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Best of 2019 Mazda

What to Buy and What to Stay Away From When it Comes to Mazda in 2019

Mazda MX-5 Miata front 3/4 view

Although trailing behind its Japanese rivals from Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and even Subaru in terms of sales in the U.S., Mazda isn’t the lowest-selling Japanese brand on this side of the Atlantic. We’re not counting the premium divisions such as Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura, by the way. No, that unpopular spot belongs to the almost-forgotten Mitsubishi. Mazda, on the other hand, has managed to market as many as 1,631,000 vehicles on a global level during fiscal year 2017/2018 which ended on March 31, 2018. Despite posting respectable figures on a global level, the Mazda USA hasn’t managed to market more than 289,470 vehicles during calendar year 2017. Percentage-wise, global sales went up by 5 percent, making fiscal 2017/2018 the Japanese automaker’s best year to date while U.S. sales went down by almost 3 percent compared to 2016. The future looks neither bright nor gloomy for the Japanese as the 2019 Mazda lineup isn’t being bolstered by any additional models.

Despite the fact the Mazda lineup for 2019 – which goes six models deep – remains unchanged, some adjustments are still being made. The facelifted third-generation Mazda 3 won’t be only sporting a fresh frontal fascia, but an entirely new engine technology underneath it. The new Skyactive-X technology combines the best of two worlds: gasoline and diesel. It uses a dual fuel mixture; one is extremely lean and can only be combusted by compression while the other is combustible via spark, just before the power stroke. The former helps the Skyactive-X engine achieve much greater fuel efficiency, while the latter essentially serves to raise the cylinder pressure high enough so the primary lean air/fuel mixture can actually be combusted. Apart from this exciting new engine technology (which should quickly spread across the remainder of Mazda range), MY 2019 also brings a horsepower bump for the beloved Miata and a number of aesthetic updates across the lineup.

What’s Hot In the New 2019 Mazda Lineup

05. 2019 Mazda 3

The compact Mazda 3 doesn’t manage to offer the complete package that compact hatchback or sedan buyers are generally looking for. It doesn’t have ample amounts of cargo space (especially in sedan form), its interior isn’t exactly the best-in-class, and larger passengers might find the rear seat cramped. Those are certainly some of the reasons U.S. Mazda 3 sales had fallen from 95,567 units in 2016 to 75,018 models in 2017. However, the Mazda 3 still finds a way to draw attention to itself. It’s beautifully designed, offers good fuel economy and best-in-class handling. In fact, the Mazda 3 is more fun to drive than a number of sporty touted cars. In short, the Mazda 3 doesn’t care about the compact car dogma. It paves its own way by offering what it thinks is best and ultimately rewards the people who are willing to gamble on one. Plus, the 2019 Mazda 3 is getting mildly revised visuals and one major technological breakthrough under the hood.

As mentioned above, the upcoming Mazda 3 will be the first Mazda model to feature the all-new SkyactiveX engine technology although it’s not technically a new car within the Japanese automaker’s range. The revolutionary gasoline engine will provide a quick throttle response of gasoline engines, and combine it with diesel’s efficiency and high torque curve. The Japanese are predicting it’ll make close to 190 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque which is more than enough for a compact car of the Mazda 3’s caliber. Shoot, that’s just 15 hp or so shy of the Toyota 86, a self-proclaimed sports car. The biggest issue right now is how to muzzle the SkyactiveX’s noise, which will be considerable. Another issue might be the engine’s reliability. No matter how much time the Japanese spend testing it, the SkyactiveX will first have to pass real-world testing before getting the “green light” from the general public, and that might take some time. Whether it’s worthy of jumping on board with the all-new engine tech – you can be the judge. One thing is certain, though: the redesigned Mazda 3 will be a better car than the outgoing model regardless of the chosen powertrain.

