Mazda has a much stronger following in Canada than the U.S. We tend to like smaller, sportier, fuel-efficient cars and SUVs, while our American friends traditionally purchase their vehicles one size larger.…

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT
Still one of the best looking cars in the compact class, this 2017 Mazda3 Sport GT deserves its strong sales. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda has a much stronger following in Canada than the U.S. We tend to like smaller, sportier, fuel-efficient cars and SUVs, while our American friends traditionally purchase their vehicles one size larger.

Case in point, from a list of 13 direct competitors the Mazda3 was fourth most popular in our compact segment through 2016, but only ninth in the U.S. I think it deserves better here in Canada let alone its poor showing in the States, but the success of any car is as much about the massive marketing spend of the industry’s big players, as it is quality of goods and value for money. Mazda has long made excellent products that perform better than average and deliver a near-premium look and feel, yet they’re a relatively small independent Japanese brand that doesn’t have the advertising clout of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, the big domestic brands or the Koreans.

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT
The “Sport” designation refers to the 5-Door hatchback model in Canada, while the sedan only goes by Mazda3. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Fans of this alternative import carmaker tend to like Mazda’s more exclusive cachet, especially those who appreciate better than average driving dynamics. I happen to like Mazda’s styling more than most other brands as well, while its interiors are second-to-none within the categories it competes in.

Take this Mazda3 Sport GT. Its deep, wide, chrome-trimmed grille with blackened slats has great style and a totally unique presence on the road, its top corners visually bleeding into this model’s projection LED headlamp clusters, while its sporty yet clean lower fascia incorporates tasteful splashes of chrome, LED driving lights, and the tiniest of LED fog lamps.

The rest of the bodywork flows gracefully from front to back, the car perfectly proportioned despite its compact dimensions, while its backside is finished off with a discrete body-colour rooftop spoiler, elegantly simple LED taillights, and a matte black diffuser-style bumper cap with integrated dual chromed tailpipes at each side. It’s one great looking ride from all angles.

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT
This GT model’s two-tone leather, metal and high-quality composite interior is a step above most rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Inside it’s downright premium, especially in my tester’s two-tone black and “Pure White” motif. The dash top, much of the instrument panel, and the door uppers are surfaced in high-quality soft touch synthetic, whereas the door inserts and armrests are finished in padded and stitched leatherette, and the seats get covered in optional perforated leather.

A semi-digital colour TFT primary instrument display is laid out in a sporty motorcycle centre-pod design, while an available class-exclusive head-up display powers up from the dash top to project critical info where it’s easiest to see without taking eyes from the road. At centre, a 7.0-inch fixed tablet-style infotainment display could be straight out of an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, and just like these premium marques it’s controlled with a knurled metal rotating dial on the lower console. Another metal-trimmed dial allows volume control, while an electromechanical parking brake joins an aluminized Drive Selection rocker switch featuring “SPORT” mode next to the leather-clad/satin-silver aluminum adorned shift lever.

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT
The leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, semi-digital gauges, tablet-style infotainment, and dual-zone auto HVAC give the GT premium appeal. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The stylish metallic treatment enhances other areas in the car as well, including the steering wheel that’s also leather-wrapped and filled with high-quality, well damped, tight fitting switchgear, this at least as good as the buttons, knobs and switches on the centre stack that include a nicely sorted dual-zone auto HVAC interface in GT trim.

I almost forgot to mention my favourite steering wheel appendages, a set of paddles for swapping gears. The Sport GT comes standard with a six-speed manual, as do the base GX and mid-range GL, but the GT is the only trim to get paddle-shifters when upgrading to the six-speed automatic. I’ll go into more detail about these and how the entire car drives in my upcoming road test review, the GT also on the receiving end of a more potent 2.5-litre direct-injection, DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder making 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque instead of 155 and 150 respectively for the base 2.0-litre four.

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT
The autobox gets paddles on the steering wheel, Sport mode can be selected via the metal rocker switch, and infotainment is controlled with this knurled metal rotating dial. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All Mazda3s ride on a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension with stabilizer bars at each end, while new for 2017 G-Vectoring Control (GVC) optimizes handling by momentarily retarding engine output when vehicle weight transfers from front to back upon turning the wheels, which shifts weight back towards the front wheels for added traction. This is similar to how racing drivers “load” the front wheels by subtly tapping the brakes before a corner, giving them a cornering advantage, but this automated system goes about its processes completely unnoticed.

