Mazda zooms into SEMA 2016 with lighter MX-5 Speedster and RF Kuro concepts

It’s almost time for the 2016 SEMA aftermarket show again, if you haven’t guessed already by the steady parade of early looks at various show cars. Mazda’s MX-5 creations are generally a highlight for us, unapologetic Miata junkies that we are. This year’s cars should be just as exciting as last year’s, one being a revision of last year’s Speedster concept and the other based on the brand new, sexy RF retractable targa top model. Both SEMA MX-5s were designed and built in-house at Mazda’s Irvine design studio.

This year’s Speedster is somehow even lighter than before. Mazda carved 100 pounds out of it, making it a staggering 350 pounds less than a production soft top model. It’s also been repainted in a color called “White Ether”, which we’re imagining looks something like the “Blue Ether” paintjob on last year’s highly reflective Speedster minus the blue tint. Mazda will probably never sell a roofless Miata or anything this lightweight, but maybe it should. It looks like it’d be a blast to drive at a road course.

And then there’s the RF Kuro concept, the first RF-based SEMA show car, which is shown in the teaser above. It doesn’t seem terribly extreme, to be honest. It’s wearing a matte charcoal paint, which explains the “Kuro” moniker – kuro means “charcoal” in Japanese. A set of 17-inch RAYS forged wheels and MX-5 Cup suspension, and that’s about it. Not to knock it; the RF is a sexy looking thing as it sits, and Cup suspension should make it handle even more like a go-kart.

Of course, both concepts will be fully revealed at the show next month in Las Vegas. Stay tuned for a dose of concept Miata hotness.

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Consumer Reports no longer recommends Honda Civic

Consumer Reports annual Car Reliability Survey is out, and yes, there are some big surprises. First and foremost? The venerable publication no longer recommends the Honda Civic. In fact, aside from the walking-dead CR-Z and limited-release Clarity fuel-cell car, the Civic is the only Honda to miss out on CR’s prestigious nod.

At the opposite end there’s a surprise as well – Toyota and Lexus remain the most reliable brands on the market, but Buick cracked the top three. That’s up from seventh last year, and the first time for an American brand to stand on the Consumer Reports podium. Mazda’s entire lineup earned Recommended checks as well.

Consumer Reports dinged the Civic for its “infuriating” touch-screen radio, lack of driver lumbar adjustability, the limited selection of cars on dealer lots fitted with Honda’s popular Sensing system, and the company’s decision to offer LaneWatch instead of a full-tilt blind-spot monitoring system. Its score? A lowly 58.

The Civic isn’t the only surprise drop from CR’s Recommended ranks. The Audi A3, Ford F-150, Subaru WRX/STI, and Volkswagen Jetta, GTI, and Passat all lost the Consumer Reports‘ checkmark. On the flipside, a number of popular vehicles graduated to the Recommended ranks, including the BMW X5, Chevrolet Camaro, Corvette, and Cruze, Hyundai Santa Fe, Porsche Macan, and Tesla Model S. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the hilariously recall-prone Ford Escape getting a Recommended check – considering the popularity of Ford’s small crossover, this is likely a coup for the brand, as it puts the Escape on a level playing field with the Recommended Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue.

While Ford is probably happy to see CR promote the Escape, the list wasn’t as kind for every brand. For example, of the entire Fiat Chrysler Automobiles catalog, the ancient Chrysler 300 was the only car to score a check – there wasn’t a single Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, or Ram on the list. That hurts. FCA isn’t alone at the low end, either. GMC, Jaguar Land Rover, Mini, and Mitsubishi don’t have a vehicle on CR’s list between them, while brands like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Nissan, Lincoln, Infiniti, and Cadillac only have a few models each.

You can check out Consumer Reports entire reliability roundup, even without a subscription, here.

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Nissan's purchase of Mitsubishi is officially official

After the company’s announcement in May, the Nissan’s purchase of a 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi is now official. The deal cost Nissan $2.3 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal, and brings Mitsubishi into the Nissan-Renault Alliance. The company explained that this new partnership will manifest itself in shared vehicle platforms and technology, joint purchasing, and shared manufacturing. Nissan also said that this purchase will make the company one of the three largest companies by volume in the world.

Nissan also emphasized that Mitsubishi will very much be a partner in the current alliance with Renault. In addition, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both Nissan and Renault, has been nominated to be the new chairman of the Mitsubishi board. With Ghosn at the head of the board, current Mitsubishi president and CEO, Osamu Masuko, will remain in his positions but Nissan’s current chief competitive officer will join Masuko as co-chief executive officer at Mitsubishi.

With these companies now working together, we’ll probably start seeing more commonality between Nissan and Mitsubishi products here in the States. It would also be a great opportunity to get some of Mitsubishi’s cooler products here. Perhaps Mitsubishi and Nissan will take our hint about the Delica.

This article has been revised to clarify that Nissan Motors purchased the stake in Mitsubishi, not the Nissan-Renault Alliance, and to add the value of the purchase.

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