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December 4, 2020

The Mazda CX-30 Made My 6-Hour Stop-and-Go Traffic Commute Bearable

A few weeks back, when I got a sneak peek at the BT-50 Pangolin, I had quite an experience heading back from what was just an hour-long shoot. Just as I reached the entrance of the South Luzon Expressway, I got wind that a girder fell off the Skyway, causing a monstrous jam. By the time I hit the Carmona area, it was already stop-and-go traffic. The result was a six-hour drive—four and a half on the expressway, and one and a half on EDSA just to get back home. It was, not just a test of bladder control (zero pee breaks, ye all), but of bodily endurance as well. It’s also times like this when I realized that all Mazda’s talk about Jinba-Ittai and Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture talk is real. Believe the hype.

To recap, Mazda’s philosophy in vehicle design is centered around the “joy of driving.” With that in mind, they’ve come up with “Jinba-Ittai” or “Horse and Rider as One” principle on every car they’ve done since the first-generation MX-5.

However, as the decades went, they realized that the exhilaration and sense of speed akin to a go-kart wasn’t the way to go. It may be great for race tracks or even during short bursts of driving, but it gets tiring when you use it to commute to work—something 99 percent of us do. By 2016, they’ve focused their efforts on making the whole handling thing more natural. From that point on, Mazda made sure that the car always remains in sync to the driver’s intentions—be it through steering, acceleration, and braking.

This brings me to Mazda’s latest creation: Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture. First introduced in the Mazda3, and also found in the CX-30, engineers focused less on the individual systems of a car platform. Instead, they made each individual element—seats, chassis, tires, all coordinate with each other as the overall structure, or architecture, of the vehicle.

It sure sounds like baloney marketing speak, until you sit in six hours of stop-and-go traffic and feel it for yourself.

I can tell that the CX-30 promotes the proper driving position. The front seats are sculpted in a way that it locks you in an alert, but relaxed posture. The pelvis is in an upright position, while the spine maintains its natural “S” curve. The arms are tucked closer to the chest while driving, too. With that, all the work moves from the smaller, weaker muscles such as the ankles and wrists, to the calves and pecs. This eliminates the vast majority of driving fatigue.

If you’re wondering if there’s a draw back to any of this, well, there sort of is. The focus of Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture is to take the human body’s ability to balance itself unconsciously, and to make it possible to exercise that same ability while driving. Now, if you drive like a ricer—you know, the type with one hand on the steering wheel, and the seat back leaned to 45 degrees, this human-centric design will remind you that you’re a slacker. Just like you’d keep your spine relaxed, but upright while walking, the seats are designed to act like an invisible posture coach. It constantly reminds you that driving with a slouched back isn’t beneficial for your health, or response time in case of an emergency maneuver for that matter.

While Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture isn’t as visible or sexy as its Mazda’s other trademark, Kodo, it contributes a lot to their vehicles, like the CX-30, feeling like it’s designed to look after you. It’s not something you see browsing through spec sheets or comparison charts, but after you experience it, you realize that it helps in bridging a connection between man and machine. Best of all, you don’t need a winding mountain road to realize it. It’s something you get to feel even in your daily commute.

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