Mazda is a producer of affordable cars and trucks that all share one common ingredient: a sporty character. Their line-up of vehicles includes cars from subcompact hatchbacks to mid-size sedans, sports cars, a compact minivan and crossovers of various sizes.
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Mazda started out in 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo, a tiny company based in Hiroshima, Japan that manufactured corks. In 1931, they started producing three-wheel trucks, which marks their vehicle-manufacturing debut. The company changed its name to Mazda in 1960, when their first passenger cars were produced, including the R360, the Carol, the Familia and the Luce.
The Japanese brand innovated in 1961 by unveiling their new rotary engine, and in 1963, a new milestone is achieved as they build their one-millionth vehicle. The rotary engine will eventually find its way into the 1967 Cosmo Sport 110S, and is still used today under the hood of the RX-8 sports car.
Mazda Canada was established in 1968, while Mazda USA was created two years later. The first model on U.S. soil was the rotary engine-powered R100 coupe.
In 1978, the famous and affordable RX-7 sports car arrived on the market. A year later, Ford bought a 25% stake in the company, while the GLC was introduced in 1981. The second generation of the RX-7 arrived in 1986, and is awarded Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year and the AJAC’s Best New Sports Car titles.
Another cooperation with Ford brought the Probe and Mazda MX-6 twins in 1988, which were produced in a new North-American plant. The mid-size 626 received a redesign and the 929 sedan was introduced. A hot-blooded 323GTX with four-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine also was offered for a couple of years.
The now-famous MX-5 Miata two-seat roadster, inspired by the Lotus Elan of the ‘60s, arrived on the scene in 1989 and is an instant hit. It will go on to be the bestselling roadster in the world, and is still produced today. The MPV minivan was also introduced the same year.
In 1990, the 323 sedan became the 323 Protegé, and in 1993, a redesigned B-Series debuted in Canada and the U.S., basically a rebadged Ford Ranger. A nifty little sports hatch called the MX-3 was offered from 1993 to 1996 and includes one of the smallest V6 engines on the market. The Millenia sedan arrives in 1995 featuring a unique, Miller-cycle engine.
1999 brought a new MPV, this time with sliding side doors. In 2000, Mazda and Ford team up again to develop the Tribute compact SUV, while a 5-door version of the brand’s compact sedan was offered in 2002 and 2003, called the Protegé5. In 2004, the Protegé was replaced by the Mazda3, the 626 was redesigned and renamed the Mazda6, and the RX-8 was launched as a spiritual successor to the RX-7.
In 2006, the MPV was replaced by the compact, six-passenger Mazda5, while the short-lived MAZDASPEED6 was added for 2006 and 2007, a high-performance sedan with all-wheel drive and a turbo 4-cylinder engine. The CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers arrived in 2007 as well as the front-drive, turbocharged MAZDASPEED3.
Today, Mazda’s product portfolio consists of the Mazda2 subcompact, the Mazda3 compact sedan and hatchback, the Mazda5 minivan, the Mazda6 sedan, the Tribute sport-utility, the CX-7, the CX-9 as well as the MX-5 and RX-8 sports cars.
Despite our fascination with the small car, larger vehicles are just as prominent on our roads. Why? Because the desire for comfort, space, and security on the road is prevalent with those in need of the interior room and practicality.
Cars are meant to be driven: That's the thing they do
the most. Forget the radio, the seat warmers, the
cargo space, or even the windshield wipers; sure
those all help in the act, but it's the drive that is the
most important bit. And Mazda's nailed it.
Bread-and-butter cars -- or gateway cars -- are the
first steps into a brand. They are typically the
bestselling nameplates for a given manufacturer, and
thus serve a number of purposes.
My first car -- the one that took me to high school --
was a 1985 Mazda 626 LX coupe. I bought it in 1993
for a mere $500. I subsequently dropped well over
three times that much on an audio system for the
thing, but that's not the point.
There are countless automotive stories out there that deserve to be told. The Mustang and the birth of the pony car; the Corvair and the disaster it was; the Beetle; the Model T are but some very famous examples. All have their place in automobiledom and their stories will be shared for centuries to come.
I was fortunate enough to be present when the giant
screen lifted to reveal the new 2016 Mazda MX-5
only a few short days ago.