Why Mazda Is The New BMW For Petrolheads

All the qualities we loved about BMW up until the late 2000s seem to have migrated to another brand…
Why Mazda Is The New BMW For Petrolheads

Right off the bat I want to be clear that BMW makes some excellent cars. Solid-feeling, confidence-inspiring and technologically advanced cars. We know all about the power and potential within BMW’s walls.

And yet, some of the qualities we still traditionally associate with the brand have slowly migrated out of Munich. Delving into the history books you can dig-up gems like the 2002 Turbo, the M1, the E30 M3, the E60/61 M5 and the E46 M3. All of them are legends, highly sought-after and respected today. We love them all.

The E39 BMW 5-series is fantastic to drive, whatever the engine
The E39 BMW 5-series is fantastic to drive, whatever the engine

But beyond those figureheads (and others) were whole ranges of cars that were all fantastic to drive. Just about every 3-, 5- and 7-Series since the model names were first used felt compact, tactile, engaging and communicative. Until recent times, that is.

The emphasis across the German premium brands has shifted to size and power. No one this side of Jupiter is going to claim that the latest M5, with its switchable four-wheel drive and nuclear engine, is in any way a bad car. But with all that weight, stiffness of chassis and accelerative supremacy it has lost that richly talkative handling character that you’ll find in a properly sorted E39 M5. Likewise the petrol 3 Series of today, for all its amazing materials and technology, can’t match the dynamic fizz of an equivalent E46.

Today's M240i is brilliant, but too expensive for most of us
Today's M240i is brilliant, but too expensive for most of us

The days of truly compact, lightweight and lithe BMWs are probably behind us – except, perhaps, for the petrol halves of the 1- and 2-Series ranges where there are still some gems in the vein of models gone by. Unfortunately, the problem then becomes price. Whereas a brand-new BMW used to be a goal you could work hard in an ordinary job to achieve, a mid-range 230i M Sport today costs over £33,700 before options. That’s way out of reach of the office-bound masses.

The company has made it clear that technology and autonomy are its key development areas – it will be concentrating more on those than on making the next 320i as lightweight and full of feedback as possible. Fortunately, though, there’s another company that has quietly slid into those worn but lovable old boots: Mazda.

Why Mazda Is The New BMW For Petrolheads

Forget the focus on the admittedly brilliant – and better than ever – MX-5. For the best part of a decade Mazda has been churning out ordinary, everyday cars that are, on the face of it, just dailies for the average person on the average street. We can now say they’re more than that.

We joke about Mazda not making a bad car but what we really mean is quite specific: Mazda makes cars that offer more 24/7 driver engagement at normal speeds than almost anything else. Everything from the Mazda2 to the CX-5 comes as standard with sharp steering, a sorted chassis and a general feeling of cohesion. You can throw any modern Mazda in any trim along a winding road and it’ll be fun. The new Mazda3 will be no exception.

Why Mazda Is The New BMW For Petrolheads

We know Mazda is committed to internal combustion and we can’t wait to get to grips with its intriguing SkyActiv-X engines on our home turf. Even before we do, though, we feel like we can start to treat Mazda in the same way we treated 1990s and 2000s BMW. Petrolhead praise does not come higher.


Chewbacca_buddy (McLaren squad)(VW GTI Clubsport)(McLaren 60

I think that Mazda prioritizing driving engagement almost above anything else is a blessing to the car world. Also I wish we got the 6 wagon over here that thing is gorgeous

12/02/2018 - 12:39 |
226 | 4

Its an utterly fantastic car. I took driving classes in one with manual and the 140 hp SkyActive diesel engine. With 380 Nm it has torque for days, and the steering feeling is better than most everyday cars. Definetely a car I would consider buying when the time comes. Its the most fun car I have driven after my mates 2004 Mini Cooper S.

12/02/2018 - 15:14 |
12 | 0
Marcin Gregorczyk

Mazda is on fire these days. So many good looking cars and also great driving cars. But it’s just sad what’s happening with BMW…more cars are getting FWD - I don’t mean that it’s generally bad. I just that for BMW FWD is wrong. But it’s good that not all car manufactures go the same way. What Mazda is doing right know is just working perfectly. For so many years they were just boring (except MX-5 of course), but now I’m more than happy to see so many of them driving on the streets. GO MAZDA!
So, I think I’ll never sell my E60. It almost the last one from the old gen cars. It’s quite fun when it needs to be and it’s comfortable for driving 1000 kilometers. If I won’t have to do it I really want to keep it forever.

12/02/2018 - 12:43 |
44 | 4
Chewbacca_buddy (McLaren squad)(VW GTI Clubsport)(McLaren 60

In reply to by Marcin Gregorczyk

The key to them driving so well is that small, rear wheel drive sports car. In every Mazda there is just a little bit of MX-5, which is what makes them so great

12/02/2018 - 16:10 |
12 | 0


12/02/2018 - 12:43 |
8 | 24

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

No, Tesla= iPhone
BMW is more of a Sony - doing stupid sh*t for money.

12/02/2018 - 13:00 |
8 | 8

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


12/02/2018 - 16:25 |
2 | 14

Bmw was always expensive… You just weren’t used to buy them back in the day.

12/02/2018 - 13:21 |
44 | 8
Ali Mahfooz

I read the headlines and immediately thought of Hyundai with their N division line up being the new BMW as one of the former bosses at BMW M division was involved with the development of the car line up. Speaking of which, what would Hyundai be the EU/Japanese equivalent?

12/02/2018 - 13:51 |
12 | 0

I thought the same, especially the US spec Elantra GT Sport, looking at those gauges is like looking at a BMWs verbatim… probably because about half of M division went to Hyundai/Kia in the wake of dieselgate

12/02/2018 - 14:22 |
0 | 0

Except for - you know - rear wheel drive 😅 i get the analogy, but it limps a bit for me. I love what mazda is doing just as much, but theres a rather big difference as to why someone might like the handling of an e30/e36 compared to why someone might like that of a new mazda.

12/02/2018 - 15:32 |
20 | 0

and it’s not only that they made completely new engine, Mazda is still insisting of finding some use of rotary engines, after so many years.. their future electric cars will use rotaries to produce more power to batteries..
so they’re making great driving engagement and being inovative, at least more than other brands

12/02/2018 - 17:23 |
2 | 0
Dave 15

I’ve driven just about every model BMW currently make - normal and M cars.
Honestly, I’ve never much understood the hype.

12/02/2018 - 18:28 |
4 | 4

normal BMWs, i understand. But M cars being that meh, makes me think you’re more than a little biased.

12/03/2018 - 07:57 |
2 | 2

I can only report very positively from my F10. Almost everything is designed well, from Handling, Power delivery (some minus points for the overboosted 4 cyl instead of a lower powered 6 cyl diesel for the 525, drove the 530d and it was so much better), infotainment, road feedback, usage and more. Some things are not perfect, but it’s the best car I’ve driven and used so far.

12/03/2018 - 16:38 |
0 | 2
Ben Anderson 1

In reply to by Dave 15

I drove an M328i with M-Sport package. All the praise lauded on that particular car and engine and I was left massively disappointed. I really don’t understand the hype at all.

12/04/2018 - 10:23 |
0 | 0

If they’d use the same tech in other engine configurations that have more charisma, I’m sure Mazda could create a legend. Imagine a Mazda 3 with a 5 cylinder NA engine?

12/02/2018 - 19:17 |
4 | 0

omg the mazda 6 wagon is so sexy. and of course we dont get it in North america. mazda is a great company simple as that.

12/02/2018 - 23:30 |
0 | 0



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