2019 Mazda 3 SkyactiveX engine prototype

04. 2019 CX-5

The best-selling Mazda vehicle in the U.S. found 127,563 new owners in 2017 which amounts to a 13.7 percent growth compared to 2016. The Japanese have been selling both the first and second-generation models simultaneously that year, but the CX-5’s 2018 sales have gone through the roof which tells us the aforementioned growth wasn’t a fluke. In fact, the Japanese have sold 81,012 CX-5’s during the first six months of 2018 which is an increase of a staggering 42 percent compared to the same period in 2017 when they marketed 57,077 models. Naturally, there’s a reason behind the CX-5’s newfound success. The compact crossover isn’t only delightfully-designed, it’s also comfy, well-appointed, and a good value for money. Furthermore, it’s arguably the best-handling compact crossover on the market, and people have finally started appreciating that fact. The upcoming CX-5 might be trailing some of its MY 2019 competitors in available storage space, but it more than makes up for it when all else is considered.

Up until now, the Mazda CX-5 has been offered with a single engine choice. The 2.5L 4-cylinder developing 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque was exclusively paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. As of MY 2019, however, the more powerful turbocharged 2.5L Skyactiv 4-cylinder from the larger CX-9 and Mazda 6 sedan might just join the naturally aspirated unit. This powerplant generates a more substantial 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque which should turn the smallish CX-5 into a formidable performer. The surprises don’t end here since the Japanese have been flirting with the idea of a CX-5 diesel for some time now. The fuel-conserving 2.2L turbo-diesel option still hasn’t gotten a “green light” by the EPA, but all that might change sooner than expected. After all, the Skyactiv diesel has been certified for sale in California since mid-April 2018. With an expanded and exciting powertrain lineup, I can see the 2019 CX-5 finally taking its rightful place among the best-selling compact crossovers in the U.S.

Mazda CX-5 front 3/4 view

03. 2019 MX-5 Miata

Can you remember when was the last time the Mazda Miata wasn’t considered a cool car? Me neither. The quintessential high-revving affordable 2-door sports car will have survived 30 years of production as of 2019, and rightfully so. It’s one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic vehicle in its class. The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata is carrying over visually and technologically unchanged. And why wouldn’t it?! The Miata benefits from a design language that’s evidently working wonders for the rest of the Mazda range. Available from just over $25,000, the affordable sports car also offers a contemporary cabin made out of quality materials, but fails to include any active electronic safety features as standard. Blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts are offered on the mid-range Club trim which commands a price tag of at least $29,000, whereas lane-departure warning can only be obtained by going for the $30,000 Grand Touring trim. You can also forget about any meaningful trunk space, but who would want to haul cargo in one of the best sports cars ever created, anyway?

Up until recently, the Miata drew inspiration from its 155-horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The new MX-5, on the other hand, gets a power bump of 26 ponies, pushing the total output to now-respectable 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of twist. The reworked 2.0L Skyactive four will also redline at 7,500 rpm from now on instead of maxing out at 6,800 rpm. Being a sports car, the Miata retains its standard 6-speed manual transmission, but those who don’t care about driving the Miata the proper way (yeah we went there) can always opt for a 6-speed auto. Apart from the obvious MX-5, the Japanese are also offering the more expensive Miata RF (Retractable Fastback) which is only available in the top two trims. Regardless of your choice, the 2019 Miata will reward you with thrilling driving dynamics and athletic handling that simply can’t be found elsewhere. Not for the price of the entry-level Miata, at any rate.

Mazda MX-5 Miata front 3/4 view

02. 2019 CX-3

The smallest of Mazda crossovers has received a mild facelift for MY 2019. The refreshed model sports a slightly revised grille and tail-lights outside as well as a new center console with more room for trinkets inside. It’s also received new front seats and an armrest between the rear ones. Very little has been changed overall, however. The subcompact crossover still looks astonishingly good and handles better than most of its opponents. The new models also pack a few advanced safety goodies from the get-go such as low-speed automatic emergency braking. More upscale models get a number of additional features like a lane-departure warning or a full-speed automated braking in case of emergency. The 2019 Mazda CX-3, however, still fails to offer cargo room worthy of its class. This shortcoming can be rectified somewhat by lowering the rear seats, which also fail to provide adequate space, by the way.

