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Mazda was the 12th-ranked carmaker in America last year, lagging far behind competitors Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai-Kia in sales. But on Reddit’s r/WhatCarShouldIBuy forum, Mazda is No. 1 — the king of manufacturers. 

Part of the community’s cult-like obsession with Mazda is simply an in-joke. Once Redditors started to notice the trend, they began to ask tongue-in-cheek questions like, Should I buy a Lamborghini or a Mazda? Jokes like these are common and popular. The most-upvoted post this month was a petition to rename the subreddit “WhatMazdaShouldIBuy.” But for a manufacturer like Mazda to catch on in the first place, the brand had to resonate with Redditors.

The ‘Best Bang For Your Buck’ Japanese Manufacturer

Posts on r/WhatCarShouldIBuy usually boil down to four questions, as one Redditor put it: Is it practical? Is it reliable? Is it well-priced? Is it fun to drive? Naturally, Honda and Toyota are common recommendations. But car enthusiasts have also discovered that Mazda fulfills those criteria and more, especially when it comes to getting your money’s worth. Mazda’s advantages include:

Gallery: 18 Reliable Cars You Can Drive Into the Ground

Mazda3 Sedan on the roadPhoto credit: Tramino/istockphoto

Avoiding the ‘Toyota Tax’

Toyota’s brand is synonymous with reliability. In fact, Consumer Reports found that it’s the second-most reliable manufacturer, second only to Lexus (which is Toyota). But that reputation comes at a price — literally. Because they’re known to run forever, used car sellers add what enthusiasts call the “Toyota Tax,” a markup that accounts for the vehicle’s reliability.

Mazda, a relatively unknown brand, doesn’t suffer from the same markups, and yet its cars are still dependable, earning a higher reliability score than Honda and Subaru.

"They’re reliable and relatively slept on by most consumers, so you’ll have an easier time finding a used Mazda 3 or 6 at a good price and good quality compared to a similar year Corolla, Civic, Accord, Camry or other Toyota/Honda vehicle," a Redditor explains.

Luxurious Interiors

Car and Driver compares the Mazda Cx-5’s interior with that of Audi and Mercedes, which is high praise given that it’s about half the price at $28,000. “The CX-5 is true to Mazda's philosophy of building cars and SUVs with driver-friendly road manners and chic, upscale interiors,” the review reads. And this isn’t just true of the CX-5.

The Mazda 3, the brand’s equivalent of a Honda Civic, won the World Car Design of the Year Award in 2020, and critics lavish praise on the manufacturer's other models, too. 

“Sure, a new Civic has a good enough interior. A new Mazda 3 absolutely puts it to shame in virtually every way,” an r/WhatCarsShouldIBuy user writes.

Great Handling

But what Mazda does best is that its cars are fun to drive. In practice, that means that its vehicles are light, nimble, and responsive, whereas piloting a Corolla might feel like driving an appliance.

This is by design. In an interview with the New York Times, the president and chief executive of Mazda’s North American operations explained that Mazda engineers are "taught that value is performance divided by weight."

“That’s a totally different mind-set,” he added. “And we do that because weight is the enemy of cost. But it’s also the enemy of fun-to-drive, and it’s also the enemy of fuel economy. So if we judge value as performance divided by weight, we should be able to tackle all of those things.”

The Bottom Line

While Mazda can’t compete with Toyota or Honda when it comes to car sales or revenue, the small Japanese manufacturer has built a cult following online. And it makes sense why. With an impressive lineup of cars that include the Mazda 3, CX-5, and Miata, Mazda is able to offer a compelling package of price and reliability without sacrificing comfort or style.

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