An important part of the Canadian Car of the Year award program, the Best New Technology awards are a program to acknowledge excellence in the development of new features which are either innovative or improve driving safety.
While I am one of the co-chairman of the CCOTY program, I tend to stay away from the tech awards, mainly because I just don’t have the time to deal with another aspect of the program. Sometimes that is a shame, as there are some really cool new technologies out there that change the way we drive and the evaluation team researches them in depth.
This year’s winners are:
AJAC press release
January 19, 2017 – Montreal: Two “Best New Technology” award winners were announced today by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) at the Montreal International Auto Show.
BEST NEW SAFETY TECHNOLOGY for 2017
Volvo Pilot Assist II, Large Animal Detection, Run-off Road mitigation is the winner of the BEST NEW SAFETY TECHNOLOGY FOR 2017.
“Pilot Assist II is actually three systems using camera and radar technology to help keep drivers and passengers safe,” says Technology Panel Chair, Jim Kerr. “The Pilot assist feature can control acceleration, braking and steering up to 130 km/h to help keep the S90 in its lane at speed. Run off road mitigation keeps the vehicle on the road by applying braking and steering forces if an impending road departure is sensed. Large animal detection senses the density of larger animals such as deer, moose and coyotes within about a 200 meter range, to determine if they pose a danger, warn the driver and automatically brake the vehicle to mitigate a collision if the driver takes no action. These features are semi-autonomous, giving the driver full control of the vehicle at all times while using automatic control to assist when required.”
Finalists in this category included:
GENERAL MOTORS: ONstar ProActive Alerts
GENRAL MOTORS: Rear Seat Reminder
MERCEDES-BENZ: PRE-SAFE Sound
SUBARU: Global Platform
TOYOTA: Safety Sense P Package
BEST NEW INNOVATION TECHNOLOGY for 2017
Mazda G-Vectoring Control (GVC) is the winner of the BEST NEW INNOVATION TECHNOLOGY FOR 2017.
“So subtle that most drivers won’t even be aware of the feature operating, G-Vectoring control enhances the vehicle’s feel of stability and smoothness by controlling engine power in almost imperceptible time frames to shift the weight balance of the car,” says Technology Panel Chair, Jim Kerr. “For passengers, the result is a comfortable and more relaxing ride. For drivers, GVC reduces small steering wheel inputs by almost 50% and provides a feeling of linear control of the steering on all types of roads and road surfaces.”
Finalists in this category included:
FORD: Pro-Trailer Assist
MAZDA: SKYACTIV-G 2.5T Engine
GENERAL MOTORS: Position Sensitive Spool Valve Damper
The awards are judged by a panel of 12 automotive journalists who are all technology specialists. As a first step, they independently reviewed overview briefs on all the technology entries submitted by automakers.
From that initial review, by secret vote, the jurors established a shortlist of finalists. Then, in early December, they convened in Toronto for a day of presentations by manufacturers’ representatives on each of their shortlisted entries and a chance to grille them with questions. The jurors then voted a second time, again by secret ballot.
As with the Canadian Car of the Year awards program, those votes were compiled by the accounting firm, KPMG and kept secret until the announcement today.
The “Best New Technology” awards are part of the association’s annual Canadian Car of the Year Awards program, created in 1985 to provide consumers with sound, comparative information on vehicles that are new to the market.
If you managed to wander into to The Garage Blog, odds are you are a car enthusiast like us. And if you are like us, you are not shy about it. Your friends and family know you are the go to guy for car questions. And when the question goes “Hey, I’m looking for a good, relatively inexpensive compact car, what do you suggest?” The car enthusiast can always be counted on recommending the Mazda3. Days pass, and you see your friend and ask what they bought. And they always almost reply “Oh, I got a Corolla/Civic/Sentra.”
While the Mazda3 is Mazda’s best selling car in North America, it is also the best car in its class that is consistently overlooked. The 3 can trace its lineage back to the GLC (Great Little Car!) of the 1970’s to the 323, and Protégé. The first Mazda3’s appeared in 2004, and in 2014, the latest 3 appeared all-new for the third generation.