The facelifted Mazda CX-3 is powered by a no-nonsense 2.0L 4-cylinder engine making 148 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. Paired with an adequate 6-speed auto, every CX-3 can be ordered either with standard front or optional all-wheel drive. The front-wheel-drive models are rated at 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway while choosing the $1,400 all-wheel-drive cuts 2 points from both figures. Available from just under $20,500, the Mazda CX-3 is definitely worthy of consideration despite one or two evident shortcomings. Even the range-topping Grand Touring models are available for a modest sub-$26,000 fee in a FWD form. This is, by no means, a cargo hauler (no subcompact vehicle is, after all), but it rides better than any other small car and features additional ground clearance.

Mazda CX-3 front 3/4 view

01. 2019 CX-9

The beautiful Mazda CX-9 is at the top of our best family three-row crossover picks. Apart from being, arguably, the best-looking of the bunch, it also benefits from the Japanese automaker’s hallmark driving dynamics. Sadly, the Japanese have had to sacrifice some cargo and third-row room in order to achieve the best-in-class handling. If hauling a considerable amount of cargo and/or a full count of passengers are your priorities, you might be better served elsewhere. Otherwise, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 represents a perfect choice for $32,000, especially considering it includes a brake-based torque vectoring control system. Even better, the $35,000 mid-range Touring trim adds automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control among other things. Finally, the CX-9 sports one of the best cabins in its class thanks to the extensive use of high-quality materials.

The 2019 CX-9 packs a healthy 250-horsepower punch thanks to a turbocharged 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. The four-banger also delivers 310 pound-feet of twist which comes in handy when in need to tow something, and the CX-9 can make do with up to 3,500-pound heavy trailers. Sadly, the ratings only work when using premium fuel, whereas a regular fuel drops the output by 23 ponies. Like most Mazda cars, the CX-9 sports an automatic transmission with 6 gears and can be ordered with both front and all-wheel drive. The obvious lack of two-to-four forward gears robs the CX-9 of better fuel economy, but even 22/28 mpg with front-wheel drive and 20/26 mpg with all-wheel drive are respectable. Despite entering its fourth model year without significant design changes, the upcoming Mazda CX-9 for MY 2019 is still one of the best-looking vehicles in the segment.

Mazda CX-9 front 3/4 view

What’s Not In the New 2019 Mazda Lineup

01. 2019 Mazda 6

It hurts me to say this, but of all the above-listed Mazda models, I had to put the lovely Mazda 6 at the bottom. One of the most beautiful mid-size sedans on the market has long been marching to its own beat by sticking to the 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque 2.5L 4-cylinder mill as its sole offering. As of last year, however, the more powerful turbocharged version of the mill making 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque has been made standard from the $29,000 Touring trim onward. The much-needed second choice, however, comes too little too late as the Mazda 6’s sales plummeted from an already low 57,898 units in 2015, 45,520 units in 2016, and to a discouragingly low 33,402 models in 2017. What’s more, the 2019 Mazda 6 still clings to a 6-speed automatic transmission that’s slowly but steadily becoming outdated.

The Mazda 6 for MY 2019 carries over virtually unchanged, but a substantial number of revisions from MY 2018 mustn’t be forgotten. Apart from the new turbocharged engine mentioned above, the recent Mazda 6 sports an even sharper exterior styling, a refreshed interior, and a less noisy cabin. However, an outdated and not overly responsive infotainment system coupled with a very slim options list ruin the picture. Unlike its competitors, the Mazda doesn’t find it necessary to field a hybrid version of its mid-size sedan. This practice can be reflected in the Mazda 6’s overall sales which, as mentioned above, haven’t been doing good. Despite boasting no fewer than three major revisions in only five model years, the not-so-new Mazda 6 still has a number of issues to iron out. At least the more powerful turbo options provide for a good stepping stone towards completing that endeavor.

Mazda 6 front 3/4 view

Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!