Motor Trend’s 65th anniversary of their “Car of the Year” award included 22 “new or significantly refreshed” contenders. After a week of testing, driving, photographing and filming 38 vehicles at the state-of-the-art 4300-acre Hyundai Motor Group California Proving Grounds in Mojave, CA, the 11 judges and 29-person support staff narrowed the group down to eight finalists.
Finalists included the Mazda3, Mazda6, BMW 4-series, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-Type, Kia Forte, Cadillac CTS, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Mazda3: According to Motor Trend, “The steering is tight, the chassis is stiff, and the car’s performance remains excellent.” Judges enjoyed “flogging this car around every corner” and were impressed with both the 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to the six-speed automatic (and paddle shifters) and the 2.0-liter 155-hp with the six-speed manual (41 mpg).
Judges also praised the driver ergonomics and comfortable front seats of the compact sedan. Also noted was the clean design of the center stack and the new infotainment system with an iPad-like screen mounted in the dash.
The Mazda3, starting at $16,495, is the brand’s best-selling and most recognizable nameplate worldwide with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold. The popular fun-to-drive compact model features fresh purposeful styling (sedan and hatchback models), new standard equipment, ideal ride and handling balance, competitive pricing and best-in-class fuel economy.
“What’s not to like about the Mazda3?” beamed local resident David Cruz, who recently purchased his first Mazda. After shopping the Temecula Valley Auto Mall for comparable vehicles, “I jumped at the current special of $199/month!”
Mazda6: Motor Trend testers also praised the Skyactive powertrain, Kodo design and sporty dynamics of the mid-size Mazda6. The sleek new 2014 exterior design is known as Kodo (the Soul of Motion) and is a head-turner. The newly-designed model includes many of the Skyactiv features to lighten the car and make it more efficient. Testers liked the smooth and responsive powertrain, the agile handling and quick acceleration, the radar cruise control, the flawless i-ELOOP regenerative braking system, and the impressive fuel economy (25/37 EPA).
“The Mazda 6 has nice acceleration and is smooth while driving…Combined with all the standard interior features such as Bluetooth and navigation, the Mazda6 is a joy to drive,” said new owner Kristina Duvall.
The newly-redesigned Mazda6 is powered by the 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder; a turbocharged 2.2-liter diesel four-cylinder is an upgrade in power and fuel efficiency (40+ mpg). The five-passenger sedan is available in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim levels.
The car is priced from $20,725 MSRP.
Both new “Car of the Year” finalists are available for test drives and purchase at John Hine Mazda, 42050 DLR Dr., off of Ynez Rd. in Temecula. Be sure to ask about the details of their special pricing programs.