Latest Design Looks Terrific
Expect Usual Iron-Clad Dependability
“dopey and meaningless SkyActiv labelling of everything from engines to bodywork”
For – handsome looks, quality, reliability
Against – weak brand
rating: **** out of 5
EDINBURGH, Scotland – Mazda of Japan is one of those marginal companies that you half expect to disappear from the scene, like Saab of Sweden, but the fact that it has managed to survive even the current turbulence shows that it is definitely doing something right.
The power of the brand name isn’t mainstream, but it’s not premium either. And the buyers keep coming back, despite cheesy slogans like Zoom-Zoom, or desperate attempts to sound high-tech with the dopey and meaningless SkyActiv labelling on everything from engines to bodywork. Where Saab died trying to charge Audi and BMW prices for Opel-Vauxhalls in disguise, Mazda has pushed niche products like the fabulous MX-5 sports car. You want an SUV that’s a cut above the rest in terms of quality but not price, there’s the CX-5. The little MX-2 adds a touch of individuality to the city-car segment. While Jaguar was laughed off court trying to sell a Ford Mondeo in disguise, the Mazda6, also based on the Mondeo, sold well.
Now that Mazda has been cut adrift from Ford, it has unveiled the new Mazda6 range of saloons and estate cars, and mighty impressive they are too.
“This one is all our own work,” a Mazda official said.
The new body is reminiscent of the old one, but has been given some subtle curves and creases and does look seriously handsome.
The Mazda6 is hard to fault. It is well made, with impeccable interiors. On the beautiful, sometimes challenging roads south of Edinburgh, the 6 was a pleasure to drive. The steering was tight and accurate. The suspension smoothed out the bumps with ease. The diesel motor was powerful, quiet and responsive. The auto box was impeccable.
The new Mazda6 was unveiled at the Paris Car Show last year, and is on sale now across Europe. Prices start at £19,595. There are 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel engines with the choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions. There are four-door saloons and five-door estate cars. The interior is smart and well laid-out. The front pillar has been moved back a little bit to widen the driver’s field of view. The range starter is a 2.0-litre 143 hp Saloon SE. Prices rise to £24,865 for the 2.0-litre 163 hp Tourer Sport Nav. Diesel variants start at £21,795 for the 2.2-litre 148 hp Saloon SE through to £28,045 for the 2.2-litre 173 hp Tourer Sport Nav Auto. This third generation vehicle has a brake energy regeneration system. Fitted as standard to the majority of Mazda6 models sold in the UK, this can boost economy by up to 10 percent. There’s Stop-Start too.
Mazda has some incredible sounding fuel economy claims:
“With combined fuel economy as high as 67.3 mpg – without any sacrifice in performance , the Mazda6 is the new class leader,” says the company.
If one of these models can get anywhere near 67.3 mpg, they deserve all the titles they can think up. Wake me up if anyone does this, without doing the entire journey coasting downhill.
“Chassis and body structures are stiffer, benefiting from greater proportions of high and ultra-high tensile steels. The steering and suspension combine low-speed agility with high-speed stability and responsiveness to driver input – at a level of precision unparalleled in the CD-segment. (Whatever that is) In addition to being quieter and more aerodynamic, the all-new Mazda6 will also be a segment leader in terms of safety,” says Mazda.
Mazda claims class-leading impact protection thanks to highly rigid impact-absorbing structures and innovative load paths to disperse energy away from the cabin. To help the driver avoid accidents, there’s an array of safety technologies like radar-based Rear Vehicle Monitoring, Smart City Brake Support (SCSB) and Lane Departure Warning System. Even when a collision is unavoidable, passive safety technologies work to diminish its severity for occupants and pedestrians – and even the vehicle itself.
The Mazda6 is more than just a worthy car, with a reputation for rock-solid reliability. It has style and quality which belies its current status as an also-ran brand. But when you look at the competition (see below) you can see that the company will have a tough time differentiating itself and emerging from the pack as the car to buy. In current circumstances, price, or discount, is all.
(Mazda paid for a night in a hotel and a flight)
rating: **** out of 5
Neil Winton – February 1, 2013