The driver controls the vehicle as naturally and easily as if it were an extension of his or her own body.

Esterel, Quebec – Is Mazda’s self-confessed “tireless pursuit of Jinba-Ittai” just mumbo jumbo?

Now my confession: I’ve regularly dismissed it as the latter and rolled my eyes every time I heard some earnest young Mazda technical person from HQ in Japan preach the philosophy.

However, I think plain speaking Rob Murdoch, Mazda Canada’s National Manager of Technical Services, may just have made a believer out of me.

I saw the light at the Canadian mid-cycle relaunch of the refreshed Mazda3. That’s auto industry talk for an upgrade in looks and equipment a couple of years or so before a new model is introduced, but I digress.

Firstly, what the heck is Jinba-Ittai?

“It’s about the fundamental thrill of pushing past your biological performance envelope,” Murdoch explained. – What?

“Unifying the horse and rider or Oneness between car and driver really… a car so natural it feels like an extension of your own body. To consistently achieve Jinba Ittai, we must tune our cars to please the driver’s subconscious.”

Nearly lost me again, Mr. Murdoch. But then we got the Westernized translation for plebes like me: the idea is whether turning, braking or simply cruising, the driver controls the vehicle as naturally and easily as if it were an extension of his or her own body while walking or running.

We subconsciously make adjustments in our body position and stride in reaction to the elements and gravity. This technology mimics that natural act.

The convincing began with video showing people driving cars with and without what Mazda calls G-Vectoring Control technology. The difference in required steering wheel adjustments while taking corners and just keeping the car on the straight and narrow was dramatic. And the resulting reactive body movements were pronounced.

The road test of this technology in the brand’s top seller over a variety of terrains in La Belle Province completed my conversion. It truly provides a more restful and enjoyable drive and enables precise control, adjusting the ride and handling according to steering wheel feed back from the driver.

There’s a long technical explanation how this achieved but I can sum its effectiveness in two words – it works.

The next most striking improvement in the 2017 Mazda3 sedan and sport (hatchback) is the quiet. Significant improvements in noise abatement enables normal conversation at highway speed between the driver and front seat passenger. Much appreciated as yours truly and co-driver had much gossip to catch up on, when we weren’t debating the differences between Western and Eastern philosophies.

On the looks front, Mazda says of the 2017 edition: “Flowing beauty that reflects a mature sense of composure Embodying the KODO—Soul of Motion design language . . . that conveys a sense of vitality and dynamism.”

Okay, let’s not go there today. There are subtle changes in the cabin and externally but I’ll let the images on this page paint that picture. Personally, the sedan’s looks are more appealing to me than those of the Sport edition.

There are three trims available for 2017 – GX, GS and GT. The base engine is a 2.0-litre power plant with six-speed manual and an auto transmission is available. The GT has a 2.5-litre power plant and manual transmission.

All trims are comparably equipped to their major market rivals. In other words, they are loaded with standard features, especially on the safety front.

The base GX sedan starts at $15,900, the GS $20,300 and the GT $24,000. The Sport trims mirror the sedan but the base starts at $19,550. The GS and GT add $1,000 to the corresponding sedan trims.

The 2017 fuel economy numbers are being estimated differently across the board this year due to regulatory changes on both sides of the US/Canadian border. The base engine is estimated at 8.5/6.2 L/100km (city/hwy).

After treating readers to a lesson in philosophy of Jinba-Ittai, I can’t resist ending on a light note.

Bill Reiter, the Burnaby-based comic, once asked me: “What did the Zen Master ask the hot dog vendor?” He paused as I offered only a puzzled look in response. Then informed me “Make me One with everything.”

I laughed aloud. They guys at Mazda clearly took the punchline seriously.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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