From Maseratis to rental cars | Autoblog Podcast #511

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We discuss Maserati’s foray into crossovers, why bad cars can make good rentals, and the new and used cars you should buy.

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From Maseratis to rental cars | Autoblog Podcast #511 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 07 Apr 2017 17:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Our Mazda MX-5 Miata has the best engine bay in the business

One of the things that’s really disappointing about modern cars is how they all hide their technology under a proverbial bushel. You pop the hood, and nine times out of 10, you’re faced with some amount of black plastic hiding the functional bits. On some cars the plastic covers the bare minimum to have a “presentable” engine. Others have every tank, hose, wire and screw buried under a layer of smooth plastic. Few exemplify this practice better than engine bay of the current Lexus LS 460, seen below. If Lexus was this embarrassed about its engine, maybe it should have simply bolted the hood shut.

Lexus LS 460 engine bay

However, like with weight gain and power creep, our fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata bucks the plastic trend. Lift the aluminum hood of the little roadster, and you travel back in time more than a decade. (See the gallery up top.) Only one bit of decorative plastic is in sight, and it proclaims the car’s Skyactiv technology and hides some of the wires leading to the ignition coils. Otherwise, nothing else is obscured. The shock tower braces, manifolds, battery terminals, the whole shebang is all right there for you to see. What’s particularly amazing is that it all looks good. Even in some cars that eschew plastic covers, it’s no guarantee of an attractive engine bay.

2017 Honda Civic hatchback

We just had a new Honda Civic Sport hatchback (seen immediately above), and while it doesn’t sport a plastic engine cover, you can see from the photo that it’s not particularly attractive with tubes and cables snaking every which way. But in the Miata, the hoses and wires are kept to a minimum, and the ones that are there are arranged in a way that isn’t haphazard or tangled. Then, in the middle, there’s the clean, simple aluminum cam cover as the gleaming centerpiece, similar to those of the first- and second-generation cars. As the owner of a ’99 Miata, this detail in particular gives me the warm fuzzies.

The fully exposed engine bay fits with the Miata’s personality. The car is very straightforward, it features just the absolute minimum of style and comfort additions, and is highly accessible. I would say the Miata’s engine bay is the window to its soul, if driving it didn’t offer a clearer picture.

Related Video:

Mazda 2017 Model Year Update

Driving Matters, Mazda’s marketing pitch, certainly resonates with enthusiasts, although may not be relevant with the increasing number of drivers engaged in texting while steering. Regardless of that disconnect, for drivers Mazda brings to market the long-awaited Miata coupe in Retractable Fastback (RF) form. And for those wanting/needing a new crossover, Mazda redesigns its well-received CX-5.

MAZDA3: Mazda’s compact sedan and hatch receive a revised front end and tweaked rear. Inside, an upgraded interior with enhanced storage space, improved sound proofing and materials round out the enhancements. And on the road, all trim levels receive Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control for enhanced handling and stability.

MAZDA6: G-Vectoring Control is standard across all trims. Inside, improved sound insulation, new tech (including traffic sign recognition), and available Nappa leather takes an already upscale environment a few steps further into near-luxury.

MAZDA MX-5 MIATA: The RF (Retractable Fastback) is the biggest news, as it serves as the answer to the long-awaited Miata coupe. Club models receive Blind Spot Monitoring and Cross-Traffic Alert – presumably helpful when the top is up. And the RF Launch Edition (1,000 examples) delivers a Nappa leather interior and hand-painted black top. The package is further embellished by Mazda’s choice of Machine Gray metallic exterior color.

MAZDA CX-3: Mazda’s subcompact crossover receives minor updates. The Touring trim gets 18-inch alloy wheels, while the upmarket Grand Touring’s available i-ACTIVSENSE is reduced in price.

MAZDA CX-5: Mazda’s compact crossover is all-new and on Mazda showrooms this spring as a 2017 model. Of particular interest to diesel fans is the introduction later in the year of Mazda’s SKYACTIV-D 2.2 clean diesel, which arrives just in time for your Volkswagen buyback.

MAZDA CX-9: Mazda’s largest crossover is unchanged for 2017.