What comes to mind when you think about Mazda? The RX-7 and the RX-8? The Miata? And of course, those rotary engines that Mazda tried to milk for all their worth long after their worthiness was over? Currently, Mazda is ranked at number 15 on the list of the world’s largest automakers by production numbers, and we are sure it aims to go higher. Launched in 1920, Mazda will have been around for 100 years in 2020, a long way for a company that launched three-wheel light trucks as its first product.
Of course, like with every carmaker, Mazda did give us some jewels. But then, it gave us some spectacular duds as well. We list 10 of them here.
10 Mazda Navajo: A Complete Wannabe
There’s a story behind this: when Ford launched the Explorer to the delight of Americans, they had also launched a two-door version. Mazda partnered with Ford at the time and wanted a slice of this SUV beefcake. All Ford would share was the two-door version which Mazda grabbed with both hands.
Working in reverse, the Japanese Mazda badge-engineered the two-door version of the American Ford Explorer and tried to pass it off as the Mazda Navajo. While the Navajo was cheaper than the Explorer and came with a German engine, it was named after an American indigenous tribe. Honestly, it never caught on. Maybe it confused itself?
9 Mazda Rotary Pick Up: All Play, No Work
There are people, read truck racing enthusiasts, who are baying for our blood here because we put the revered Mazda REPU on this list. Now, don’t get us wrong: much like the GMC Syclone, the Mazda REPU was perfect for an impromptu race and would certainly win hands down. Sadly, for a truck, it had no pickup space.
Then, of course, it had the worst fuel economy, barely 10 miles per gallon. Heck, even the muscle cars of the 70s gave better than this. Finally, the rotary engine did not possess an iota of low-end torque which made hauling non-existent. The point of the REPU? Oh yeah, racing. We forgot.
8 Mazda MX-3 RS: A Slow Roadster?
We agree, there is still something inherently charming about this car and the way it looked. That's probably the reason why it managed to make it to The Fast and Furious franchise. That said, when Mazda called it the greatest roadster ever, it went out on a limb. A long, weak one. Weak enough that it broke.
The 1.8-liter V6 so installed in the car gave a rather sad 0-60mph spin of 8.3 seconds – slow enough for a well-tuned passenger sedan to catch up. This was the 90s after all and cars were speeding up. A maximum speed of 136mph was another disappointment and did not make the buyers make a beeline for this one.
7 Mazda RX-4: Wrong Car, Wrong Time
So no, we are not on a rotary-engine bashing spree here. And we did sort of like the RX-4 simply because it was bigger, more comfortable and also came in a wagon – all with a rotary engine firmly in place. The problem with this car was that its timing sucked. The RX-4 was launched in 1974, right in the middle of the malaise era brought on by strict emission rules and of course, the Arab Oil Embargo.
While the RX-4 was decently powered and well-frilled, it was punch drunk on gas. The low fuel efficiency brought sales lower till it upped and left in 1978... and America was left waiting for the next rotary in line. Which, by the way, was the RX-7.
6 Mazda 626: Hardly The Brightest
The Mazda 626 was perhaps not a very well thought-about car. Brought into the Mazda roster in the late 90s, it stayed from 1998 to 2002 only – yet another four-year lifespan car from Mazda. What was wrong about this car was simple: it was too average to get any eyeballs.
It looked okay but since it was too small to be a family car and too slow to be a sports car, so it sort of hung nowhere. The handling of the car was also not up to Mazda’s usual quality and there were plenty of other options for Americans to chose over and above this 626. So they did.
5 Mazda CX-7: Feet Of Clay
Before the CX-5, there was the CX-7. This was a time of darkness and chaos, mostly brought about by Mazda waxing eloquently about a product on paper, that had far too many real-life problems. For starters, the CX-7 was a guzzler, again. Come on, think of the kids and the future.
Keep that aside and you still had a car that ran noisy enough to give you a migraine, and a turbocharger that was temperamental to give you whiplash, just about everywhere. The air-con was moody and the car would decide to make strange ticking noises that made you think of the paranormal, and not in a good way.
4 Mazda Tribute: Much Too Meh
Mazda was slow on the uptake when it came to its partnership with Ford. And we say that because after the Navajo, came the Tribute. This was a rebadged Ford Escape, and sibling to the Mercury Mariner.
The Tribute was probably Mazda’s tribute to the Ford Escape but while it was priced lower (with lesser trims and frills, of course) than both the Escape and the Mariner, it added nothing extra. So why would anyone buy a car that was the Escape but lacked any sense of style other than simply being a box on wheels? So, no takers for these and it hung around from 2000 to 2011.
3 Mazda MPV: A Confusing Crossover
With the MPV, Mazda got the timing (and a few other key details) wrong again. They brought out a crossover in 1989, sort of before the world knew what crossovers were. And this one was a crossover between a minivan and an SUV, not that we knew that such a need existed. So it was considered a minivan in the US but it failed on many counts there – no sliding doors, no rear-seat removal or folding plus the rear-wheel-drive setup did not bolster faith in it.
2 Mazda 5: Got The Timing Wrong, Again
Not to be satisfied with the 1999 exit of the Mazda MPV, Mazda brought in another minivan in the US and called it the Mazda 5, and it debuted in 2004. Yet again, the timing sucked. Classified as a multipurpose vehicle while looking more like a soccer mom van, the Mazda 5 never really gained much ground simply because by now, no one wanted minivans.
Americans wanted their SUVs and pickup trucks and soccer moms were happier with the likes of a Subaru Forester, or a Ford truck. Also, soon after the debut and some sales, Mazda 5 issued a recall due to concerns about exhaust system fires. So, it was no go and slunk away in 2010.
1 Mazda CX-5: A Little Too Delicate?
When they say windshields are made of glass, they usually do know this is toughened glass. But we guess Mazda forgot about that when it came to the CX-5. A perfect example of a good car being ruined by bad, faulty and cost-cutting parts, as the windshield of the Mazda CX-5 is made of finely spun sugar. Otherwise, why would there be so many complaints about the windows and the windshield shattering too easily?
Add to that exploding sunroofs, erratic lights and poor acceleration – the CX-5 is a big money drain. And then there is that 2016 lift gate corrosion recall, affecting almost 600,000 of these.