REVIEW : MAZDA BRAND EXPERIENCE 2018
Last week, Twodadsandakid was invited to a Mazda Brand Experience which I was happy to be able to accept and trek the almost 1 hour drive through to the Gerotek facility, just west of Pretoria. I am by no means a car expert or a ‘petrol head’ but I enjoy driving and the experience that comes with it. I spend a fair amount of time driving for work and pleasure with the family so I do look forward to getting behind the wheel and travelling to see family, spend a few days away with the family or travel to destinations that are either new or familiar.
My last experience with the Mazda brand was as far back as the mid-eighties when our family owned the ubiquitous canary yellow Mazda 323. I don’t remember too much about the car, so I guess it didn’t leave much of an impression, but I do remember that we went everywhere with that car. It dropped us off at school, took us for swimming lessons, we drove to Durban with it and it could most definitely fit all of our shopping in the boot!
It’s difficult to say why I had never personally owned a Mazda when I was finally able to buy my own car. I suppose as a youngster I was looking for a car that would make an impression and make me look ‘cool’. As I grew older I aspired to own one of the European marque’s, more especially a French or German brand, of which this family has owned four of each over the last fifteen years. The need to be ‘cool’ disappeared very quickly when our son decided to ‘invade’ and take over our lives and then safety became the most important factor for us when choosing a vehicle. Ok, safety and space to fit all the prams, luggage, toys, bikes and accessories. Thankfully now that he is older we no longer need to need to pack the pram but the kitchen sink still comes along from time to time!
The invitation said ‘Gerotek’ so that immediately meant that there would be a skid pan and we would be testing cars in a real live, yet controlled situation so I jumped at the opportunity and secretly relished the fact that Emanuel aka “DadE” could not make it and I would have to be the guy. The fact that it was a ‘Mazda’ invitation made it even more intriguing and even a little nostalgic and I was suddenly very keen to find out more about this experience and the very mystical slogan, ‘Jinba-Ittai’.
The drive to Gerotek was surprisingly quick and the arrival at the launch relatively low-key but organized. Breakfast was ‘breakfast’ and certainly a lot more than the health shake I had before setting off. The group of about 12 invited by Mazda South Africa consisted of a few motor journalists and enthusiasts as well as lifestyle influencers so I was in great company. We started off with a ‘briefing’ which told us a lot more about the Mazda brand and how it has evolved and not. No turbo motors for this brand but rather a naturally aspirated combustion engine developed specifically by Mazda as a new-generation SKYACTIV petrol or diesel engine that ‘…compresses the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders to an extraordinary degree, squeezing far more energy from every drop of fuel.’ Music to my ears because this obviously means better fuel consumption, right?
I was super impressed at the simple way in that the communication was presented and also that those presenting were so passionate about the brand, even Mazda’s Head of Marketing and Communications was there to tell us more about the brand and how all the Japanese terms are a synergistic element of Mazda’s philosophy and how these were an integral consideration when designing and developing the car and the ultimate impact of that development and design on the consumer. The ‘key concept at the heart of every Mazda’ is the mystical phrase ‘Jinba-Ittai’, which refers to the symbiotic relationship between a horse and its rider, the understanding and complete trust that exists between beast and man, the ‘one-ness’ of this bond and the core principle that Mazda strives to achieve between man and machine. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and it was made easy to understand when everyone had the opportunity to drive to Kyalami and watch the most elegant and beautiful horses, the Lipizanners, demonstrate how connected they are to their riders and how intimate their bonds are.
Having had the opportunity to drive two of the Mazda models on the skidpan at Gerotek and then another all the way to the Lipizanners training, I could appreciate how this thinking translates to the driving experience at Mazda. The experience on the skidpan was very different. The crew at Mazda had developed a competition between all the participants, where we each got to navigate a simple course between traffic cones on a wet surface. Pretty simple on a dry surface but the skid pan was doused with water which obviously made the exercise tricky and daunting. My first experience with a Mazda in over 30 years was with the CX-3, a compact SUV in Arctic White and black leather seats. The quality of the interior has certainly changed a lot over the last three decades and without taking a look at the badge on the steering wheel I might as well have been sitting in a more expensive German vehicle. One of the first things I noticed was the inclusion of my favourite sound system, Bose, as a standard feature in these models. My time to set off on the skid pan and attempt the course had arrived so now it was time to show everyone what TwoDadsandaKid could do! 1’29,85” later, I had managed to weave my way around the slippery skid pan, in and out amongst the cones and back to the starting point, twice! We were second on the leaderboard and that’s where we stayed! What a rush…the feel of the car on the wet surface was amazingly stable with very little slide and very little correction required. I would like to think it had a lot to do with my superior driving skills but then again it might just have something to do with the CR-3’s G-Vectoring Control System which adapts to how the driver responds to corners and turns the steering wheel thereby increasing front-wheel tyre grip totally enhancing the turn-in responsiveness of the CR-3. I felt like a professional racing car driver, that was until we noticed the MX-5 slowly making its way to where we were all standing and recovering from the exhilarating skid pad experience.
The sun bounced off the soul-red colour of the MX-5 in a million reflections and immediately it had us all itching to be the first to try this beauty out. The MX-5 has been Mazda’s iconic sports car for the longest time and one that I have personally always wanted to drive and own. For practical reasons I had never taken the plunge but at least I had a friend of a friend that owned one at some point. During the briefing and presentation at the start of the morning, the human-centric seating position of the Mazda was explained but this was no more evident than when you finally got into the driving seat of the MX-5. The comparison with a Formula One racing car’s seating position for optimum comfort was made in the briefing but this felt more like the seat of a jet fighter. I have really long legs which make it a challenge to get in and out of small confined spaces but once I had settled into the plush leather seat and allowed it to hug me like a comfortable lover, I was ready to put this beauty to the test.
Unlike when driving the CX-3 during the simulated drivers’ competition, when I navigated the course like a cat stalking its prey, I wanted to feel the surge of power from the 2.0 litre, 4 cylinder 16 valve, Skyactiv-G engine with rear-wheel drive. I flattened the pedal and the MX-5 surged forward like a wild stallion that had been caged for a long time and reached the point at which we had to turn around within seconds! At this point, I knew that I had surrendered all control to the MX-5 and that I was merely a passenger and no longer the driver. The tail of the Mazda let go and an exhilarating dough-nut spin pinned me to the back of my seat before I recovered and roared back to the starting point where the others were waiting their turn, not before I tapped the accelerator again and the second tail-spin had the others applauding and me smiling like a little boy, a smile that would last the rest of the day.
Letting go of the MX-5 was hard but at least I had been given the opportunity to drive it to the max, ask it to do crazy things and entertain me and all with permission.
Mazda has certainly produced a range of amazing motor vehicles that I would entrust the safety of my family with. As we drove back from lunch I was given the Mazda2 to drive. Even in diesel this little car impressed with its power and speed and cabin space. I loved the Sat-Nav system and the feature on top of the dashboard that allows the driver to monitor speed and the proximity to driving lane channels should you start nodding off, amongst other features.
My overall impression of the Mazda product was that it was a quality vehicle and immense value for money. Certainly a purchase I would consider when I am next in the market for a new car. The added bonus was the friendly and knowledgeable staff that made the overall experience an absolute pleasure.
Photo source: www.caradvice.com.au