Along with all the features mentioned so far, the $26,820 Sport GT includes standard 18-inch alloys on 215/45 all-seasons, auto on/off and auto-leveling headlights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, bright finish window trim, pushbutton ignition, a tilt and telescopic heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, heatable front seats, a wide-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth hands-free phone and streaming audio, a six-speaker stereo, HD radio, AHA and Stitcher internet radio, two USB ports and an aux jack, SMS text message reading and reply, illuminated vanity mirrors, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder, a powered moonroof, a rear armrest with cupholders, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, tire pressure monitoring, hill launch assist, Smart City Brake Support sub-20-km/h autonomous emergency braking, advanced blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, and more.

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT
Again, love the two-tone leather. Will fill you in on comfort and support in an upcoming review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The aforementioned leather upholstery, metallic interior trim, and head-up display comes as part of a $2,900 Premium package that also adds proximity-sensing keyless access, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a six-way powered driver’s seat with manual lumbar, auto high beams, dynamic cruise control, voice-activated navigation, nine-speaker Bose surround audio, and a slew of active safety features including forward collision warning with high-speed autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, these features making the Mazda3 one of only a handful of compact models to achieve a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating.

On top of this my tester is upgraded further with a $1,350 Technology package that boasts adaptive cornering headlights, satellite radio, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, traffic sign recognition, active air shutters to reduce drag and help safe fuel, and Mazda’s i-ELOOP regenerative braking system that first harnesses kinetic energy when slowing or braking and then repurposes into the electrical system for yet more energy savings.

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT
Is it roomy or comfortable enough? Stay tuned… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So equipped the Mazda3 GT achieves a claimed 8.7 L/100km city and 6.6 highway, which is considerably better than the regular GT automatic that’s rated at 9.0 and 6.7 respectively—the GT manual gets an estimated 9.6 city and 7.0 highway. Those that prioritize fuel economy over performance can opt for a more basic Mazda3, which gets an 8.4 L/100km city and 6.4 highway rating for the auto or 8.6 and 6.4 with the manual.

I’ll go into more detail about Mazda’s advanced Skyactiv engine and transmission technology in my review, these being critical components of the company’s core ethos of simultaneously maximizing performance while minimizing fuel consumption and emissions, a philosophy that driving enthusiasts can easily get behind…

Since arriving on the subcompact crossover scene halfway through 2015, Mazda’s CX-3 has been a class favourite. It’s good looking, sporty, fairly upscale, nicely equipped and plenty practical, all…

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD
The subcompact 2017 Mazda CX-3 looks best in top-line GT trim, which is how we’re testing it this week. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Since arriving on the subcompact crossover scene halfway through 2015, Mazda’s CX-3 has been a class favourite. It’s good looking, sporty, fairly upscale, nicely equipped and plenty practical, all good reasons for its rise in popularity.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if the folks at Mazda Canada’s Richmond Hill headquarters are starting to look over their shoulders at new competition now that Toyota’s equally sporty CH-R has shown up, just like Honda is hoping its HR-V’s lead doesn’t get consumed by the new Nissan Qashqai, a mini-Roque that looks like it’ll put up a good fight in this once fringe segment.

In total, the subcompact SUV category has 11 entrants, including the bestselling HR-V with 12,371 sales last year, runner up CX-3 with 9,354 deliveries, third-place Chevrolet Trax with 9,072, Mitsubishi RVR with 6,196, Buick Encore with 5,533, Nissan Juke with 4,442, Jeep Renegade with 3,962, Fiat 500X with 766, and Mini Countryman with 694. I can’t decide if the Mini and Buick should be counted in the subcompact luxury SUV segment because they’re priced higher, but in reality they’re somewhere in the middle. Neither has much effect on the CX-3, however, so it’s a moot point.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD
The CX-3 has sporty styling that it lives up to when behind the wheel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new CH-R is relevant, however, having sold 690 units in its first month of May. This won’t cause too much concern at Honda where the HR-V found 1,687 new buyers, and I suppose the CX-3’s 1,089 May deliveries were strong too, in fact that was the model’s best monthly sales results ever, but it’s just the beginning for the Toyota subcompact and this initial jump out of the gate (a time in a vehicle’s lifecycle when availability is compromised and therefore real sales may have been better) is better than two of the CX-3’s poorer months this year, and stronger than many others it’s competing against, like the Trax that only found 464 buyers, plus the Juke and Renegade that attracted just 270 apiece. Even Fiat’s 500X did better than these two thanks to a best-ever tally of 305 sales, while I believe we’ll see a lot more than May’s 191 units from the new Qashqai.

