Article by Justin Pritchard
Mazda pulled off a rare triple-win this past fall, taking the highest marks in each of the three categories they competed in for the latest round of annual testing of new models by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
The association, comprised of a group of Canada’s top automotive review experts, conducts an annual testing event dubbed ‘TestFest’ as part of their Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) awards program, which sees new or significantly updated models on the Canadian market competing against one another in various categories defined by price and vehicle type.
AJAC TestFest Category Winners. Click image to enlarge
The Canadian Car of the Year Awards generate tens of thousands of data points based on countless back-to-back test drives by dozens of voters. Information on the voting and scores is available as a free consumer resource at www.ajac.ca. Archived information allows consumers to compare scoring and points on past models tested going several decades back.
As it’s been for years, AJAC’s CCOTY program seeks to generate relevant consumer information based on real-world, back-to-back testing that shoppers can take with them into the new car marketplace – though the program also awards winners based on the top scores in each vehicle category.
After nearly a week of back-to-back testing of the categories, evaluating, performance testing and voting, Mazda earned three coveted “Best New” awards, winning in each category they entered in this year’s Canadian Car of the Year program.
The all-new Mazda3 earned two awards – one for the new Mazda3 Sedan in the “Small Car under $21,000” category, and one for the Mazda3 Sport hatchback model in the “Small Car Over $21,000” category. Entry rules allow different body styles to enter the competition as sufficiently different models, thereby qualifying both Mazda3 variants to enter the competition. Additionally, the Mazda6 earned the winning score in the “Family Car Over $30,000” category.
Mazda Canada, represented by Kathleen Smith, Chuck Reimer, and Sandra Lemaitre, accept awards for Mazda3, Mazda6.
The results are all driven by scoring, as assigned by dozens of testers comparing each model to its competitors after driving each on the same roads and handling exercises, back to back, on the same day. Journalist test scores are blended with scoring points for fuel efficiency, safety features, cargo space, emissions, performance and other measured attributes, weighted for relevance in each vehicle segment.
Once the scores were tallied (a daunting process handled by accounting firm KPMG), scoring saw the Mazda3 Sedan pull off a landslide win in the lower-priced small-car category, beating out the new Toyota Corolla, Nissan Versa Note and Mitsubishi Mirage with top marks for styling, quality, ergonomics, refinement, performance, steering, handling and braking. AJAC member voters collectively assigned the Mazda3 sedan as tops in its field for subjective value, or ‘bang for the buck’ as well.
Further, the Mazda3 achieved the best acceleration and braking figures in the category, which are factored into the scoring. Performance is measured for all entered vehicles by a team of specially qualified testers in a ‘same day, same conditions’ manner to ensure consistency and a level playing field. Each model is tested for 0–100 km/h, 80–120 km/h and 100–0 km/h figures, and the recorded figure represents an average of three runs in each direction, for six runs in total, to compensate for wind and elevation.
The five-door hatchback variant of the Mazda3, called the Mazda3 Sport, pulled off a similar victory in the Small Car Over $21,000 category this year – earning top marks for style, quality, refinement, ergonomics, ride comfort and, again, subjective value. Strong acceleration and braking scores amongst its competitors, which included the Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, Ford Fiesta ST and Kia Forte Sedan, helped secure the Mazda3 Sport’s top position, as did its winning ‘cargo’ score.
The new Mazda6 competed in the Over $30K category against other upscale family cars like the Chevrolet Impala, Volkswagen Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid and Ford C-Max Energi (the plug-in hybrid variant). Despite carrying the lowest as-tested price in the category, the Mazda6 secured top styling scores by a significant margin, as well as top scores for refinement, drivetrain, steering, quality and, yet again, subjective value.
There’s no single factor that makes any category winner stand out – rather, it’s the vehicle’s execution as an overall package that secures it a win.
The Mazda3 sedan and Mazda6 also qualified as finalists for the overall Canadian Car of the Year award, which will be announced at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto on February 13th.