There's some torque steer where the front tires pull one way or the other, most commonly to the right, under hard acceleration in both the front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models. The speedo dial is the biggest flaw in the layout. . Shift into the Sport mode and it executes manually directed shifts smoothly, up or down. Directional stability at speed, even into the low three digits, is comforting. Side mirrors separate the front door glass from an odd-looking, windwing-like, but fixed, tiny piece of glass at the base of the A-pillar.
As for how those seats fit, the bottom cushions offer slightly more thigh support than, say, economy class airline seats, which is to say more would definitely be better. Below this floating lip is the second part, a more traditional dash construct comprising three elements, the instrument cluster, the center stack and the section holding the passenger airbag and housing the glove box. This no doubt contributes to the disappointing amount of road noise the tires transmit into the cabin, which otherwise was fairly quiet, including over poorly graded railroad crossings. Over rough pavement, the suspension tends more to stiff than firm, with a hint of harshness. This lower part, the designers say, is intended to play to the driver, concentrating on the interfaces necessary for managing the car. The broad dashboard features a hooded crease that parallels the base of the windshield, beneath which resides a glowing orange display for the audio and heating readouts.
The driving position is comfortable. Translated, this constitutes, first, a ridge stretching across the top of the dash that's supposed to make the front seat passenger feel involved, included in the interior's dynamic. We found it fun to drive, with responsive handling and good high-speed stability. The dash is a prime example. It works on a vehicle boasting a robust powerplant under the hood, preferably a V8 or some other V-configuration, where each pipe nominally runs directly back from its bank of cylinders. For starters there's what Mazda calls the double-roof instrument panel. Assisting the smooth transfer of power is a six-speed Sport automatic transmission featuring a manual shift mode for a more spirited driving experience.
The split rear seats can be flattened with a convenient handle release in the boot and there are a multitude of pockets and storage areas. Some parts look right, while others come across almost as a styling exercise in Design 101, and not much of it looks of a piece with the rest. It has a surprisingly powerful, fairly frugal, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine with a state-of-the-art six-speed automatic transmission motivating a sporty-looking and sporty-handling, five-passenger vehicle that will haul nearly as much stuff as it does people. Just as important, they avoid the stigma that comes with a minivan or station wagon. A tasteful blend of textured black plastic and chrome surrounds make up the instrument cluster and center console, while the optional beige leather seating creates a striking contrast. The rear seats favor two passengers over three, an impression reinforced by the decently contoured seatback and the absence of a head restraint for the center seating position. There is some head toss in quick left-right-left transitions, not a lot, but it's notable.
The brake pedal returns a solid, firm feel, and the vented discs all 'round deliver reassuring, controlled stops when called upon. If it sounded good in the car as well as through the expensive studio monitors, it was on its way to a good mix. This design permits more power to be produced at a lower rpm, creating a more linear acceleration curve comparable to one produced by a larger, normally-aspirated V6. The rear aspect is somewhat plain, with a modest spoiler sitting atop the backlight, itself resting in a gentle dip in the liftgate. The seatbacks are designed to fold flat without needing to remove the adjustable headrests. Left in Drive, the transmission adapts very well, quickly learning a driver's preferences and holding lower gears longer and adjusting shift points to match.
The answer is extremely well. But betraying their origins in an inline-4, the mechanical tones from the Mazda's engine compartment are decidedly low-key, more buzzy than throaty. A rather large, seamless bumper stretches the width of the back end, above a widespread pair of exhaust tips, this last a feature that's beginning to wear. The side view appeals more, with wheels pushed to the corners and a super-fast windshield sweeping back over tautly drawn side glass. What is does have is the sporty Mazda look and a good measure of the marque's sporty handling characteristics. So what if it doesn't necessarily fit the proportions of every vehicle to which it's applied. Large buttons and knobs populate the stack of air conditioning and sound system controls in the center, but their arrangement and assigned functions are far from intuitive.
All the pieces for this are there, so the job is doable, but the way everything is put together doesn't make it all that easy or appear that seamlessly integrated. They have stripped 15kW and 30Nm from it, but the remaining 175kW and 350Nm of torque propel the 1745kg beast to 100kph in 8. An easy-to-reach lever located in the cargo area activates the spring-loaded rear-seat backs, allowing them to be folded flat without having to make a long and awkward reach. InteriorThe interior makes no less of a statement than the exterior, and with much the same result. Some parts seem to work, others not so well.
This leaves substantial mass below the bumper line that's only slightly lightened by a massive mouth braced by large intake-like recesses that double as housings for the optional fog lamps. More importantly, the engine's lightweight construction places less weight over the front wheels, helping improve steering response and maneuverability as well as creating a more evenly balanced chassis. Full-round, easy-to-grab door handles ride the crest of a soft bulge connecting the tops of the fenders. An understated crease highlights the lower door panels, skipping over the rear tires to continue around the bottom fold of the rear bumper. It's somewhat less in the latter, which redirects up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels in extreme conditions. That easily makes it worth a look.
Beyond the quirky design, the instrument cluster is deeply hooded, stylishly compartmentalized and softly lit to the point it's not a quick and easy scan. A single pipe, or maybe two running tightly parallel and exiting out one side, seems more fitting. They combine the practicality of a truck-based sport utility vehicle with the agility, smoothness and fuel economy of a car. Crossovers, as they're called, have become the hottest segment in the auto industry. Substantial front-seat side bolsters are fitting for a vehicle with sporty aspirations. Because of the enormous wheels and wing mirrors it is much bigger in the flesh than it looks in the pictures.
Power from the turbocharged four-banger builds smoothly, with impressive torque at a very usable low engine speed. It may be a bit behind the curve in interior styling and roominess, but not everybody needs or wants room for seven passengers. But for draining burnt gases from an inline engine, especially an inline-4, and one sitting transversely, to boot, it's a bit overdone. Yes, its design default mode when carrying too much speed into a corner is understeer where it wants to go straight instead of turn , but the electronic stability control system shields all but the most lead-footed driver from ever experiencing this. A less expensive Sun and Sound package includes just the moonroof and Bose audio system.