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
Making the universally adored Mazda MX-5 a more comfortable, refined, all-weather sports car didn’t mean it had to lose any of its notable performance prowess, it’s retractable fastback merely makes…

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Road Test

The current Mazda MX-5, which was originally named Miata in North America and still goes by the moniker in the U.S., is the fourth evolution of the Japanese company's sports car. My test car for an August week was the RF version, or retractable fastback, in reality a folding hardtop that takes 13 seconds to raise or lower. Top up or down, it looked clean and dynamic, more visually aggressive than previous models. It should age well. Trunk space was almost the same as the soft-top version, with my duffel bag, computer case, and test instrumentation all managing to fit.

My big decision was where to go with the vehicle. Vancouver traffic didn't seem like a good idea, so, top down I headed towards the twists and turns of the Fraser Canyon. Next to a motorcycle, a convertible provides the most complete driving experience, to my mind much more fun than being sealed in an air-conditioned box.

The Mazda's 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque don't sound like much, but the car Read Full Story
Mazda’s compact 3 sedan and 5-door Sport model combine for lots of sales in the Canadian market, their success due to great styling, superb performance, impressive interiors and plenty of features.…

2017 Mazda3 Sport GT Road Test

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.

Yet that doesn't explain stronger sales of the Toyota Corolla family, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra/Veloster, Volkswagen Jetta/Golf/GTI, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza/WRX, and Kia Forte last year. The salt gets further rubbed into the wound when learning the only two direct competitors it outsells in the U.S., the Dodge Dart and Mitsubishi Lancer, have already been officially discontinued. Yikes!

By comparison, the Mazda3 may not be rivaling the Civic for top sales anymore, or for that matter rubbing shoulders with the Corolla and Elantra, but it's still ahead of the others. Therefore Mazda Canada should probably feel pretty good about the job they're doing here, or cry in their coffee cups about the poor results their American counterparts Read Full Story