By Peter Lyon*
At the Japan Car of the Year awards ceremony inside Zepp Diver City on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay, Mazda’s all-new CX-5 posted 363 votes to win Japan’s coveted Car of the Year prize.
Surprisingly, the expected close battle between this year’s two most highly anticipated cars – Mazda’s CX-5 and the Subaru BRZ/ Toyota 86 (Scion FR-S) – did not eventuate as the SUV from Hiroshima pulled away from the jointly developed Subaru/Toyota sports car to triumph by some 45 votes.
(The Scion FR-S in North America is known as the Toyota 86 in Japan.)
While the Toyota-Subaru sports car picked up 318 votes for its thrilling rear-wheel drive handling, high revving boxer engine and reasonable price, it was the Mazda CX-5’s revolutionary Skyactiv technology, great handling and economical clean diesel engine that most impressed the 60 jurors.
As one of only two foreigners on the otherwise all-Japanese jury panel, I found myself allocating my top 10 votes for the Mazda’s all-new Skyactiv technologies, but in truth wanted to add even more votes to the Hiroshima-based carmaker for totally reinventing itself twice in just 10 years (the Mazda6 of 2002 signalled its ‘first’ rebirth).
Skyactiv technology refers to a series of new body, chassis, engine and transmission technologies which increase fuel efficiency, reduce weight and emissions while improving the car’s handling and ride quality. Skyactiv does not employ hybrid or electric power.
In accepting the Japan COTY trophy, the so-called ‘Godfather’ of Skyactiv technology**, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, said, "It was a long road. 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. Thank you!"
The BMW 3-Series – with 282 votes – snatched the Import Car of the Year gong away from a strong finishing Range Rover Evoque polling 218 votes, while the sentimental COTY steering committee special prize was awarded to the Subaru BRZ/ Toyota 86.
Mazda CX-5- 363 votes
Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 -318
BMW 3-Series -282
Range Rover Evoque -218
VW Up! -152
Suzuki Wagon R - 68
Citroen DS5 - 51
Alfa Romeo Guilietta - 29
Nissan Note - 10
Honda N-Box - 9
Each juror is given 25 votes. The juror must give 10 votes to their highest rated car, and then spread the remaining 15 votes among their next best four cars.
* Peter Lyon is an Australian-born and internationally-published automotive journalist living in Japan