Tag Archive | "Mazda"

Driving The Mazda 3 Fastback

This year Mazda have been keen to push the merits of their 2014 range and, it has to be said, with ample reason. They have matured into very good cars indeed. In particular, their tried and tested SkyActiv technology – which Mazda say redefines everything, every major part of their cars, from the engine to chassis and from the body to transmissions – has spread more or less throughout the range.

Under the bonnet, engine output is increased and emission levels are reduced. These technologies include high compression ratio petrol engines that, unlike the competition, do without turbochargers for a more immediate response and, conversely, diesels with reduced compression coupled with a new 2-stage turbo design. The company matches these engines with highly efficient automatic transmissions, lighter weight manual transmissions, lightweight body designs and electric power steering.

The Mazda 3 is now in its third generation and is available in a total of no less than 36 variants, spread across five trim levels and priced, depending, between £16,695 to £23,345. The list of options is vast as usual and far too much to list here but contains all you’d expect, plus some new safety features like Smart City Brake Support and secondary Collision Reduction.

There are so many diesels these days that Motor Blogger opted to drive a petrol engine for a change and tried the Fastback version. A  Sport-Nav version, the Fastback was powered by a 2.0L 120PS engine with Stop/Start and achieving the 62mph target in under nine seconds.

FB1 Driving The Mazda 3 FastbackArguably the stylish Fastback is better looking than the regular hatch with a roofline that sweeps elegantly down to the boot-lid spoiler. We are all used to the convenience of hatchbacks and it is fair to say that a regular boot is less useful, but the rear seats of the Fastback still fold so it is fine for most applications.

Upon starting the car a small, unobtrusive ‘head’s up’ opaque panel rises on top of the instrument binnacle and shows the car’s speed. This means that it is the rev counter that takes pride of place amongst the driver instruments with just a supplementary display of the mph. With navigation in use, the ‘heads-up’ also shows a direction finder. This works very well and, importantly, is not affected by direct in-coming sunlight.

Inside the quality leather interior even the most misshapen of motorists will have no trouble getting comfortable. Mazda have an option of two-tone leather seats which, IMHO, are a must-have. There’s a usefully wide range of adjustment to the driver’s seat and steering wheel, and there’s plenty of leg, head and shoulder space for all. The dashboard layout is tidy and logical, with clearly labelled buttons and dials for the air-conditioning and easy-to-read instrument dials. Various functions can be accessed using the 7” colour touchscreen that sits in pride of place on top of the dashboard.

No longer the poor relation, Mazda have put their new cars properly into the limelight. They have clearly worked hard on the interiors which are smart, comfortable and well equipped and the instant response from the SkyActiv tech makes for enjoyable driving.

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Thirteen For 13

Are you superstitious? Would you be entirely happy with the number 13 on your car? Well, unless you can find a way around it – as suggested by Motor Blogger last year – you are just going to have to lump it. Our unwavering government have no intention of ditching this year’s series just to please the likes of you.

Never mind. At least there is going to be a fantastic selection of new cars that you could attach to the back of your new number plate. Honda, for example, are planning a new SUV in line with current trends that will be pitched into the gap between the Civic and the CRV. An interesting point is that it may feature Honda’s next-generation hybrid technology.

If you’re feeling flush with cash you could push the boat out and treat yourself to Jaguar’s forthcoming F Type. This may well be the most anticipated car of the year; full of lovely supercharged goodness. Too tame for your wallet? Fair enough. How about the long-awaited replacement for the Enzo, the F70. Or will it be the F150? We’ll see what Ferrari decide although Ford America won’t be too happy as that’s the designation for their new pick-up!

Back in the real world Fiat are offering the 500L. We’ve mentioned this before. Basically it’s a 500 on steroids. Presumably this is designed to rival the giant Mini and word has it that this could be one of the year’s best sellers. As indeed could the 500 Coupé , a cheeky 2+2 version of the perennial favourite. Meanwhile over the border in France, Citroen’s successful DS3 is taking it’s top off, or at least rolling it up – a feature that really suits this star car.

For hot hatch fans Ford will be selling the long awaited Fiesta ST, sporting at least 180bhp. If a suitable family car is more to your requirements then there’s a new package with the latest Kia Carens SUV (pictured) – the words on the grapevine are ‘surprise’ and ‘delight’. Not content to settle for one new car, the same company will present their first hot hatch in the UK. The Cee’d GT. Boasting a muscular 200bhp it looks like a rival for the ST.

Winner of this year’s daft name award is the mighty Maserati Kubang. Effectively a Ferrari powered Jeep in an Italian designer frock it’s a new departure for a company that is slowly resurrecting its image. The trouble is – is it a car too far for a company noted for beautiful design? The official Kubang website is showing a wonderful old and evocative short film called ‘A story that will overcome time’. Worth a look.

Mazda’s 6 is a good and popular choice, especially if you are not badge conscious but now they’ve produced a coupé version that’s a real looker. Let’s hope it gives a boost to this underrated manufacturer. If you do like a badge then Mercedes are refreshing the E-Class. Not earth-shattering in itself but the company are saying it will be packed with cutting edge technology under the banner ‘intelligent drive’.

