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Mazda steps up a gear

By raccars Published

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Mazda is enjoying a very busy 2016, with a number of new releases and a WCOTY win.

2016 seems set to be a purple patch for Mazda, which is currently basking in its success at the World Car of the Year awards from last month. Not only did the fourth generation MX-5 take the overall World Car of the Year prize but it also beat the Jaguar XE and another Mazda, the CX-3, to the Best Car Design award.

Mazda MX-5 RF

Within the same week, the hard top version of the MX-5, the MX-5 RF stole the show at the New York International Auto Show, soaking up the limelight usually enjoyed by more expensive and exotic models. The MX-5 RF has a Targa-style retractable hard top to make the entertaining roadster just a little more practical in winter. The last hard top MX-5 did extremely well, particularly in the rain soaked and wind lashed British Isles, but the new model boasts far more sophisticated mechanicals.

Not only does the folding hard top operate at speeds of up to 6mph and within about 12 seconds but Mazda has endowed the MX-5 RF with some rather smart cabin updates to differentiate the car from the standard roadster. Premium materials and a new LCD instrument screen certainly give a higher quality feel, while from the outside there's some new bodywork on show too.

Mazda has put a significant amount of effort into ensuring that the extra weight necessary to carry the folding roof mechanism does not impinge upon the driving pleasure which has always been the key characteristic of the MX-5. It has also managed to keep the car at the same size as its soft top sibling. What is impressive is how little the cavity which contains the retracted roof intrudes into the boot space, which is the same 130 litres on offer in the roadster.

Along with the very clever folding roof, MX-5 RF passengers can choose just to lower the rear windscreen to enjoy a bit of fresh air without ruining their hairdos. The RF will be available in the UK some time next year, with prices expected to start from about £21,000.

CX-9 SUV

Mazda is also considering bringing its big seven seater CX-9 SUV to market in Europe. The Japanese firm's SUV model line-up currently includes the CX-3 compact and CX-5 medium sized SUVs, both of which are good sellers for the firm, so there is scope for expansion in the sector.

The CX-9 will be sold in the US from summer and in Europe would compete with the likes of the Kia Sorento and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. At the New York show the crowds were impressed with the big SUV's high quality finish and the CX-9's striking good looks, which adhere closely to Mazda's current Kodo design language. At the moment it is only available with a petrol engine and Mazda concedes that a diesel unit will be essential if the car is to enter the European market.

Electrification

Meanwhile Mazda continues to develop its fuel saving technologies, bucking the current trend for hybrid and electric car technology which most manufacturers are furiously pursuing. The firm believes that by improving the efficiency of its petrol and diesel engines and using lightweight construction methods it can offer a 20 to 30 per cent improvement in fuel economy by 2020. Mazda's goal is to meet the EU's average emissions target of 95g/km without the assistance of electric powertrains.

However the firm hasn't completely ruled out the future electrification of its cars and does sell a hybrid version of the Mazda 3 in Japan, borrowing technology from the Toyota Prius.

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