The 2012 MAZDA 3 Skyactiv Goes to Motown

Mazda 3 Sport, as the hatchback is called in Canada, has a fresh and highly organic design

 

Even if the current generation of Mazda 3 has been on sale for nearly one year, the previous generation of the Japanese compact car is an important player on the used car market and will do so for a long time. This 2012 Mazda 3 has the same Skyactiv technology as the current model. In this post, I shared my impressions during my visit to 2013 NAIAS in Detroit.

The automotive industry opens every year in Detroit. Its official name is NAIAS, for; North American International Auto Show. In Detroit someone can hear the first comments, gossips and media buzzes of the year. Being one of the biggest auto shows of the world (the other being Frankfurt and organized only in odd years), Detroit sends strong signals about the industry, brands models and of course about the outlook and expectations of the year ahead.

After the collapse of the industry in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008, things have slowly but steadily improved. Detroit, once the global center of the automobile production is now benefiting again from the recovery.

Specifications of Mazda 3

Mazda 3 Sport, as the hatchback is called in Canada, has a fresh and highly organic design

Mazda 3 Sport, as the hatchback is called in Canada, has a fresh and highly organic design

 

It was time to visit Motown or Motor City not far from home and across the Detroit River shortly after the end of the famous 401 Highway. I sat behind the steering wheels and took my 300 km plus drive with Mazda 3 to the Renaissance Center, one of Detroit’s landmarks and GM’s global head office.

This was also a good opportunity to drive the Mazda 3 with its latest Skyactiv technology. In recent years, electric and hybrid vehicles created a lot of media attention and discussions. However, but this interest and excitement didn’t trigger a sales success  for justifiable reasons. One reason is, that the internal combustion engine, one of the longest lasting technological innovations, never stops improving and the current Mazda 3 with Skyactiv is an example of that.

Mazda3 has a sporty and elegantly designed dashboard. Infotainment screen incl navigation is optional

Mazda3 has a sporty and elegantly designed dashboard. Infotainment screen incl navigation is optional

The compact car Mazda 3 from the Island of the Rising Sun and the mainstream model of the Japanese manufacturer, is a major contender in the compact class and was launched in 2004. Built on the success of the first generation, the current model (Mazda 3) family was introduced in 2010. Since its launch, it is one of the top selling cars in Canada and was also the sales champion at certain times. Lastly the Mazda 3 received a major improvement that is defined as Skyactiv. Skyactiv is a bundle of technologies aimed at increasing the performance of the Mazda 3 while reducing the fuel consumption. Mazda offers this bundle in the form of a two-liter, direct injection 4-cyl gasoline engine with very high compression (12,1) delivering 155 HP and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  According to Mazda, this engine of the Mazda 3 is more fuel efficient than its earlier versions. With various improvements from crankshaft to oil pump and chassis the 2012 version of the Mazda 3, the manufacturer claims,  reduced the consumption from 10.2 to 8.4 l/100 km in town, and from 6.0 l/100km to 4.9 l/100 km on the highway compared to the 2011 model.

With a full tank of gas I drove the Mazda 3 from Oakville to Detroit, shuttled between the Cobo Center in Downtown and my hotel near the airport for two days, and returned “almost” home. I refueled in Cambridge and was able to drive 775 kilometers with one filling. It is regular, by the way. This is an impressive range for a car with a gasoline engine.

It is cold in the early morning

It is cold in the early morning

The average consumption was 7,5 liter. With highway speeds around 120 km/h mixed with some rush-hour traffic in the Detroit Metropolitan Area, this is a still a material deviation from the theoretical consumption data of 8,4 l in town and 4,9 lt on the highway. Keep in mind: Use the consumption data for comparative purposes rather than real-life driving expectations.

Highlights from Detroit     

Every year, media (or press) days take place on the third Monday and Tuesday of January, before the show opens its doors to the public. I got up at 5 a.m. in the first morning and hit the road to find a parking spot underneath the Cobo Center. After registration, I obtained my credentials and wristband and set foot on the floor.

After relatively quite morning hours, hundreds of journalists, photographers and cameramen from all continents slowly filled the main hall. Press conferences, lasting 30 minutes were magnets for this crowd and it as difficult to find a good viewing angle, let alone a seat, unless you position yourself at the stand of the brand 10 to 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the press conference.

During the high-pace media days of the show, I rushed from one press meeting to another and naturally missed some. The manufacturers showed their financial muscles to impress the masses via media. Selling automobiles is a highly complex and emotional business. You have to know how to conquer people’s hearts with cold steel and glass. If I would attempt to tell every aspect and mention of all the brands of the show, This post would be pages long. So, below are some of highlights I chose for you:

Mercedes

Mercedes boss Dr. Dieter Zetsche is smiling after the staging of the new E-Class

Mercedes boss Dr. Dieter Zetsche is smiling after the staging of the new E-Class

One of the happiest brands of the show was Mercedes. Celebrating 2012 its ever best year in the USA, in 125 years. Last year, the brand with the stern sold 274 thousand units South of the border. The Germans confidently launched the new E-Class. Mr. Dieter Zetsche, like last year stole the show.

I had an interview with Mr. Gorden Wagener, Mercedes’s Design Chief. He said that in the next 7 years, Mercedes will launch 13 new models without predecessors. This is a very passionate goal and led me pose a question to Mr. Wagener: “Can we expect to see a Mercedes at every corner?” He smiled.

Acura MDX & NSX

The new Acura MDX concept

The new Acura MDX concept

The new generation of full-size SUV of Acura, the MDX was unveiled as a prototype. But the most successful model of the brand it looks very close to serial production. The new design, looked to me more as an evolution and proves that the MDX has become a mature product with a distinct and somewhat timeless design personality.

Jaguar & Land Rover

Flying without Ford’s wings. That’s the mission the JLR Group has to accomplish. I made two interviews with Product development managers of Jaguar and Land Rover USA. They were happy to have sufficient autonomy and independence to retain the British characters of these invaluable brands. And time will tell if the JLR Group can independently develop new models and increase its scale of production. There is reason to be optimistic considering the quality ratings of recent models.

Ford & Lincoln

During Ford’s media dinner in the first evening, I was able to talk shortly to Mr. Allan Mulally, Ford’s legendary CEO and one of the most successful leaders of an automobile company ever.

The relaunch of the Transit as Ford’s global commercial and passenger van will probably create new investments and jobs for Turkey, an important production base for Transit. I told Mr Mulally that there is almost no Turkish citizen that didn’t drive in a Transit at least once in his or her lifetime. He laughed and took note of this.

The Meaning of Auto Shows

Showing the cars in auto shows to the public is, like talking about sex. You have to experience it to really know it. Fortunately, when these models and prototypes hit the showrooms, people will be able to drive these cars. And the auto journalists are the lucky guys, who can test-drive so many different vehicles without buying them.

For more comments and pictures about Detroit, visit my Facebook page: Auto and Road.

To know more about Mazda 3, you can visit here.

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