In fact, there will be something like sixty new or updated cars being sold or announced in the coming year, but in this brief article there is only one car that can finish of the list. Will we finally be able to get our hands on the Alfa Romeo 4C? Live in hope.

So there you have it – thirteen cars for 2013. So don’t worry your heads about the reputation of the number 13. You know what they say – lucky for some!

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A New Era of Engines

Motorists are beginning to despair for their future motoring. The rising cost of fuel, for which the government must take a large portion of the blame, has really started to bite. Many people rely on their cars, whether it is for work or because they live in rural areas, for example. Public transport is often cited as an alternative but bus companies won’t service unprofitable routes and the cost of train tickets for regular travel is for many people greater than that of running a small vehicle. Fortunately, car manufacturers are not sitting idly by and, now that the government in its wisdom has decided to tax electric cars from 2015, are working hard on ever more fuel efficient engines.

In addition to hybrid technology and the fuel-sipping motors already on offer, there are other systems undergoing viability testing. Mazda, for example, are confidently trumpeting their ‘SkyActiv’ diesel technology. Briefly, the idea is that instead of raising a diesel engine’s compression, they lower it which allows the fuel to ignite earlier in the combustion cycle. Although this produces a smaller ‘bang’ the effect lasts longer promoting torque and refinement. Because the compression ratio is lower the engine does not have to be so hefty, resulting in a lighter unit which has better torque and achieves a 20% fuel saving.

Another interesting new concept is flywheel technology http://panniekazino.com/ which has already appeared on some experimental vehicles. Flywheels can store the energy on hybrid vehicles that would be otherwise lost under braking, for use again under acceleration. They are much cleaner and cheaper to make and, now that the science has moved forward, smaller and lighter as well. The downside is that they can’t store power for long and are dependant on brake use.

As has been seen on the new Bentley V8, cylinder deactivation is already a viable fuel saving solution. This is of course terrific if you have the necessary £140k but thankfully, Volkswagen is preparing small four cylinder units, using pretty much the same method as the Bentley, that will have what is described as ‘variable displacement’ technology allowing the car to run on just two cylinders at appropriate times. Meanwhile over at Mercedes Benz their engineers are working on the Diesotto engine which aims to give petrol engine performance with the fuel efficiency of the very best diesel.

On the new and highly regarded EV, the Vauxhall Ampera, when the juice runs out a small 1.4L petrol engine steps in to act as a generator. Manufacturers are looking at ways to improve on this basic idea. Jaguar demonstrated gas turbines on its concept supercar the C-X75 – although it is thought that these won’t make production. Audi meanwhile are currently working on a small Wankel rotary engine of only 250cc for its A1 e-tron range extender concept. Add to all these experimentation ideas the cyclone external combustion engines – too complicated to detail here – and fuel saving electrically operated engine valves and you can get an idea of how car makers are pushing the envelope to keep motoring alive.

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There’s never been a better time to buy a convertible

We know it’s not customary to start searching for a convertible in the cold season – we’re in the darkest depths of winter with the country’s roads still slick with salt and atmospheric conditions not best suited to top-down motoring.

But, and it’s one of those big, wholesome well-rounded buts, the winter could mark the right time to start searching for an al fresco motoring proposition, ready for the warmth of spring and summer.

As the warm months arrive they’ll bring with them inflated prices in the two-seater market.

It’s widely recognised that open-top cars are harder to sell on with the weather doing its best to pinpoint their drawbacks – but, start scouring the classifieds before green shoots appear on the trees and a smart buyer could bag a slice of open-top motoring for an appealingly discounted price.

There’s something for everyone in the open-top class, too. Hardened track day enthusiasts will know that the Series 1 Lotus Elise is a properly focussed sports car.

Driven well, even the entry-level Elise with it’s 118bhp 1.8-litre Rover K-Series engine will rival a Porsche 911 of the same era for go and eclipses it through the twisties thanks to its superbly agile handling and 725kg kerb weight.

Believe it or not, examples of this gem of a sportscar can be had for as little as £8,000 pounds. But when spring comes, you can expect prices of even the cheapest and tattiest Elise’s to rise by at least £500.

There’s plenty for the driver looking for a more laid back approach to convertible motoring, too.

The BMW 3 Series convertible, Mercedes-Benz CLK drop-top and roofless version of Audi’s A4 can all be picked up for prices around the £10,000 mark – and that’s not the bottom of the range models either.

They may be the previous generation vehicles but with lower than average mileage (convertibles often are due to the seasonal nature of when they’re driven), gutsy straight-six, V6 and four-cylinder turbo engines respectively, electric roofs, and plenty of executive level equipment, all three examples are a bargain buy for a large chunk of premium open-top motoring.

If you’re on the look out for a convertible as a second car and don’t want to spend a great deal then there’s more affordable but no less attractive convertibles available, too.

The Mazda MX-5 MK3 on an 07 plate car can be snapped up for as little as £4,995 – the famous roadster offers sweet handling, smart styling and solid build quality.

Whatever your choice, there’s a couple of basic rules to follow. Watch all your usual motoring outlets like a hawk and don’t buy the first car you see.

Whatever you do though, don’t leave it too long as those winter prices will start to creep up to spring/summer levels.

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