Mazda Scores Hat Trick At What Car? Awards 2006

Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8

Mazda scored a hat trick at the glittering What Car? Awards 2006 ceremony in London last night with the Mazda RX-8 picking up the gong for 'Best Coupé' for the third consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Mazda MX-5 took the title of 'Best Open-Top' car proving the all-new third generation is continuing its iconic status as the world's most popular roadster.

The latest accolades for its growing sports car range come at a time when Mazda Motors UK has now officially become Britain's favourite sports car marque. In 2005, Mazda was the best selling sports car marque for combined sales of Mazda MX-5 and RX-8 at over 10,000 sold reaching a segment share of 13.8 per cent.

Even more impressive, in the non premium section of the Sports segment the Zoom-Zoom manufacturer notched up a dramatic 25.3 per cent share for 2005 outselling next best selling marque Vauxhall by over 80 per cent.

Best Coupé Mazda RX-8

"Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it’s an essential ingredient for an award-winning coupé, and it needs to be supported by strong performance and a rewarding chassis," explains What Car? magazine in its March Awards issue, out now.

"The RX-8 has now claimed a hat-trick of awards from us, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever driven one. It not only meets all of our criteria for a top coupé; it blows them into the middle of next week and throws in a few more unexpected touches," editor of What Car? David Motton commented.

"It manages to do it all in a different way, too. Its 228bhp engine is a rotary unit - the only one that is currently available to UK buyers. Also unique among coupés is the four-door layout, with the rear doors opening backwards. They look tiny but give surprisingly good access to a remarkably roomy cabin," the What Car? awards feature continues.

"Somehow, though, it all seems appropriate, and there’s a generous amount of equipment that includes electrically adjustable leather seats, a CD changer and climate control. The boot meets our requirements, too."

The article concludes: "Primarily, the RX-8 is a sporty coupé for keen drivers, not a grand tourer. Handling is taut and agile, yet the ride is sufficiently supple to smooth its path. It’s the best of what appears to be a dying breed amid the proliferation of folding-roof coupes. For the fact it exists at all, true coupe enthusiasts should be eternally grateful."

Best Open-Top: Mazda MX-5

"Soft-tops must handle like sports cars, cosset like executive saloons and drop their tops quickly at the first sign of sunshine. You can’t beat the simple things in life and that’s a philosophy Mazda has adhered to with its simply brilliant MX-5," commented What Car? magazine about the MX-5 as their Best Open-Top 2006.

"The latest model may be longer and wider for improved comfort and safety, and the cabin is less utilitarian than its predecessor’s, but the thrill-a-minute drive that is core to every MX-5 remains intact. Thanks to its low centre of gravity and a classic front-engined, rear-drive set-up, the MX-5 boasts near-perfect weight distribution to deliver exquisite balance and phenomenal roadholding," the article continues.

Commenting on the Mazda MX-5's handling What Car? added: "It’s most at home when carrying blistering cornering speed down a twisty road, translating every nuance of the surface to the driver. What’s more, none of this agility is at the expense of comfort, because the supple suspension can cope with even the worst UK roads.

"For this money, these attributes alone would gain the MX-5 a place in our affections. The good news is that it offers so much more. Supportive low-slung seats provide a superb driving position, while a stubby short-throw gearlever and a chunky three-spoke sports steering wheel are beautiful to use," What Car? enthused.

What Car? liked the equipment available on the new Mazda MX-5 too: "The piano-black finish to the dashboard, slickly operating switchgear and first-rate construction engender a high-quality feel, while Mazda has even managed to endow the MX-5 with a decent-sized boot.

"There’s no electric assistance for the hood, because it doesn’t need any; just release the central catch and throw it over the shoulder. There’s little buffeting with the roof folded down, and a small wind deflector is effective."

Explaining the reasons for the Open-Top accolade for MX-5 What Car? editor David Motton added: "Sealing the title for the MX-5 is its outstanding value for money. Given its catalogue of strengths, the list price looks almost ridiculously low, while excellent economy, reasonable insurance rates and outstanding resale values leave more expensive rivals floundering."

Mazda delighted

Rob Lindley Mazda UK’s managing director was delighted with this fourth successful year at the What Car? Awards: “Mazda is absolutely delighted to win 'Best Coupé' for Mazda RX-8 for the third year in a row. And collecting the 'Best Open-Top' title for the Mazda MX-5 - just three months after its UK launch - is testament to its continued status as the world's most popular roadster.

"In the past two years, since Mazda RX-8 was launched in the UK, Mazda has held a majority share in the Sports segment thanks to the phenomenal success of our unique rotary-powered coupé and the continued success of the iconic MX-5.

"With the all-new Mazda MX-5 contributing to 10,000 Mazda sports car sales in 2005, I am delighted we can proudly hold the accolade as Britain's favourite sports car marque," Lindley enthused.

The Mazda MX-5 is priced from £15,600 for the 1.8-litre 126ps version while Mazda RX-8 is available from £20,500 for the 192ps version.

Published 22 January 2006 Melanie Carter

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