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Mazda Axela: Highs and lows of the Toyota and Nissan rival

 A 2015 edition of the Mazda Axela costs between Sh1.5m and Sh1.8m in Kenya. [File, Standard]

Mazda Axela is an attractive mid-size car from Hiroshima-based multinational automaker Mazda Motor Corporation.

The vehicle has, of late, gained popularity in the Kenyan market, with its average price rising from just under Sh1m four years ago to almost Sh1.8 million currently.

Mazda admirers say it never strains the eye, nor does it lose its vogue.

A tested and proven sedan or hatchback, with a lot of positive reviews, the Mazda Axela, or Mazda 3 in certain markets, offers value for money.

Some argue it is overpriced, especially in the Kenyan market.

The Mazda Axela comes in four engine sizes – 2,000cc petrol engine, 1,500cc petrol engine, 2,200cc turbodiesel engine and 2,500cc petrol engine.

The compact vehicle is available in either manual or automatic transmission.

In Kenya, most buyers prefer the 1,500cc Axela because of its fuel economy and affordable maintenance.

A 2015 model of the Axela trades at between Sh1.5 million and Sh1.8 million in local car bazaars.

Kenya has a maximum eight-year age policy on imported vehicles, making the 2015 Axela the most popular make across bazaars due to pricing advantage.

On why Mazda settled on the name Axela for the five-seater car, records show that it derived the name from a combination of English words “accelerate” and “excellent”.

The 1,500cc (1.5 litre) Axela accelerates from 0 kilometres per hour (Kph) to 100kph in 10.8 seconds.

The 2-litre version does the acceleration in 9.2 seconds, while the 2.2 litre turbodiesel Axela speeds up to 100Kph in about 9 seconds.

The 2.5-litre Axela, which is the most powerful, accelerates from 0 to 100Kph in 7.9 seconds.

The 1.5 litre Axela has a horsepower of 109, while the 2-litre version produces 136 horsepower. The 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine produces 150 horsepower, though with a more powerful torque. The 2.5-litre Axela, though rare, produces an impressive 184 horsepower.

The horsepower figures on the Axela indicate a vehicle that is powerful enough to allow you do occasional thrill overtaking.

The popular 1,500cc Axela does about 13 kilometres per litre (km/l) on highway driving, with the figures reducing to about 10km/l during trips in urban centres.

The 2.2 turbodiesel Axela gives better fuel economy, with about 11km/l during urban drive and 14km/l on highway driving.

The fuel economy could improve or worsen depending on one’s driving habits.

Aggressive motorists, who accelerate fast and slam the brakes after a short distance, often get bad fuel economy.

One of Axela’s disadvantages is its ground clearance – 5.3 inches. With its low ride height, the Axela could struggle going over high bumps and muddy roads. This makes it unsuitable for regular trips to the rural areas, considering many trims of the car come with only two-wheel drive capability.

The Axela has a 55-litre full tank capacity.

At the current Sh159.12 petrol prices in Nairobi, it would cost you Sh8,750 to fill the tank, while for diesel-powered Axelas, it would set you back Sh7,700 to fill the tank at the current diesel prices of Sh140 per litre in Nairobi.

On full tank, with an average highway consumption of 12km/l, the Axela would take you slightly over 600 kilometres, factoring in occasional traffic jams and the need for aggressive driving during overtakes.

The Axela has a minimum kerb weight (weight while empty) of 1,190 kilogrammes (kgs), and can carry a maximum load (including passengers) of 600kgs.

Elijah Girimani, a car dealer who shifted base from Mombasa to Nairobi, says the Axela handles well on the road, and feels sporty.

“It is spacious and has an appealing interior with a functional infotainment. Its biggest selling point is fuel economy, compared to vehicles from other automakers in its range,” said Girimani.

Charles Okoth, a mechanic in South B, Nairobi, said the Axela’s low ground clearance makes it unattractive to people who drive out of town regularly.

“It’s a good car nevertheless,” he said.

David Maloba, who owns a 2018 Axela, said he was forced to change his vehicle’s wheel size to allow him driver over high bumps and rough roads.

“I’m forced to avoid pothole-laden roads,” he said.

The Axela’s boot space is another downside, with records showing that its 351-litre capacity is smaller in size compared to Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.

Other common Axela problems include rattling noise from the rear of the car, faulty thermostat (especially in 2013 models), misfiring and lack of power, especially when the car ages, transmission problems (2012 models most affected), brake problems in the 2011 to 2015 models and boot release mechanism failure.

“The boot release button is made of rubber and is prone to early degradation on the Mazda Axela. If this part wears down it allows water to leak into the mechanism, stopping it from working properly,” says breakyard.com.

On rattling noises from the rear, mechanical reports say they’re caused by loose, bent, or rusted sway bar links.

A replacement sway bar link generally costs anywhere between Sh3,000 and Sh10,000 plus labour costs.

The brake problems, on the other hand, are caused by brake pad coming into contact with the rotor.

“Most of the brake pads on the affected vehicles have been reported to have a burr on their backing plate, affecting their alignment on the bracket,” says carparts.com.

The Axela’s rivals include Toyota Axio, Nissan Sylphy, Volkswagen Jetta, Suzuki Siaz and Honda Civic.


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