Mazda sales representatives across the United States finally have the golden ticket for all of those eventual Honda Civic buyers who walked out the door before even test driving a Mazda3.
â€œWhen the driver maintains a constant steering angle, GVC immediately recovers engine drive torque, transferring load to the rear wheels to enhance vehicle stability,â€� Bill will tell his next up, quoting Mazda USAâ€™s press release. Says Joe to the young couple expecting their first child: â€œThe extremely subtle amount of deceleration force added by GVC normally amounts to 0.01 G or less.â€� Tom, with a patronizing over-the-glasses glance at the fixed-income senior citizens across the desk, says, â€œGVC demonstrates its effect consistently over a wide range of driving situations, regardless of the driverâ€™s level of skill.â€�
GVC, or G-Vectoring Control, is the next step in Mazdaâ€™s Skyactiv-branded technology. G-Vectoring control debuts on the refreshed 2017 versions of the Mazda6, a chronically unpopular midsize sedan, and the increasingly uncommon Mazda3, sales of which have tumbled by nearly a fifth since the carâ€™s 2012 peak.
To be sure, the 2017 Mazda3â€™s G-Vectoring Control will be yet another step forward for a car that is arguably the best-driving compact car on sale in America already. By claiming greater front-tire grip, quicker and more precise control, and enhanced vehicle responsiveness and stability, Mazda is doubling down on the 3â€™s areas of expertise despite a large degree of consumer rejection for a car which already excels in those very areas.
In search of success, Mazda doesnâ€™t need the 3 to steer and handle better. But let there be no doubt, Mazda will try to sell you a 2017 Mazda3 which steers and handles better.
By emphasizing GVC, I didnâ€™t expect Mazda to also deliver precisely what the 3 needs â€” a massive dose of refinement made apparent by sharp reductions in noise, vibration, and harshness â€” in a mid-cycle refresh.
Mazda nevertheless make claims on that front for the 2017 model, but Mazda doesnâ€™t appear to have aimed high. â€œThe 2017 Mazda3 is a substantial 3 dB quieter at 25 mph over rough roads, thanks to tighter body gaps and improved sound insulation,â€� Mazda says, citing internal studies.
Yes, if youâ€™re going slow and the roads are rough, we have internal studies which suggest the new 3 will be quieter than the old 3, Mazda seems to be saying.
Mazda also notes improved ride comfort from a reduction in â€œjolt sensations.â€� Modest interior alterations â€” new steering wheel, electric parking brake, a better heads-up display â€” are unlikely to be noticed by the typical buyer who also wonâ€™t be able to spot changes to the 2017 Mazda3â€™s exterior.
But Mazda is most keen on pointing out the merits of G-Vectoring Control, a software control system which Car and Driver initially said, â€œjust feels as if it makes the steering a little heftier.â€� After more driving, K.C. Colwell clearly came to recognize the benefits, but questioned how Mazda would manage to inform the typical compact car buyer. I would question whether a car thatÂ already features a measure of genuine performance credentials (which mainstream buyers are intent on avoiding) should initially reveal itself on a test drive with heftier steering.
From the standpoint of someone who believes the Mazda3 was the best small car on the market prior to the dawn of G-Vectoring Control â€” thatâ€™d be me â€” an improved Mazda3 will continue to stand tall as a car I can happily recommend to friends and family. But donâ€™t expect the 2017 Mazda3’s G-Vectoring Control to dramatically alter sales results. Mazda is on track to sell fewer than 100,000 3s and fewer than 45,000 6s in America in 2016, down 8 percent and 25 percent, respectively, year-over-year. (Brand-wide Mazda volume is down 7 percent in 2016.)
G-Vectoring Control isnâ€™t able to instantly change the U.S. Mazda dealer network, about which TTACâ€™s BB so vociferously complains. It also won’t instantly flip Mazdaâ€™s dreadful 30-percent loyalty rate, just as recommended ratings from Consumer Reports donâ€™t instantly alter the collective consumerâ€™s beliefs regarding Mazda reliability.
G-Vectoring Control does, however, instantly become standard equipment on all 2017 Mazda3s and Mazda6s. Making Mazda USA viable on a larger scale will take time. â€œIt will likely be early in the next decade before all the pieces come together from a product standpoint,â€� TheDrive reported in July after a conversation with Mazdaâ€™s North American CEO, Masahiro Moro.[Images: Mazda]
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.