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.
And absolutely for the better. The 2014 Mazda CX-5 has, in one swift move, put aside all my misgivings that came to light after my test drive of a 2013 CX-5 last year. So good is the work done by Mazda on the 2014 that the CX-5 hoisted itself near the top of my list of favourite compact crossovers alongside the Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Go-to cars are a manufacturer's dream. These cars are the ones that enable a carmaker to do the business of making cars. This may not make all that much sense, but if you consider that a car sells itself for whatever reason and in huge quantities, this equates to a steady stream of revenue, allowing for more R&D and new products.
There are a few things in the world that make one feel untouchable, invincible even (the least of which being alcohol, but that's a topic for another article): knowing you are the No. 1 selling item of your kind in the world is one such thing. There's no denying the smug looks Toyota employees must get when they're reminded that nearly 40 million Corollas have sold the world over. They've earned that look.
Mazda will host of the global debut of its new HAZUMI concept at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show. The name refers to a small, energetic car that would be ideal around town, thus previewing the next-generation Mazda2.
During a press conference at the 2014 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) crowned the new Mazda6 as the 2014 Canadian Car of the Year.
Looking for a great compact SUV? Kelley Blue Book has just published its annual Top 10 SUVs under US$25,000, and unsurprisingly, Japanese and Korean models lead the way.