Other than mention of the upcoming Ford EcoSport (due to arrive later this year) and just announced Hyundai Kona (a Kia version can’t be too far away), that’s the state of the subcompact SUV segment, and the CX-3 remains near the very top for all the reasons just stated as well as Canada’s adoration of its independent Japanese parent.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD
The CX-3 provides a more upscale environment than most rivals in GT trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t go into U.S. numbers, but suffice to say they’re not pretty with respect to anything Mazda sells, save the MX-5 “Miata”. Their number one seller in this class is the Renegade, a model far down the pecking order here. With all due respect, every one of the above noted SUVs is worthy of your attention and would likely provide an enjoyable ownership experience, some of my favourites being lower on the popularity poll, but in the case of the CX-3 I can wholly agree with its success.

I’ve read others knock its styling on social media, but I love every inch of the little Mazda sport ute, especially in as-tested top-line GT trim. Moving up from the $20,695 base GX model or $22,695 mid-range GS to the $28,995 GT allows for more sophisticated looking and much brighter LED headlights with stylish signature detailing, plus the world’s tiniest LED fog lamps inserted within the upgraded metallic bezels of its sporty front fascia, not to mention stunning twinned V-spoke 18-inch gunmetal-finish alloys around each side. Move inside and its well laid out cabin gets leather and Lux Suede upholstery, plus loads of exclusive features.

2017 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD
That’s leather in a mainstream-branded subcompact SUV. Mazda does it right! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ll go on in more detail in my upcoming review, plus relate how the CX-3’s sole Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder responds to aggressive input, its 146 horsepower and identical 146 lb-ft of torque plenty for an SUV that weighs just 1,339 kilos. This said Mazda joins many other manufacturers in unforgivably making their normally standard six-speed manual transmission unavailable in the CX-3’s sportiest trim, but at least the six-speed automatic has manual mode with an engaging set of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and best of all it’s not a CVT.

If you want AWD you’ll need to accept the autobox anyway, so therefore the CX-3 GT drives all four wheels, which aids traction and doesn’t detract much from efficiencies thanks to a five-cycle rating of 8.8 L/100km in the city and 7.5 on the highway compared to 8.2 city and 6.9 highway in the manual-equipped front-drive model.

I don’t think I’m going to worry too much about fuel economy this week, because the CX-3 GT is way too much fun to let such concerns ruin the moment. Come back soon and check out my road test review to get all the details…

Anytime we’re offered a week in a Mazda MX-5 we rejoice, and then say yes followed quickly by thank you. I know the MX-5 isn’t the most powerful, fastest, or the most lust-worthy two-seat roadster…

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
The MX-5 received a menacing new look for 2016 that carries through to this year’s car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Anytime we’re offered a week in a Mazda MX-5 we rejoice, and then say yes followed quickly by thank you.

I know the MX-5 isn’t the most powerful, fastest, or the most lust-worthy two-seat roadster on the planet, but it’s one of the better handling and therefore one of the most enjoyable to drive. That it’s also the least expensive of its kind doesn’t hurt matters either.

At $31,900 plus freight and fees, the MX-5 GX beats the new Fiat 124 Spider Classica by $1,595, whereas the Nissan 370Z Roadster’s $49,498 MSRP puts it in a totally different league (odd considering the base 370Z Coupe starts at just $29,998).

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
The look made for big changes front to back, these right-sized LED taillights especially appealing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Two-seat roadsters are a rare breed, at least amongst mainstream volume brands. Of course there’s the $69,795 Corvette Stingray Convertible that’s very well priced for what it is, while its one-time competitive Dodge Viper is only available in GTS coupe form now, and not for much longer, while more down to earth competitors like Pontiac’s Solstice and Saturn’s Sky are as alive and well as their brands—not. I suppose the Honda S2000 deserves mention because its insanely high-revving four-cylinder was so fabulously fun, as is the even more intoxicating Lotus Elise with its final edition Toyota turbo four (let’s hope new owner Geely—Volvo’s parent—breathes new life into this legendary British marque), but enough of digging long deceased roadsters up from their graves.

