There’s method in the Mazda

by Huw thomas, chairman, Welsh Motoring Writers The Japanese automotive industry has led the way on process and manufacturing but, in terms of chassis dynamics, mainstream product has often proved lacklustre. Mazda models, under Ford control, improved but the real transformation came in 2012 with the ‘SKYACTIV’ programme – four years after Ford’s withdrawal. That year’s CX-5 compact SUV/Crossover was the first completely new SKYACTIV vehicle. The methodology tackled engine, transmission and vehicle construction technologies ‘holistically’. Mazda developed a system for building its core car range on one basic set of components (‘platform’ by now too simple a description). Bodywork both lighter and stiffer brought strength, safety and fuel economy benefits while ride and handling improved: sharper steering and better body control. Nothing revolutionary these days perhaps but it went further. engines were ‘commonised’ with petrol and Diesel units running to similar compression ratios. A quieter and smoother Diesel was the result and petrol fuel economy looked set to improve. engine and transmission efficiencies taken together with weight-saving led to a more beneficial CO2 figure – still a key issue for company car taxation. After the CX-5, next SKYACTIV car was the upper mid class Mazda6 then the lower-medium CX-3/Mazda3 culminating with the Mazda2 super-mini in 2014. The 2017/18 ‘Mk 2’ CX-5 starts a repeat of that choreographed roll-out. Next Mazda6, due here in the Summer, was unveiled at last month’s Los Angeles Show. These second generation cars are clearly about consolidation. The new CX-5 has a revamped, higher quality interior and more equipment. SatNav, touch-screen and the communications-connectivity-infotainment package, for example, are enhanced. Basic floorpan is retained but bodywork is new. Dimensions are similar to the last model but the roofline is lower for a “sleeker” look. engines carry over from the old car: 2.0-litre 165ps petrol; 2.2d 150ps or 175ps turbo Diesel. Transmission: 6-speed manual or auto. If this were all, “new car” might be a stretch, but there’s more. Much work has been done ahead of the ‘A pillars’ (windscreen). Front chassis areas have been strengthened and suspension mounts renewed. A further dose of high-tensile steel makes the whole body torsionally more rigid yet no heavier it is claimed. Steering and suspension have been re-worked adopting Mazda’s “G-Vectoring Control” which adjusts engine torque and suspension load when cornering. All done “imperceptibly” it allows for both sharper steering and more composed handling. This is an occasional off-roader (no hill Descent Control or 50-50 front-rear drive lock) but it is a remarkably resolved and refined SUV/Crossover. Latest iteration brings it neck and neck with VW’s Tiguan and ahead of Skoda’s Kodiaq, Ford Kuga, BMW X1, for example. It might not have quite the dynamic breadth of the VW but it’s more appealing to drive and better value for money. Cabin space beats most in the class and it’s frugal on fuel. The Mazda method has produced another good CX- 5. Facts & Figures: asking prices £23,695-£31,395; aWd (4×4) not available with petrol engine; 2.2d 150 aWd £27,695; 2.2d 175 aWd £31,395; 2.2d 175 6-speed manual – 130mph; 0-62mph 9 seconds; 41mpg on test (42/43 tripComputer); Co2 142g/km; insurance Group 21; Max Braked trailer Weight 2,000kg (auto 2,100kg). Mazda Vision Concept Mazda exhibited this concept ‘small/lower-medium’ hatch at last Autumn’s Tokyo Motor Show. It gives an idea of how the external design aspect of SKYACTIV might evolve as it works towards ‘Generation 3’. Further advances in body construction lay beneath and the company is on the point of being first to market with a breakthrough engine combining spark ignition (petrol) and compression ignition (Diesel) operation.

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