Automakers are generally divided into two main categories – mainstream and luxury. On the mainstream side, buyers typically prioritize cost above all else, but efficiency, reliability, and longevity are also usually priorities. On the luxury side, status is often the main motivator, but comfort, performance, and technology also play a major role. Most automakers lean hard into one category, with some even creating a separate brand if they want to start selling cars in the other; take Honda with Acura, for example, or BMW with Mini here in the US. One automaker, though, Mazda manages to offer the best of both worlds; a mild luxury car experience at mainstream pricing, leading us to the question – is Mazda under-appreciated?
Mazda as Mainstream
From a mechanical standpoint, Mazda’s vehicles are similar to your average Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and the like. Aside from the MX-5 Miata, which rides on its own proprietary rear-wheel-drive platform, Mazda uses similar vehicle architecture across its lineup. The Mazda3 and Mazda6, along with the CX-3, CX-30, CX-5, and CX-9 SUVs, all ride on similar front-wheel drive unibody skeletons, though each one except for the Mazda6 can be optioned with all-wheel drive. Powertrains are a similar case; Mazda effectively relies on two different four-cylinder engines throughout its lineup. There’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder currently available in the MX-5, the Mazda3, and the soon-to-be-discontinued CX-3. The most common engine throughout Mazda’s lineup is a 186hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder, offered in the Mazda3, Mazda6, CX-30, and CX-5, while a 250hp turbocharged version of that engine comes standard in the CX-9 and is optional in the 3, 6, and CX-5. All Mazdas use a six-speed automatic transmission, though a six-speed manual is available in the MX-5 and Mazda3. Mazda doesn’t offer a performance line, though the MX-5 is, by definition a sports car. Throughout the lineup, fuel economy comes in a little below that of the segment leaders and the company historically hasn’t offered any hybrids. Mazda has recently revealed a crossover EV dubbed the MX-30, though US-availability has yet to be determined.
Mazda as Luxury
With the normal stuff now covered, we can begin to explore Mazda through the luxury lens. For starters, few people would argue that all of Mazda’s vehicles aren’t among the best looking in their respective class; the company has clearly prioritized premium exterior design throughout its existence, but especially in recent years. Move inside, and it’s more of the same. While Honda and Toyota still use rather busy, utilitarian interior layouts, Mazda has moved to a minimalist design. The company’s interiors feature a floating infotainment screen, and it seems to be moving toward offering a 10.25-in widescreen display throughout its lineup. That screen is controlled via a rotary dial on the center console, a layout also utilized by BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. As for materials, Mazda uses high-quality plastics, vinyl, rubbers, and leather, and combined with its upscale design, really drives home the point that this is more than just your average economy brand. The brand also prides itself in offering a sportier, more engaging driving experience than its competitors, and most vehicles in the company’s lineup offer best-in-class handling.
Should You Buy One?
If you’re in the market for a new small- or medium-sized sedan or SUV, then be sure to test drive the Mazda option. Compared to other mainstream automakers, Mazda offers better design, higher-end interiors, and more athletic driving dynamics, all for about the same price. While the company may not offer huge performance or alternative powertrains, as far as the cars most people buy – economical, safe, reasonably-priced sedans, hatchbacks, and SUVs, the Mazda product is at or near the top of the pack in every category in which it competes, and a Mazda is absolutely worth your consideration as you search for a new-or-used vehicle. Find a Mazda for sale