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Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29

THE BIG FREEZE Bitterly cold it may be, but Hokkaido is also very beautiful. And I’m aiming to see as much of it as I can in the next couple of days from the unique vantage point of the all-new Mazda MX-5 RF. Hokkaido is the second largest of the Japanese islands, its landscape forged by millennia of seismic activity. There are no fewer than 20 volcanoes, and, rather worryingly, many of them are still active. You’re never far from the smell of sulphur or other earthly emanations. But the trade-off is that the land itself is tremendously rich. Dense green forests cover vast swathes of the island, feeding a prolific paper trade, while flat plains are home to a huge farming industry. Hokkaido’s delicious pumpkins, potatoes, and milk and beef from its cattle feed the whole of Japan. But in the winter you wouldn’t know it. Only the eerie skeletal structures of polytunnels or the occasional sign advertising the presence of Holstein cows suggest the abundance that the warmer summer months bring. At this time of year the snow itself is the main attraction. Widely regarded as the best powder on the planet it draws visitors from all over the world to its growing number of ski resorts. Top of the list for many is Niseko, so that’s what I enter into the RF’s navigation system. And, with a quick kick to check the winter tyres and a prod of the heated seat switch (which is an obvious option for driving a car in these sub-zero temperatures), it’s time to head off. The cabin of this Japanese-specification MX-5 RF is really rather lovely. High-quality leather envelops the seats and it takes a mere matter of seconds to For 30 years, Mazda has been testing its cars to withstand the most extreme conditions at the Kenbuchi Proving Ground in Hokkaido. In January and February this year, more than 1,000 employees braved temperatures between -23°C and -33°C to carry out assessments from tyre-grip tests to an analysis of braking in the snow to how well doors open and close in freezing conditions. Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD and G-Vectoring Control technology were developed here too. In addition, a team of locals maintain the site year-round, starting the preparation and build up of the test courses in the summer when there isn’t even any snow. Vehicle specifications vary depending on model


Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29
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