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
Top up or down, it’s proportions are perfect. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The S2000’s wonderfully high-strung first-gen engine (it spun to 9,000 rpm in stock tune) reminds me of what I like least about the MX-5, its 2.0-litre Skyactiv four-cylinder. Not necessarily its output that’s adequate at 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, but rather its loping somewhat lethargic 6,800-rpm redline and its less than inspiring engine/exhaust note. The 124 Spider’s 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo four is more responsive at 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, but it’s only more exciting to listen to due to its smaller, higher pitched song, as it’s actual redline is just 6,500 rpm. How I long for the 8,000-plus rpm song whine of Toyota’s wonderful little 1.6-litre twin-cam when stuffed into the aforementioned Elise, but alas this Miata mill will have to do.

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
The manual top is light and easy to stow. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That said I’ve gone way too far into personal opinion, because I don’t normally make such comments in my garage entries, but the MX-5’s four-cylinder just leaves me wanting so much more. It’s a tough little engine though, known to keep on ticking after years of taking a licking with only regular maintenance. Consumer Reports’ latest 2017 Annual Reliability Study places Mazda in third place amongst mainstream brands behind Toyota and Kia (yes, Kia), while Vincentric gave the alternative Japanese brand top billing for its latest “Best Value in Canada” award—ok it has nothing to do with reliability, but it’s pretty cool just the same.

All of this helps build the Mazda name, and the powers that be should be very happy that MX-5 sales are up. After wallowing in the low 500s to even lower 700s for the past half-decade, its 2016 model year redesign pumped up the volume to 903 deliveries, and after only five months of 2017 and an impressive 609 units down the road it’s targeting an even stronger year.

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
Welcome to a much higher quality cabin than its predecessor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That puts the MX-5 well ahead of the Toyota 86 (Scion FR-S), Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and Nissan 370Z, all of which beat it on the sales charts last year, but the order has reshuffled with the best of the rest Z achieving just 378 deliveries, the 86 at 349 (after a nameplate change, new Toyota branding, and a refresh), and the Genesis Coupe selling out its final stock (RIP) with just 144 down Canadian roads so far this year. There are two stories in these numbers, 1) that the MX-5 is doing very well, and 2) that its closest competitors aren’t.

It would be tough to choose the best driver’s car amongst this bunch, but the MX-5 should get the nod for its racing pedigree alone. It’s one of the most track-tested cars of all time, a true weekend warrior that’s turned 9–to–5 working zeros into autocross and road course heroes on many a Sunday. And before you take offence to my anti-ode to the working schlepp, take heart that I slot myself into that mind-atrophying category too (just add another 5–6 hours to each day and another 10–15 on weekends).

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
While a down to business cockpit, there’s still plenty of tech and luxury bits around. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All the MX-5 news this year is targeting the RF, or “retractable fastback”. Mazda offered a folding hardtop for the previous generation MX-5, but I must say this new one is a lot more enticing as it looks like a reincarnated Triumph GT6, albeit probably closer to the Elise I’ve been lamenting in this overview. Rather than a roadster is more of a classic targa-like roof, although instead of manually lifting it off and storing it in the trunk like targas of yore, the rear buttresses rise upwards and the top panel slots neatly behind the seatbacks above the trunk area (only stealing three litres of cargo volume from its 130-litre trunk).

Being more of a two-door coupe lover I’m all for the rear design, but maintaining the car’s connection to the wide-open elements is a bonus for sure, even if it adds 56 kilos (or 53 kg with the auto) to the regular MX-5’s overall mass.

While all this newfound style and retractable substance is exciting, my tester is carved from tried and tested fabric topped MX-5 tradition, including its standard six-speed manual transmission (as it should be).

