Letter From The UK: Make Mine A Mazda

Well, here in good old Britain, we have had a bit of a Brexit breakthrough. Our Prime Minister has shaken hands with one of the unelected European Union autocrats, which has signalled that they have agreed to start talking about having talks about trade.

There remains still a huge gulf between the parties and by the time you read this, they will have no doubt reached another impasse and industry will have to wait until next year to see any concrete results.

Christmas Doldrums

The trouble is, in the overriding interests of having a ball at Christmas, this particular holiday seems to begin around the end of November here. For some reason that escapes me, the Workers of Britain begin to slow everything right down; nothing much gets done. Business tends to stagnate, which is not what you need when the country is facing a potential economic nightmare. I think it is called sloth and, as a freelancer, it drives me around the bend.

Trading With Other Countries

The new talks about trade talks will probably end up with Britain being either on World Trade Organisation tariffs with Europe or, more favourably, we get a special deal. The snag here is that other non-European countries of the world don’t care for us to get a better deal with the EU than they do.

Ultimately then, the auto industry, which is global now, still doesn’t know where it stands. Industry pundits are glad the first stage of mutual loathing has passed but where does it leave international companies like Mazda, the Japanese auto brand? Their cars are justifiably popular here in UK and esteemed colleagues at this publication have been waxing lyrical about the new Mazda 6 in the USA.

I thought then that you might like a peek at just three Mazda cars we get here. I was fortunate enough to drive them a few weeks ago.

Jinba Ittai

So Grasshopper, with Jinba Ittai, the car responds almost as though it were an extension of the driver’s body, enhancing safety and peace of mind. Now I could demonstrate my in-depth knowledge of the subject but instead I’ll direct you to this informative article instead.

Mazda CX-5

This good-sized, five-seat SUV as tested was powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder TOC Skyactiv-G petrol engine with 163 horsepower. Although the 2.5-liter Mazda 6 you will see has a turbo, most of the Euro-specified Mazda cars eschew the blower in favour of a high compression engine that significantly improves fuel efficiency and torque. That design also improves everyday driving thanks to the increased torque at low to mid-engine speeds. This technology extends across the other two cars mentioned here, plus the company’s smaller 2 and 3 models.

The CX-5 is the SUV of choice for keen family motorists. Arguably it handles better than any other of its type in the mainstream sector. Comfort and refinement in the latest model have helped to really up the game too. With the combination of a very punchy engine, an upmarket interior, and plenty of technology, it delivered a delightful drive around rural England.

The 0 to 62 mph time of just over ten seconds seems a bit pedestrian but it belies the fact that this car, once rolling, can really crack on. The handling is key; no rocking and rolling here, the CX-5 drives like a quick hatchback but it is still not as much fun as . . .

The Mazda MX-5

Do you remember your first time? That’s right, the first time you stepped into a car with a fully loaded driving permit and experienced the joys of the open road? Well, no matter how sated with driving you may now be, it is still possible to rediscover those fun-filled, halcyon days by simply treating yourself to the Mazda MX-5.

How do I love this car? Let me count the ways: As a rag-top it was brilliant. A sports car as it should be. Front engine, rear-wheel drive, and a quick, punchy engine coupled with a good old stick-shift six. Now it is even better because the MX-5 comes for the first time as a tin-top. It has a retractable hardtop which is simple to use, and thus offers the best of both worlds. I loved it as a coupe immediately. It is quieter and my hair gets to stay in one place.

Two four-cylinder engines are on offer: a 1.5 (featured here) and a 2.0-liter. Surprisingly, it is the smaller motor that delivers the most pleasure or so it seems to me. It isn’t fast, with the benchmark 62 mph arriving in a modest 8.3 seconds, but it feels fast and that’s the important thing. The driving position is laid back and relaxed and the sensation of speed is as a result of the driver sitting low to the ground. Around the B-roads of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire the ride was exhilarating. This is one B-Road bandit.

With a modest output of 129 horsepower, you can’t expect scorching performance but, by keeping the revs high, you can still experience the sensations. But a lively engine is not much use without the handling to go with it. This is where the Mazda really scores. You feel connected with the road; there’s grip that will keep going long after your nerves have failed, which means cornering ability is outstanding. It is possible to introduce a little oversteer, especially when the roads are damp as I found when I went into a moist tree-shaded corner a tad too hot, but there’s sufficient advance warning to ease off and correct. Oh joy unbounded!

But now we must go back to the realms of normality and family values with . . .

The Mazda 6

The featured car ran with a punchy, torquey 2.2-liter 172 horsepower diesel engine, which sped to 62 mph in just eight seconds, yet returned over 60 mpg when driven appropriately. I like a station wagon generally as a daily driver and this one really does the job. It is supremely comfortable, gutsy, and features a high-tech interior lined with lovely leather. The trunk yawns before you like a canyon. It’s vast.

The trouble is, that’s about it. It is not a car that you would look longingly back at as you walked away. It is a car for people who need an excellent car but who are not especially interested in cars.

I have driven the 2.5 turbo as described by Tony Borroz. No doubt that would be more fun.

Bright Future

Mazda plows their own furrow and have a good rep in the UK. They have proven to be reliable, long-lasting, and a good value for the money. The Skyactiv technology is great and we learn that it is going to get even better. At the Tokyo Motor Show recently, they announced their Skyactiv-X technology with spark-controlled compression ignition. They say this will combine the economy and torque of a diesel engine with the performance and lower emissions of a petrol unit.

There’s clearly still life in fossil fuels yet; let’s hope there is some semblance of life left in the negotiators of Europe that will get us out of the hole with our economy intact.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

Cover Photo: Mazda North American Operations.

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