I came across an anonymous quote recently that said, “Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you.” After spending a few days with Mazda and their new CX-5 and Miata MX-5, I think I can safely say that driving a Mazda managed to break the monotony and bring the adventure without the hurt!
Mazda is on the rise, refining and improving their vehicles to bring them to a new level of style and function. We learned a lot about Mazda, their goals, and their cars, but today I want to focus on what really struck me — their commitment to design.
Most cars today feel a bit … generic. Each maker has their own style, but the cars all seem to blend. In particular, every compact SUV seems to have the same design, where they all look like a soap-bubble on wheels. The worst offender by far is the Honda CR-V, which seems to inflate like a balloon each generation. And while there’s a lot going on inside every car, the layouts can feel cramped, random, or completely unintuitive.
Mazda is aiming to blow all that out of the water. Their designers take style very seriously, and the driver’s experience is paramount. In the case of the Miata MX-5, it’s details like how the body roll feels on turns, giving you the sensation of being in complete control while also allowing you to truly feel the car’s gravity shifting. One designer likened it to the sensation of skiing, and it’s a very apt comparison. You feel the road, but you don’t feel unsafe or out of control.
On the flip side, the CX-5 feels as though it is gripping the road tightly, making even twisting, winding routes feel smooth. You don’t feel the rolling on turns, but even on tight turns, you feel as though the car is simply firmly planted and self-assured. One of our personal vehicles is a Subaru Outback, and I would say after an afternoon with the CX-5 that the Mazda is every bit as tank-like and safe in handling as the Outback, with a more nimble, almost sportier feel.
Likewise, the cockpit experiences in the Mazdas are excellent. Mazda explained to us that every design gets tested according to specific ease of use principles, and failure sends the design back to be reworked. The result is that everything is laid out where it needs to be for the driver, from the top raise/lower switch on the Miata to the heads-up display on the CX-5. We swapped around drivers and cars during our day of test drives, and it took no time for each driver to be acclimated.
Finally, the body styles of the cars themselves all have touches that showcase the personality of the vehicle. The Miata MX-5 just looks fast at first glance, with sleek lines and body sculpting that screams “Drive me fast!” The CX-5 is a bit more subtle, but it too has sculpting and style. You can tell before you even get behind the wheel that it is a solid CUV but that it hasn’t lost a sense of fun along the way.
Mazda’s slogan now is “Driving Matters”, and you can tell this has been embraced deeply within the design team. The cars are more than just a way to get from Point A to Point B, they’re a way to reconnect and enjoy the act of driving. It’s no easy feat to bring that same feel to both a family friendly CUV and an aggressively styled sports car, but they managed to pull it off! In fact, Mazda designers have spent time using meditation as a technique to help inspire their designs, and they even brought in a meditation teacher to do the same for us. They truly see the design process as a holistic one that is more than just parts, it’s how the parts and the driver can come together in the vehicle.
We will be covering more of our experience with Mazda and their “Driving Matters” philosophy soon because the design is only the tip of the iceberg!
Disclosure: Mazda paid for my travel, room, and meals; there were no conditions or expectations made regarding what I chose to write about with regard to my experience.