While each successive generation was an improvement over the last, the current 3 certainly represents a major step forward, especially with the exterior styling. Gone is the polarizing and silly gaping smile of the last car. The 3 now sports a serious, focused look, softened up with an elegant, flowing profile. Mazda designers deserve high praise for penning a car that achieves the near impossible-an inexpensive car that doesn’t look inexpensive. Available as a four door sedan or five door hatchback, I would argue the hatch offers a more sophisticated appearance.
Another step forward is apparent once you step inside. Past Mazda3 cabins were fine, but unremarkable. Now, the 3’s interior is something to look at. A large center tachometer with an inset digital speedometer is a clear sign this is not your grandma’s compact. Your hands settle on a fantastic feeling steering wheel. The seats are comfortable, and well bolstered for enthusiastic driving. Unfortunately, compared to the competition, the 3’s rear quarters are cramped. If hauling a small family or road tripping with friends is a thing for you, the 3’s back seat is a compromise. Other drawbacks are minor. the 7″ touchscreen display looks tacked on, like it was an afterthought in an otherwise well executed interior. Piano black trim might be popular now, but I fear in a matter of a few short years that trend will be over and it will look hopelessly outdated. I also found myself constantly wiping off fingerprints. And finally, the attractive interior shot above with contrasting color? You’re going to want the top of the line 3 for that-in lesser models you are staring at a sea of blackness.
One area not in need of any improvement was in the engine room, so it should come as little surprise Mazda saw little need to completely overhaul what were already good powerplants. Both engines employ Mazda’s SkyActiv technology which delivers good fuel economy without compromising brisk performance. The Mazda 3i offers a 2.0L four rated at 155hp, while the 3s employs a 2.5L four rated at 184hp. Either engine can be had with either a six-speed manual or automatic. Our test car had the larger engine with the automatic but still offered commendable EPA fuel economy ratings of 27/37 MPG city/highway. All well and good, but as always, the Mazda3 offers a fun to drive factor that is simply without peer in this class. Exceptional handling and near telepathic steering with responsive engines work in perfect harmony. This is as close as you are going to get to a sports sedan driving experience for the money.
With a choice of two engines, two body styles and different trim levels, it should be easy to find a Mazda3 to suit one’s needs and budget. Our test car was the top of the line five door Mazda3s Grand Touring. Standard equipment includes 18″ alloys, rain sensing wipers, dual exhaust, power moonroof, leather seats, heated front seats, power driver’s seat, dual zone auto climate control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, bi-xenon headlights, LED tail lights, navigation, Bose audio and SiriusXM radio. With the optional appearance package (front air dam, door mirror caps, rear hatch spoiler) and a smattering of minor accessories, the MSRP totaled $30,270USD, including destination. The thought of a Mazda3 cresting the $30,000 mark may be hard for some to stomach, but you are getting a fully loaded car with premium features. Keep in mind you can pick up a Mazda 3i Sport four door with a 6-speed manual for under $18,000 and not miss a thing about what makes the 3 a great car.
In enthusiast circles, the BMW 3-series is the sport sedan against which all rivals are judge. In the compact car world, the Mazda3 holds the same distinction. Why then, you ask, is the 3 so often overlooked by compact car buyers? Generally, cars like the Corolla or Sentra are cars for people who really don’t want to think about cars. If the most awake they can feel at the wheel is with a cup of coffee in hand, the Mazda3 driver knows that he’s getting a level of character and driving enjoyment his contemporaries are missing out on. If that’s the secret only us car guys know and appreciate, so be it.
Back in college I had a core group of friends and as you can imagine, we were all a bunch of gearheads. Not long ago, a non-car guy buddy asked us for advice on what small crossover/suv he should consider. Before I could even respond, a friend had already suggested the Mazda CX-3, and I agreed. Later that day, we hear back from our buddy. He ran out and bought a Ford Escape-a perfectly fine choice, but he hadn’t even considered the Mazda.
