In Summary
  • It is a good alternative to the Corolla and is definitely an upgrade, more so in the looks department which you also brought up.
  • It drives really well and will stay stable well beyond 110km/h and all the way to its 180km/h cut-off, if sourced from Japan.
  • Compared to the Impreza, the Mazda might ultimately be the better ride.

Dear Baraza,
I enjoy your articles very much and always look forward to Wednesdays. Is the Mazda Axela hatchback (1490-2000cc) a good car?

I have a 2004 Toyota NZE G Grade that I would like to dispose of and buy a locally used alternative and I think the Axela hatch is pretty. How does it drive and is it stable at over 110km? A locally used Subaru Impreza 2006-2007 is another possible alternative. Which is better of the two?

Another question: in my logbook the weight of the NZE is indicated as 670kg. Is this a mistake or is the car that light? Google shows that it should weigh at-least 1,000kg.

Hi there,
Yes, the Axela hatch is a good car to drive. It has a sprightly front-drive chassis and offers buttery tactile feedback that pleases both enthusiasts and the indifferent alike, while returning good economy figures for the wary (and weary) of pocket.

It is a good alternative to the Corolla and is definitely an upgrade, more so in the looks department which you also brought up. As already said, it drives really well and will stay stable well beyond 110km/h and all the way to its 180km/h cut-off, if sourced from Japan.

Compared to the Impreza, I will kick myself for saying this, but the Mazda might ultimately be the better ride. It really does feel good to drive: it is lively enough to ensure even the most mundane of runs is never boring but it is not too lively as to be a borderline race car, which is rarely a good thing in everyday life.

“Subtly sporty” would be a fairly accurate description for the Mazda Axela.

“Subtly sporty” would be a fairly accurate description for the Mazda Axela.

Time and again I have said there is no point in driving a Subaru if it is not turbocharged, and the Impreza falls squarely within the confines of this blanket condemnation.

The turboless Impreza feels comparatively stodgy, lumpen and lethargic if you know what real Subarus should feel like, and likened to the equally turboless Mazda, well... the Shizuoka cart doesn’t quite match the sensations occasioned by the pride of Hiroshima. Also, there has never been a pretty Impreza, while there is rarely ever an ugly Mazda.

Come to think of it, when last did we see an ugly Mazda since the badge-engineered 121 hatch from the early ‘90s, which was a Ford Fiesta anyway? The vehicle weight indicated on the logbook is erroneous.

I think there is a digit (a 1, probably) missing in front of the 6, which should be the GVW (gross vehicle weight: the weight of the vehicle when fully laden) since the tare weight of the Corolla is approximately 1,300kg; factoring in a 400kg load capacity brings the total sum to 1,700kg, which is pretty close to the 1670 I am guesstimating the wrong figure to supposedly be. I’m not really sure about my hypothesis, but what I’m sure of is the vehicle does not weigh 670kg, nor does it have a 670kg load capacity.

***

How exactly does an i-Stop system work?

Mazda’s i-Stop works a little differently in that the engine cut-off has to be at very precise points of piston travel and the pulse timing of the direct injection optimised to work in tandem with that cutoff.

Mazda’s i-Stop works a little differently in that the engine cut-off has to be at very precise points of piston travel and the pulse timing of the direct injection optimised to work in tandem with that cutoff.


I am an ardent reader of your column and appreciate the good work you do and the advice you give. I recently acquired a 2010 version of the Mazda Axela 2000cc with an i-Stop system. However, the system has been inactive and keeps flashing a yellow warning light on the dashboard.

I would like your advice on how to resolve this before I start denting my wallet with clueless mechanics. How does the i-Stop system work and can you recommend anyone locally who has the skills to activate it?
JM

Hi Jim! (Ha! I’ve always wanted to say that!) We have a heavily Mazda-centric theme going on today. So, we are back to the Axela.

Yea, that i-Stop system sounds really complicated by description so when it goes on the fritz, you might be looking at a pretty technical problem, and you are right; you cannot just hand over this kind of complexity to any Joe Spanner or Tony Wrench that is immediately available. You have to find a specialist.

Now, I have never driven a Mazda with the i-Stop feature, but I have driven other cars with the start-stop technology, and the general tendency is the system can be deactivated.

However, Mazda’s i-Stop works a little differently in that the engine cut-off has to be at very precise points of piston travel and the pulse timing of the direct injection optimised to work in tandem with that cutoff.

This sounds a lot more complicated than in the use of capacitors and batteries as applied in other cars, where engine restart is semi-conventional (via starter and/or flywheel) while Mazda’s i-Stop instead squirts fuel into the inactive engine and burns it, and the force of this initial pseudo-power stroke is what gets the engine turning. So, can the i-Stop be deactivated? This would be the first thing to do to prevent potentially catastrophic failures in the near future.

If it can be deactivated, then do so and the car remains usable without the need for repair, sort of like removing a thermostat or a trafficator. If you still want the fuel-saving magic anyway, or it cannot be deactivated, well then... let’s wait until someone who can handle this problem reads this column and reverts, and I will in turn get them in touch with you because as we speak, I do not know anyone who handles this kind of problem. CMC probably could, and would, but I hear stories about them...

***


My C and H gauge is playing up


Dear Mr Baraza,
I am a regular reader of your articles and to tell you the truth, I have learnt and understood the general running of a motor vehicle from them.  I drive a Nissan Sunny. Recently, I noticed that something was wrong with the “C and H gauge” on the dashboard. 

The pointer jumps to the middle of the gauge the moment I start the car. Sometimes, after I start the car, while the engine is still warming up for about five minutes or so, the pointer even tilts slightly further past the middle of the gauge.

Then again, from the middle of the gauge, the pointer suddenly drops to a position slightly higher than zero. Now, should I be very worried about this gauge? I am confused; please help me. Diana Minja

Hi Diana,
Your worry about the gauge should not be extreme. Yes, you should worry because it needs a fix but no, you shouldn’t worry too much because the fix is not exactly open-heart surgery. The temperature sensor in the engine is acting up and needs to be replaced, simple as that. If not, then probably the gubbins controlling the pointer in the instrument cluster could be acting up as well; perhaps via a loose electrical junction, which is again a simple fix to carry out.

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