Autos Cheat Sheet: Last month, we reported on stellar sales numbers for Mazda and the general good positioning that the automaker is enjoying in North American markets. Now, you can add accolades from U.S. News & World Report as the magazine awarded Mazda the 2016 Best Car Brand designation as part of a new redesigned award system for 2016.
“Mazda is honoured to be named 2016 Best Car Brand by U.S. News & World Report,” said Mazda North America President/CEO Jim O’Sullivan in the press release. “The award is a testament to our efforts to develop segment-leading vehicles featuring the newest technology, premium materials and enhanced style – and that we’re creating vehicles that drivers want to drive.”
As part of the brand-new 2016 Best Vehicle Brands award series, 2016 Best Car Brand is joined by three other categories — 2016 Best SUV Brand, 2016 Best Truck Brand, and 2016 Best Luxury Brand. To find winners, U.S. News combs through lots of ranking data, as well as press reviews and releases on safety and reliability. In 2015, Mazda got Best Large SUV with the CX-9 and Best Minivan for the Money with the Mazda5.
One of the big draws for Mazda is the freshly redesigned MX-5 Miata, a new incarnation of a sporty two-seater classic. In September, dealerships reported customers flocking in to get a look at this long-anticipated new model. As for reviews, the new Miata isn’t looking too shabby in that area, either; Autoblog compared the MX-5 Miata to the Fiat 124 Spider. “Based on design alone, we’ll take the Mazda every single time,” wrote Steven Ewing.
Another new vehicle mentioned in the U.S. News & World Report announcement is the Mazda CX-3. Speaking last month, staffers at local Lancaster Mazda told us that the CX-3 is bringing a lot of attention to the brand as a new kind of small SUV with all-wheel drive capability. It’s also among top safety picks and features style and performance in a small SUV package.
Another big draw for Mazda is its unique engine design. The dealer reps I spoke to were quick to point out that the SKYACTIV’s 13-to-1 compression ratio for an engine uses regular gas, not premium. When asked about the popularity of SKYACTIV-driven Mazda vehicles on the market, Lancaster Mazda representatives cited the ability of company engineers to maintain great gas mileage without sacrificing power. One way this is done, they said, is by building vehicles lighter with new alloy and composite materials. Car and Driver calls the MX-5 Miata “eminently flingable” due to its light aluminum components.
Want one more reason to look at Mazda? The RX-Vision concept car, powered by a yet-revealed SKYACTIV-R rotary engine, is another example of what Lancaster Mazda reps mentioned when we asked about innovation: That a lot of Mazda’s work, based on formula one racing and specialized performance standards, is focused on getting power through light and agile design.
While we dismissed the very idea of Mazda engineers secretly slaving away over a seemingly dead-end engine technology that we summed up: “Despite being quieter, more power-dense, and having far fewer moving parts than a standard gas engine, it ran hot, was markedly worse on gas, and had a tendency to eat engine seals well before 100,000 miles,” we said when the RX-9 broke cover. “Yeah, we were way off on this one. Frankly, we’re just relieved we didn’t make an embarrassing bet on it.”
Even as Chevy overhauls its Camaro, Ford revives the GT, Dodge sees how much it can legally extract from a V8, and Acura gets its racing helmet back on, keep your eye on lil ol’ Mazda. It’ll be the one to watch.