Celebration Time: It's Mazda's 100th Anniversary
Let's briefly remind ourselves about the fascinating history of one of the most unorthodox car manufacturers.
Some of you might have missed this, but Mazda has been with us for 100 years. And sure, they probably have a plethora of amazing deals prepared just for that occasion. However, I would like to go through the history of the brand and explore why it is so amazing and so different from all of the other manufacturers.
Mazda was founded in 1920 in Hiroshima, Japan, but it wasn't until the 1930 when they produced their first vehicle - a motorcycle. Later on they started building three-wheel trucks (basically a metal box with front of the motorcycle glued to it). The first four-wheel car ever produced by Mazda was a small truck with 1-ton of load capacity. Later on, they've produced numerous iterations of three-wheel trucks, majority of which were cargo oriented. Finally, in 1960, Mazda introduced its first passenger car, a R360 Coupe - small, cheap to buy and cheap to run (it averaged slightly above 3 litres per 100km - a great figure even today), which was a game changer, as now salaried worker could finally own a car.
Mazda R360 Coupe - first real step of Mazda in the automotive industry. By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91699662
Getting up to speed
Soon after, Mazda introduced their first four-seater car, Carol 600. From there, Mazda went on to create a whole range of cars, ranging from a 3-door estates through sedans, a van (named Bongo, great name honestly) and pickups to a light bus. As you can see, their model portfolio was substantial. And then came the 1967...
In 1967 Mazda introduced a halo car: a Cosmo Sport. It was a two-seater sports car with a rotary engine, which in its upgraded form could get the vehicle up to 200km/h, which back then was an astonishing figure. This set the tone for the brand, as apart from making cars with piston engines, they've started to put rotary engines in their vehicles, first in sports cars and coupes, later in regular sedans, and going as far as to put a rotary engine in a bus (yes, this one really happened, although only for Japanese market). Rotary madness continued, and in 1978 came the first-generation RX-7, which opened the floodgates to motorsport.
Mazda Cosmo Sport - just gorgeous!
Let's go racing!
In 1981, with the RX-7, Mazda became the first Japanese car manufacturer to win at Spa 24 Hours endurance race. Just six years later, 323 (Mazda's compact model from the time) with a 4WD became the first Japanese car to win in Swedish WRC. Interestingly, you could have bought sporty versions of 323 with the 4WD and a turbocharged engine, which must have been a true blast to drive, thanks to their light chassis and loads of power (I want to drive one, but I didn't have a chance yet). However, the most memorable racing car built by Mazda is probably the 787B, rotary-powered monster that went on to win 1991 Le Mans 24 Hours race. Reportedly, the car held up so well, that it was good for another 24 hours of racing after that, only with some minimal maintenance. Nowadays, Mazda holds the MX-5 Cup and is actively racing in Prototype category. Speaking of the devil...
Mazda Experiment 5
Mazda introduced the MX-5 (or Miata if you live in the US) in 1989, and it soon became a huge success. It was cheap, light, reliable and captured the essence of traditional British sports car. It became popular in warmer states like California, as it was one of the cheapest new vehicles you could buy and it offered an unmatched driving experience. Currently, Mazda produces the fourth generation of the MX-5, which is still one of the cheapest sports cars you can buy and it is still a nimble, light vehicle aimed at giving the driver as much enjoyment as possible. However, this might come to an end, as there are a lot of speculations regarding possible electric future of an MX-5. I personally think it won't happen, as it would put the end to its aforementioned light nature and would ultimately destroy the driving experience. And judging by the Mazda's previous weight-saving efforts, I strongly believe they know it.
MX-5 - a great tribute to the past and an even better driver's car
Forgotten 1990s & 2000s
Later on, Mazda didn't produce too many fascinating vehicles. Yes, there was the FD RX-7, which was very high-tech and offered a great driving experience, but not much in terms of speed. Yes, there was the RX-8, which later turned into a loose cannon with it's rotary engine and lack of knowledge among customers about proper servicing of the said engine. But most of you have likely forgotten the Mazda 6 MPS (yes, it was on Top Gear), a 260HP, AWD mid-size saloon. It was developed in 2000s, the times when every car manufacturer had to have a sporty saloon. There was Mondeo ST, Vectra OPC, Subaru Legacy with twin-turbocharged engine, and there was Mazda 6 MPS. It was a bargain and featured an astonishing performance for the price, but it never took off, as it wasn't produced by the BMW, Audi or Mercedes. Still, one of my favourite Mazda models ever produced and I would really love to own one (if they didn't rust away already).
I know I have the obsession with mid-size saloons, but this one was (and still is) truly amazing!
Going against the current
In the times of emissions regulations, which forced many manufacturers to switch to smaller, turbocharged engines, Mazda has decided to go against the current and remain naturally aspirated. Instead of downsizing, they've gone for "right-sizing", which in essence means not pushing the engine to its limits, but still remaining good power (none of the American 30HP per litre nonsense). Which seems like it has worked, as Mazda has won the "Best Car Brand" award for 5 consecutive years. And whilst engines with forced induction can be quicker, they lack the predictability of the naturally aspirated cars, as power comes from RPM, not the spooled up turbos (I know, Mazda puts turbochargers on some of their petrol-powered models, like the sporty version of Mazda 3 (sadly not available in Europe), but they aren't used that extensively in all of their model range).
New Mazda 3 - a bit controversial looks, but I like it
Shift towards premium
Fairly recently, Mazda started to make their vehicles look more premium. They've rumoured that new Mazda 6 might have rear-wheel drive and a 6-cylinder engine. They've improved the interior quality (which was already top of the class in my opinion) and made them cleaner and more minimalist. And they've increased the prices a fair bit. Thus, it is fair to say that Mazda might be planning on becoming the next big name in the premium cars territory. However, this isn't the only plan Mazda has up it's sleeve.
Future? Possibilities are endless
Mazda has many ideas about the future of their vehicles. They've presented a beautiful RX-Vision concept car and rumoured that it's going to be a rotary-powered hybrid, which I think is fantastic, as it maintains the "against the tide" feel of the brand. What is more, rotary engines are smaller than usual ones, thus such car could be much lighter than conventional hybrids, making it much more fun to drive. What is more, fairly recently they've introduced an all-electric MX-30, which is advertised as a second car in a family, featuring a small battery pack to make it lighter and reduce the negative impact of battery production on the environment, but still big enough for city commuting. In my opinion, it fits the bill perfectly, as I know that market for such cars exists from my own experience.
Mazda RX-Vision - beautiful car with great technology
So why is Mazda called Mazda?
Ever wondered what does the Mazda name stand for? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Name "Mazda" was introduced in 1931, when company was managed by Jujiro Matsuda. They wanted to use his name, but they've changed it a bit. Mazda, according to Mazda's webiste, refers to "the god of harmony, intelligence and wisdom from the earliest civilization in West Asia". So, now you know! That is all I've prepared for you, thanks for reading! If you would like to learn more, check out Mazda's website, on which I've based the first part of this article.
Yes, I've skipped many vehicles, like the Mazda 3 MPS and whole range of RX models. Still, I hope you've enjoyed the article!