets added to $20,795 entry-level GX trim (see CarCostCanada.com for all the trim, pricing and options details, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing), while the as-tested top-line GT model now comes standard with genuine leather upholstery in place of the outgoing model’s leatherette. 

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Interior refinement and features have improved. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, 2019 GT models also come standard with all of the features in last year’s optional Technology package, which means that features like satellite radio, automatic high beam assist, and lane departure warning no longer need the addition of an upgrade. 

While I’m tempted to tell you more, additional details plus my impressions will have to wait for a full road test review that will be available here soon…

As journalists we get to drive quite a range of vehicles. It is less common be able to drive two variations of a particular model, in this case the 2018 Mazda6, over a couple of weeks. Who could resist,…

2018 Mazda6 Road Test

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The redesigned 2018 Mazda6 looks great in just-above base GS-L trim. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

As journalists we get to drive quite a range of vehicles. It is less common be able to drive two variations of a particular model, in this case the 2018 Mazda6, over a couple of weeks. Who could resist, especially when the venue was Nova Scotia? Some twisty country roads, superb seafood, cool Atlantic water, and even an occasional dose of Maritime fog, plus enough time to get a really good feel for the cars. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The Mazda6 looks good from all angles. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

I flew WestJet’s non-stop from Edmonton, which ran through the night and arrived in Halifax before 7:00 am. There, fellow writer Lisa Calvi met me with the first test car, a Mazda6 GS-L, one step above the base GS model. That entry-level version, which retails for $28,920 including freight and PDI (find detailed pricing on each trim level, plus dealer invoice pricing and rebate info at CarCostCanada.com), is already very well equipped, including such goodies as self-levelling LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The GS-L adds leather upholstery, a nice sunroof that is reasonably quiet when open, more electronic driver aids, and a couple of additional features, such as a heated steering wheel and front wiper de-icer, that seem custom made for Canadian conditions. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The Mazda6 has a beautifully finished interior. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

I loaded my luggage in the GS-L and had a quick look around. Mazda refers to their styling as Kodo design language. The easiest way to understand that is to think of an animal ready to pounce. I like the uncluttered and purposeful appearance, especially in Machine Grey Metallic, a $300 option. The as-tested price, including the aforementioned charges, came to $33,695. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The 6 gets a large, high-resolution touchscreen atop the dash, that can also be controlled via a rotating dial on the lower console. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

Lisa drove us to town, which allowed me to relax in the passenger seat. The revised interior is nicely finished, punching above its weight in terms of upmarket ambience. The seats do feel as though they were made for wider backsides than mine, but there is adequate support. The information system looks like an add-on, however it works reasonably well once you’ve read the instructions. I must admit that as a racing driver and advanced driving coach, sound systems and such are at the low end of my priorities, so I’m likely not a fair judge. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
Comfortable, supportive seats make all the difference on a road trip. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

A day after my arrival, a group of us headed to a seaside resort two hours drive from Halifax. My cousin, Croatia-based photographer Rino Gropuzzo, was with me on the trip. Rino and I are obsessed with finding the perfect seafood chowder, which tends to lengthen our journeys. The restaurant search led us to a twisty, weatherworn two-lane. We weren’t going particularly fast, but enough to let a true driver’s car shine, and this is where Mazda is a solid step ahead of the competition. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
A roomy rear seating area allows for longer cargo via split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

When I first worked with the Skip Barber Racing School in the States, we were using M3 BMWs for all our teaching modules, as well as for track days. The cars earned their Ultimate Driving Machine moniker, because at that time BMW driving dynamics were best in class. These days Mazda is as much a clear leader in its sector as BMW was back then. In evaluating dynamics you have to think beyond numbers and specifications, because almost any vehicle in this class will have decent performance. What makes a driver’s car is the combination of ride control, stability, steering feel, and precise response to operator inputs. 

2018 Mazda6 Signature
The 2018 Mazda6 is even more upscale in premium-like Signature trim. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

On the road, the GS-L, with its 2.5-litre, 187 horsepower engine, is reasonably quick. A manual gearbox would be nice, and oddly enough that’s an option in the States, but not in Canada. I’ve observed that most people who have to shift for themselves are better, more attentive drivers. A quick read of the Mazda owner’s manual reminded me that it is possible to set the automatic so the paddle shifters become useful, holding gears until the driver chooses to shift. Mazda’s base engine has a new parlour trick, cylinder deactivation on a four-cylinder engine. At lower loads, two cylinders work, the others hang around until needed. The switch cannot be felt, except in the pocketbook. On a 150 km run, which included some two-lane road overtaking, I got 5.4 L/100km. That number was courtesy of a very efficient powertrain as well as my sneaky right foot, and better than the official highway rating of 6.7. 

2018 Mazda6 Signature
The open road beckons, and the Mazda6 is an ideal companion. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

My second test car was the Mazda6 Signature, decked out with 19-inch wheels and Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint. All kinds of extra trim, electronic driver aids and so on, but the biggest difference was the turbocharged engine, which puts out 227 horsepower on regular fuel and 250 on premium. More to the point, peak torque, or pulling power, jumps to 310 pounds/feet at 2,000 rpm from the base engine’s 186 at 4,000 rpm. With the turbo engine’s torque coming in so low in the rev range, there is no need to work the engine hard, even when overtaking. All this luxury and performance came in at $41,045 as tested. As with the other test car, the only option was the paint, Soul Red, as a $450 upgrade. All the dynamic goodness of the GS-L was there as well, which made for quite a quick sports sedan. Once again I used less fuel than the official 10.0 city, 7.5 highway rating. My combined score for city and highway, once I discounted the full throttle 60-100 tests that I do by way of assessing overtaking ability, was 8.4 L/100km. 

2018 Mazda6 Signature
The Mazda6 is plenty practical, although we don’t recommend stowing bodies in the trunk. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

On the last day of the tests, I switched back to the GS-L. Even after being spoiled by the extra horsepower of the turbo, in daily driving the base engine did fine. Mid-size sedans have become a very competitive class, with Honda’s Accord and the Kia Optima/Hyundai Sonata pair on my shortlist. The latter offer excellent quality and good value. For those who are looking for that choice, three Accord models have an available manual gearbox. The latest Camry is a much better vehicle, in all respects, than its predecessors. The Mazda wins in style, poise, and driving manners. Despite the turbo’s seductive thrust, I’d go for the GS-L. Between purchase price and money saved on fuel I’d have enough left over to continue the search for that perfect seafood chowder.

If you want a much richer compact SUV experience than you’ve ever experienced before, yet price is an issue and therefore premium brands are out of the question, check out the new Mazda CX-5 GT. It…

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test

The new Mazda CX-5 was the last 2017 model I tested and will be the final 2017 review I'll write. I wasn't actually sure if I was going to cover it at all, being that one of my freelance journalists did the honours earlier and his review is still available for your perusal, but nevertheless the new CX-5 impressed me so much I couldn't leave it alone.

I know I'm not alone in my accolades, with most every auto industry pundit praising its virtues. Before I delve into all that's great about the 2017, as well as its two minor disappointments, take note that the outgoing first-generation CX-5 was already a very impressive compact SUV, so therefore moving up to this second-generation model isn't a night and day experience. Yet if styling is important to you, and it is for most of us when it comes to our cars, this 2017 CX-5 is a big step forward.

Again, there was nothing wrong with the previous 2016 model's design, other than five years of continual availability combined with Read Full Story