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
Love the straightforward sporting gauges. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The GS starts at $35,800, a bit more affordable than the $39,200 GT (the RF adds $3,000 to these two upper trims), and includes a limited slip differential, a sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, a front strut tower brace, an induction sound enhancer (that’s what you do when your engine sounds like a direct-injected diesel), a noise isolating windshield, 17-inch gunmetal-finish alloys (replacing the base model’s 16s) circling 205/45 tires, piano black painted mirror caps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, shift knob and parking brake handle, plus rain-sensing wipers, 7.0-inch colour Mazda Connect touchscreen infotainment with navigation, SMS- and email-reading/responding capability, HD radio, Aha and Stitcher internet radio, another USB port, Mazda’s “HMI Commander Switch” rotating infotainment controller, an alarm, plus blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
Comfortable and supportive? Check out the upcoming review for my opinion. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All that gets added to the base GX model’s standard menu, which is already nicely equipped with auto on/off and auto-leveling full LED headlamps, LED taillights, a rear window defroster, power-adjustable side mirrors, remote keyless access, pushbutton ignition, powered windows, vanity mirrors, tilt steering (but strangely without telescoping capability), steering wheel controls, cruise control, a trip computer, air conditioning, six-speaker (including speakers in the headrests) AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/AUX audio with speed-sensing volume, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, manually adjustable cloth seats with contrast stitching, body-colour interior door trim, a mesh aero board wind-blocker, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety gear, and more.

2017 Mazda MX-5 GS
Pack light and the MX-5 is perfect for a romantic weekend getaway. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The only option was $200 worth of Crystal White Pearl paint, but Mazda could’ve upped my tester’s content to include a GS Sport package featuring unique 17-inch BBS alloys, red-painted Brembo brakes, and heatable Recaro leather seats, but no such luck, while the top-line GT boasts heatable leather upholstery as well, plus its own unique 17-inch alloys, adaptive cornering headlights with auto high beams, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors (the latter two heated as well), auto climate control, nine-speaker Bose audio with satellite radio, a Homelink universal garage door opener, an insulated liner for the convertible top, lane departure warning, and more.

I’ll go into more of the touchy-feely stuff when I write the review, so be prepared for some fun in the sun, wind through the hair action. Now I’d best get my featherlight Puma race shoes on, head to my driveway, jump into this little darling, adjust my mirrors, turn on some driving tunes, drop the top, and practice power sliding…

Mazda’s new CX-9 is a lot of mid-size SUV for the money, and especially luxurious when upgraded to Signature trim. We tested both GS-L and Signature trims to get a good feel for this important Mazda…

2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature Road Test

Why oh why isn't Mazda number one in the market? Their entire lineup of cars and SUVs look great, boast better than average interiors filled with most of the latest features, perform well, are reliable and wonderfully efficient, but their sales never measure up.

If Subaru and Mitsubishi didn't exist right now (both not even offering full model lineups) Mazda would be the slowest selling Japanese brand in Canada, while they only outsold VW last year because the German manufacturer was gutted from its own scandalous undoing. If you think that's bad, the brand's success in the U.S. can only be described as abysmal, with the lowest sales of any full line brand.

Let me be clear that I'm not trying to bash Mazda at all. I truly don't understand why they're not popular. Their products are excellent and have been a cut above most competitors for decades, but for some reason they've become the car industry's version of Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect.

OK, in some Read Full Story
The Mazda5 is hardly new but it offers practical Canadians one of the most versatile people/cargo carriers possible. This compact 6-seat minivan, complete with side-sliders and a rear liftgate, packs…

2017 Mazda5 Buyer’s Guide Overview

Minivans are a still big deal in Canada. This 2017 Mazda5 is no longer available in any other North American market, but it still finds favour here. The 5 was once part of Mazda's Mexican and U.S. lineups, but sluggish sales due to greater focus on SUVs meant the 2015 model year would be its last. It's still popular enough here for a lifecycle extension, however, Mazda stretching its usual four- to five-year tenure into a sixth model year for this practical compact.

The Mazda5 first arrived on the scene in 2005 as a 2006 model, and quickly found favour with smaller families that required maximum utility. Riding on a compact and therefore lightweight Mazda3 platform that, together with a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, combined frugal ownership costs with sporty performance, the 5 nevertheless came jam-packed with six seats and rear access via side sliders.

It became popular enough that sales rose to 11,690 units in 2007, a number that becomes even more significant Read Full Story