The Mazda 2 Lifestyle Drive Experience • Prologue

Mazda 2
As I sit here on the runway waiting to fly to Chicago, where I’ll have to run to catch my connection, a short hop over the pond to Montreal, I reflect on the reason I was chosen by Mazda for this trip. Why I have the dubious honor of driving the new Mazda 2, before even the press has a chance to get their slavering mitts on it.

According to Mazda I am a key influencer. But what is a key influencer? Is it a fan? A outspoken proponent? A blogger with tens upon tens of loyal readers? A sweaty, tall guy with a megaphone and 5 or 6 people who will grudgingly listen? I’m not sure really, as all of the above descriptions could apply.

If you were to ask me, I guess I would sort myself into the fan group. I have always had a lot of respect for Mazda as a company and a brand. My first car was a Mazda GLC afterall, and I did everything in that car. Ask anyone what the greatest car in the world is; they may say Bugatti, Lamborghini, or Ferrari, but deep down they all know which one it really is–it’s the car that gave them their first taste of freedom, the ability to go where they wanted, when they wanted. First cars have a huge impact on everyone, just ask my writing partner and wife.

Also, Mazda has always done a great job of taking care of the people who race their cars. A fantastic contingency program with discounted parts and support. It’s a great thing for someone like me, who owns two dedicated Mazda race cars and drives a further two in various series.

(Update: In the air now, had to take a short break for takeoff.)

I’m also a big fan of Mazda’s ingenuity and innovation. From their new engine stop and start technology, to their experimentation with the hybrid rotary engine.

But the biggest reason I’m a Mazda fan is that I know they have my best interests in mind. Because I’m not an appliance car buyer, I’m a person who likes cars. I’m a driver. That’s the reason I like the rotary engine, not because it’s different (no pistons) or powerful (or even particularily fuel efficient), but because it exemplafies Mazda’s pursuit of the optimal weight balance and enhancment of the driving experience. (The 4 rotor 787B was pretty cool too.)

Drivers, not consumers, are Mazda’s market. If you want an inexpensive, small, and practical car there are plenty of options out there. But Mazda didn’t get where it is today by selling toasters, they offered something unique, something different, something more. So I’m hoping that the Mazda 2 will do just that, offer more than just meager transportation from point A to B.

One of the concepts from Mazda that I bring up often is the concept of Jinba Ittai – or “the horse and rider as one.” (This concept was used when they designed the original Miata.) It is the connection between car and driver that is so integrated, so seamless that you cease to notice it. When you stop noticing the feel of the wheel in your hand and just turn, when you stop thinking about how hard to step on the brake pedal, and simply stop. When you stop thinking about the connections between your body and the vehicle and just drive.

To paraphrase Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels: Say your lesson gunslinger! “I do not aim with my hand, I aim with my eye.” “I do not kill with my gun, I kill with my mind.” In my case: I do not drive with my hands and feet, but with my intentions. That’s the connection that I have with my race cars. And that’s what I want and expect from the Mazda 2. A reason to step on that gas pedal, to turn that wheel, to apex that corner, and for it to involve me enough that I stop noticing that I’m driving. Because cars are more than just metal boxes we travel from place to place in, more than just tools that we operate and control. They facilitate an experience, or lifestyle if you will, where driving is something you enjoy, because it’s fun, and because it’s something you want to do, not something you have to do.

(Steps down from soapbox) I think I’m beginning to understand why they chose me. Not because I’ve sold my soul or my opinion to them, but because I understand them and they understand me. I get the zoom-zoom philosophy, even though I think it’s a somewhat tacky catch phrase.

Full disclosure: Mazda USA is providing my travel, accommodations, and meals for this trip: The Mazda Lifestyle Drive Experience.