What sets the car sales zooming?
MA Z D A HAS just p u l l e d off a feat t h a t i s a l m o s t u n i q u e i n E u - r ope. I t has reported high sales in September — and an all-time record for the company in the half-year from April to September.
The secrets of Mazda’s success are innovation, quality and an enthusiasm for motoring demonstrated by its “Zoom-Zoom” slogan.
Mazda is the only company to have persevered with the concept of the Wankel rotary engine, and developed it successfully as the power unit for the RX-8 — a car that looks like a coupé but is actually a four-door saloon.
The rear doors are back-hinged and have no external handles. You can’t open the back doors until the front ones have been opened and then they make access to this pillar-less car ex- tremely easy.
Soon after the JC tested the RX-8 in February this year, the car came in for some revisions, which made the engine more responsive, although still giving the same power output. Some design changes were also made in the cabin.
The Wankel engine, with no pistons or valves going up and down, is exceptionally smooth and quiet. Its downside is that it is always a bit heavy on fuel and exhaust emissions.
But this is just one of a wide range of Mazda models. Among the most popular and successful is the sporty little MX-5 two-seater convertible, a delight to drive and with charmingly elegant styling.
At the Paris Show earlier this month, the MX-5 came in for minor styling changes and it is set to continue in production for a long time yet.
Changes to the engine are said to make it sound more sporty when accelerating, and it has a higher rev limit. A six-speed automatic transmission will soon become available for the MX-5.
Also in Paris, Mazda launched a new high-performance 2.2-litre diesel en- gine for the big five-seater Mazda6. Meanwhile, the little Mazda2 became available with a 1.6-litre diesel. This new Mazda6 engine will be offered in three versions, with power outputs from 124 to 183 bhp and fuel consumption claimed to be as low as 51.3 mpg.
The Mazda6 will feature a rear vehicle monitoring system that warns the driver of the approach of an overtaking vehicle. The system sounds an alarm if the driver indicates an intention to turn when the car is about to be overtaken.
The latest evolution of Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom technology will be a completely redesigned version of the Mazda3, changed for the first time in five years. It will be unveiled at the Los Angeles Show on November 19.
Also revealed at Paris this month was Mazda’s Kiyora concept car, intended to be the model for a future city car combining very low emissions with high levels of safety and driving fun. It has a lightweight carbon fibre body structure with an aerodynamic outer skin and is powered by a 1.3-litre direct injection petrol engine.
The Kiyora’s CO output is claimed to be under 90 g/km. It’s a long way from being a production possibility at present, but shows Mazda’s determination to ensure that customers continue to enjoy their Zoom-Zoom experience while still being environmentally friendly.
One of the novelties of Kiyora is its seating arrangement, which allows it to be used a two-seater with a boot, or as a 2+2 when there is need to carry four people.
Reducing vehicle weight and increasing engine efficiency are the key concepts for what Mazda calls its Sustainable Zoom-Zoom plan, to enable it to keep on building cars that appeal to customers and give them driving enjoyment, in spite of the ever-tighter restrictions.
Unique spin on the sports car: the Mazda RX-8 with rotary engine