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Japanese Cars to Look Forward

This week, Automotive News released a series of articles describing its vision for the five-year product pipelines of Japan’s three smaller automakers — Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Mazda. The articles are a compilation of rumors, facts, and info from inside sources that attempt to paint a picture of what we can expect from these three through the end of the decade or thereabouts. No matter which segment you love, there will be something good for you coming out of the woodwork.
Most of the cars on this list come from Mazda; Subaru refreshed almost all of its new-car lineup just last year, and Mitsubishi is in a bit of a “what-are-we-doing”, soul-searching phase as it figures out how to compete in the U.S. Either way, there’s something for everybody in this parade of upcoming new cars:

5. 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Whether or not we like them, there’s no denying that American buyers are going cuckoo for crossovers, especially small ones. Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport is but one crossover in that group, and the brand behind the moniker is looking for new ways to keep itself viable. According to AN, the Outlander Sport should receive a new look for the 2016 model year. Considering that Mitsubishi’s success in the U.S. is very limited, we think some fresh styling could go a long way with the market.
(Current Outlander Sport shown.)

4. 2015 Mazda2

2015 Mazda Mazda2
Mazda builds some great driving cars, and we have high hopes for the next iteration of the automaker’s subcompact hatchback. We’ve already seen the styling — which rocks — but the car doesn’t enter production until about Thanksgiving. Power will come from a 1.5-liter four-banger, which should be much more fun to operate than any three-cylinder out there (we’re looking at you, Mitsubishi Mirage). Ford Fiesta aside, the subcompact segment could use a dose of fun, and the Mazda2 looks to be the one delivering.

3. 2017 Mazdaspeed3

2014 Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback
Enthusiasts love the Mazdaspeed3; it’s a turbocharged, front-wheel drive wagon with a manual transmission and a chassis that loves to get tossed around. The current-generation Mazda3 has yet to produce a Speed3 variant, and AN believes that won’t change until the 2017 model year, when the Mazda3 lineup as a whole is set to receive an aesthetic refresh. This segment is currently on fire, with the Mini Hardtop Cooper S and the Volkswagen GTI both receiving updates this past year. It’s going to be a good decade for thrifty speed.
(Standard Mazda3 hatchback shown.)

2. 201? Subaru Legacy GT

2015 Subaru Legacy
AN didn’t report on this one, but your author did attend the media drive for the all-new 2015 Subaru Legacy. As it stands, every Legacy comes with a CVT, and neither of its engine options (H-4 or H-6) are really up to the task of delivering a proper sporty ride. That’s why we think Subaru should come out with a Legacy GT using a little bit of parts-bin engineering. Borrow the six-speed manual and the turbocharged flat-six from the STI, drop it in the Legacy, adjust the suspension for a stiffer ride, and you’ve got a guaranteed winner in the mid-size segment. There is no Mazdaspeed6, and the Accord Sport is only moderately sporty, so we think the Legacy GT could take the segment by storm.
(Current Legacy shown.)

1. 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda has been hyping its all-new upcoming MX-5 for the last few months, and we won’t see it in the flesh until next month. In the meantime, though, we can say with confidence that this is the number one car to look forward to from these brands. The MX-5 has always been about driving, first and foremost — it’s small, it’s rear-wheel drive, and it’s beloved by track rats the world over. We expect the new Miata to sport the same front end as the rest of Mazda’s lineup, but the rear end is anybody’s guess. Either way, we absolutely cannot wait to see it.
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