As a car company, Mazda is offering one of the best line ups out there, and the automotive media knows it, and isn’t shy about telling you. But, like our buddy, for the average new car buyer out there Mazda, through no fault of its own, seems to fly under the radar. As one of the smallest Japanese automakers out there, Mazda wisely made the choice that instead of trying to be an ‘all things to all people’ kind of company, they would focus on what they know how to do very well-build cars that are fun to drive.
The crossover has long since overtaken the suv as the preferred mode of transportation for families, and the notion of a subcompact crossover is the latest offshoot that is quickly growing in popularity. So, Mazda took the architecture of its tiny Mazda2 and the CX-3 was born. I’m a big fan of actually recognizing a car when its coming at me, and few manufacturers are as successful as this as Mazda. Their KODO design language is seen in every car they make, and the CX-3 is instantly recognizable as a Mazda. Sportiness is the theme here, with an aggressive grill, stern headlamps, upswept greenhouse and pronounced wheel arches. The CX-3 is absolutely modern, but I suspect it should age well. If the Nissan Juke’s looks are too polarizing for you, the CX-3 is much more reasonable yet not at all boring.
The CX-3’s interior carries over the exterior’s modern aesthetic. Interesting that the most visually striking aspect was the color palette of our test car. With parchment seats accented with deep red the color choices recall 1950’s American car. This vintage color combination in such a contemporary cabin adds up to a very appealing interior. The driver faces a large tach with a digital speedometer that is different but easy to get used to (lesser model CX-3s make do with a conventional speedo/tach). Other controls are simple and straightforward to use, with one glaring exception. If you like channel surfing on satellite radio as I do, the CX-3’s controls involve a multi-step process that is so maddening and distracting I set it to one channel and left it there. There’s no reason why changing a radio station needs to be a multi-step process.
For Mazda’s tiniest crossover, the CX-3 provides a very premium feel not just in design but in the quality of materials. Up front, the seats provide excellent comfort. Picking up a cousin at JFK airport straight off a flight from Hawaii into New York morning rush hour traffic headed up to the northeast corner of Connecticut, the CX-3 was roomy and quiet enough for my passenger to doze off. I repeat, up front. The rear seats are a little tight, especially if the people up front are on the tall side. Open the rear hatch, and you are immediately reminded that even though this is a crossover, it’s a subcompact. Rear cargo space is almost laughable. To make matters worse, go for the premium Bose audio system, and Mazda throws in a subwoofer back there that eats up even more room.
You quickly forget about that and learn to pack light once you get in and go. All CX-3s come with a 2.0L four rated at 146hp mated to a six-speed automatic. It should be noted that foreign markets have the option of a six-speed manual and a diesel engine. But for North America, the only choice to make is whether you want front or all-wheel drive. Driving the CX-3, it’s instantly apparent these are the same people who build the MX-5. Steering and handling are simply fantastic. At only 146hp you’re not going to win any stoplight grand prixs but there’s enough power on tap for any passing situation. The CX-3 is more fun and rewarding to drive than any crossover has a right to be. Although the ride is on the firm side it is never punishing or harsh. And with our all-wheel drive car’s EPA rating of 27/32MPG city/highway, top of the class fuel economy is a pleasant bonus.
The CX-3 is available in Sport, Touring or Grand Touring trim. Our test car was the top-spec Grand Touring, with standard equipment including leather and lux suede seats, heated front seats, push button start, blind spot monitoring, LED headlights, fog lights and tail lights, auto climate control, head up display, navigation, Bose audio, rearview camera, and power sunroof. Options on our car included remote start, the I-ActivSense Package (radar cruise control, smart brake support and rain sensing wipers). Including destination, our CX-3 had an MSRP of $29,790USD.
