Mazda's entry into the U.S. followed that of Toyota and Nissan by almost a decade. And while its adaptation of Felix Wankel's rotary provided a distinctive niche among both Asian and European competitors, the thirsty rotary was almost the kiss of death for Mazda, as all automakers confronted the first OPEC crisis in 1973. Later in that same decade Mazda would introduce an economical 4-cylinder hatch, selling it in the U.S. as the GLC (Great Little Car). That, along with the profits from a rotary-powered RX-7, would put Mazda's U.S. showrooms on more secure financial footing. The carmaker's biggest buzz - and most consistent marketing effort - has been with its MX-5 Miata, a British-inspired roadster introduced to world markets for the 1990 model year. Mazda has also enjoyed considerable success with its Mazda3 hatch, while it's been less successful with its midsize Accord competitor, the Mazda6.
Today Mazda, like its immediate Japanese competition, offers a broad lineup of compact sedans and hatches, a well-received midsize sedan and three crossovers, ranging from subcompact (CX-3) to midsize (CX-5) to 3-row (an all-new CX-9). Its least-expensive U.S. offering is a toss-up between the Mazda3 4-door and CX-3 crossover, while the most expensive tag goes to the CX-9, which begins in the low $30s but can be optioned up to over $40K. The most fun to drive and own is (and always will be) the MX-5 Miata, now in its fourth iteration.
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