As fall slowly turns into winter, it becomes that time of the year when the nice are rewarded and the naughty are forgotten. This year it appears that the nicest of them all is the Mazda CX-5, and by a wide margin, too. Japan’s Car of the Year (JCOTY) award is one of the most prestigious recognitions that an automotive manufacturer can attain, and the Mazda CX-5 took the crown for 2012-2013 with a hefty 15% more votes than the jointly developed second place car – the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ.
For a car to be considered for the 2012-13 JCOTY it must have been released between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012. To give you a more specific breakdown of which cars the Mazda CX-5 was up against, the top five cars in contention for the JCOTY were as follows:
1st with 363 votes – Mazda CX-5
2nd with 318 votes – Toyota GT 86/Subaru BRZ 318
3rd with 282 votes – BMW 3-series
4th with 218 votes – Range Rover Evoque
5th with 152 votes – Volkswagen Up!
SkyActiv Proves Its Worth
This award could not have come at a better time for Mazda. Earlier this month, CEO Takashi Yamanouchi claimed that he expected Mazda to hit a 43% sales increase by 2016, and that he expected to achieve that goal primarily on the back of Mazda’s new SkyActiv technologies and Kodo design language. Sure enough, the Mazda CX-5 is the first car to see production with the full suite of SkyActiv technologies, so winning the JCOTY is an enormous confirmation of the Japanese manufacturer’s direction.
There is no doubt that the fuel efficiency and handling afforded by SkyActiv is what allowed the Japanese compact crossover to so handily outrank the competition. As Kiyoshi Fujiwara, one of the driving forces behind SkyActiv development, said after the results were announced, “In the early days of SkyActiv development, I had a lot of opposition from colleagues suggesting this technology was not the answer. But we stayed true to our goals, and here we are today, fully recognized by the COTY jurors.”
And if the acclaim afforded by receiving Japan’s most sought-after automotive award weren’t enough, the sales figures for the Mazda CX-5 should more than do the trick. Mazda has sold over 128,000 of the crossovers around the world since going on sale in February of this year, enough for the Japanese manufacturer to have ramped up production by 20% from the initial 200,000 units per year.
The last time that Mazda won Japan’s COTY was in 2005–2006 with the Mazda MX-5 (Miata), and before that was the 1982-1983 award with the Mazda Capella. This is only the fourth time ever that the Japanese manufacturer has won the award, but I have to say that with their focus on innovation and engaging design, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them receiving another before the next five years are up.