The CX-3, which is a new addition to the Mazda family, may not be the solution for the family car with tight rear seating and limited luggage space. If that’s your need, Mazda makes bigger vehicles for you. But in the fast growing subcompact crossover market, Mazda has quickly established themselves as the sporty alternative. If you can pack light, but crave what else makes crossovers popular-elevated driving position and available all-wheel drive but refuse to sacrifice driving fun, the CX-3 demands your attention.
Last year the folks at Mazda Canada decided to begin hosting an annual event that was unlike the usual car launch. Called the Mazda Adventure Rally, the event pitted journalist teams against each other in an attempt to win $10,000 for the charity of their choice. I was fortunate to be selected as part of the Toronto Star Wheels team, aptly named Team Star Wars along with my fellow Wheels scribe, Peter Bleakney. Of course our ride wore the most Canadian of all numbers, #27. The event took us through Colorado and Utah, across gold rush era mountain paths and through desert canyons. You can read about our incredible experience here and here.
For this year’s event, Team Star Wars was again invited to compete in the event, which would have much much greater secrecy leading up to the event to ensure that none of the competitors had a leg up on the other teams. That meant that we were boarded onto a chartered flight without any idea where we might be going. Ok, so that isn’t quite true. A few of us had it figured out and I had seen a tractor trailer loaded full of stickered MX-5s cruising down the highway in Toronto, so I knew what were were driving. I was a good boy though and didn’t spill the beans.
In this episode, I take a look at the 2014 Mazda5. Not quite a car and certainly not a minivan, the Mazda5 is just about the perfect size.
For sports car fans, perhaps the most significant presence at this year’s New York Auto Show was Mazda’s display commemorating the 25th anniversary of the worlds most faithful roadster. A collection of significant models was on hand that included some of the little car’s history.
At the front of the line were production numbers 14 and 15, cars that were on the show stand at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. Who could have guessed what an impact the tiny machine would have on motoring history.
In the next row sat #17, the first Miata race car. With 6,500 racing miles on the odometer, this is the first of over 5,000 Miatas that have been raced over the years. More than any other model. It truly changed the face of auto racing.
I’m sure karma is going to bite me in the ass one day for this, but I can never get enough of videos of a driver with a steering wheel in his hands, rather than attached to the steering column as was intended.
This time, the video comes from Brian Ghidinelli in his Spec Miata racer at Road Atlanta. It was Brian’s first time visiting the track, and his first practice session for the 2014 SCCA Majors race. Fortunately, the driver was able to snap the quick release back in place before he had to repair anything other than his soiled drawers.
Source: Youtube via GRM on Facebook
Racing cars is about much more than just being able to drive fast. To be a real racer requires a mastery of what some of us call racecraft. A mixture of car control, aggression, vision and even networking along with more than a little bit of luck. Continental Tire Series driver Steven McAleer has all of the above in spades.
McAleer’s C.J. Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 had to start at the back of the grid in this year’s Sebring race due to a tech infraction. In the first lap alone, the driver passed a rather impressive 15 cars. How he does it is a combination of all of the qualities I listed above, not the least of which is vision and networking.
Watch how McAleer is constantly looking at all three mirrors to evaluate the threats and open spaces to the side and behind, while also looking ahead for breaks in traffic that haven’t even happened yet. While reading traffic, the driver is also communicating with other drivers, using hand signals to get them to help out in setting up a draft. This guy is a relationship manager of the first order!
Source YouTube via RACER
For the second year in a row, I am fortunate to be on site for the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. This year is more special than usual, as it is the first event of the new Tudor United SportsCar Chaampionship.
Without a specific assignment from my daily gig at Wheels.ca, I am pretty free to go where I want, when I want, so this is going to be a pretty laid back weekend. Yesterday I spent a bit of time shooting along pit lane, but spent most of my morning with Mazda’s Director of Motorsport, John Doonan, discussing the team’s decision to test their cars in public, under racing conditions. I’ll have that interview up soon. I also spent some time hanging out with my buddy, Canadian Indycar star, James Hinchcliffe. Now I know what it is like having guys like me sticking cameras in your face all the time!
Here is a bit of a gallery from my travels yesterday.