Mazda6 matches brawn to its driver’s brain
"The company is hoping the “soul of motion” remake of the Mazda6 injects a bit of adrenaline into a car that has apparently lost its zoom."
PARIS. – With the new Mazda6, as it was when the car was introduced, Mazda wants it to have a special bond with its buyer.
Mazda6 was introduced in 2002 as the evolution of the 626. It moved the mid-size Mazda family car considerably upmarket, but never quite made the breakthrough the Hiroshima-based company had hoped. In recent years, the model has been struggling in what Canadian president Shusuke Koreeda calls a shrinking segment.
The company is hoping the “soul of motion” remake of the Mazda6 injects a bit of adrenaline into a car that has apparently lost its zoom … zoom.
The dynamic coupe-like styling features chiselled fender lines and a wind-swept roof. It’s true to the Mazda “face” but with a dashing new flair. The design theme even inspired a new exterior colour – Soul Red Metallic.
Inside, the flow mirrors the outside lines in a front-to-back presentation that conveys the sense of waves rolling idyllically up on a shore. It’s probably psychological, but it makes the wide, supportive seats seem a bit more comfortable and makes a long spell at the wheel a bit more tranquil. It certainly is a lot quieter in the cabin than I can remember of the previous generation.
Gone is the all-inclusive (sometimes circular) centre stack, in favour of a more modern vertical presentation featuring a new large touchscreen (to control navigation, information and entertainment) over a layer of vents and knobs/push-button controls for heating and ventilation. It’s dead simple to use, not detracting from the mindset of driving.
It may seem odd to say that, but that’s what Mazda wants to portray the driver of the Mazda6 as – the brains of the operation. Liking the human/machine experience of the Mazda6 to the human body, engineer Yoshitada Toyoshima (assistant manager of Chassis Dynamics Development) says the driver is the mind, the car’s structure is the skeleton and the dynamic performance equates to the muscles – the driver enacts the movement (thinks it), the steering/suspension/brakes perform accordingly, and the structure keeps it all from falling apart in a heap.
It certainly seems a more intuitive and effortless driving experience than that in the previous generation, where I found handling was, at best, at the higher reaches of family-comfort with steering that required a bit too much effort, especially at higher cornering speeds. In the new car, there’s hardly a whiff of understeer and weight displacement is virtually unnoticeable.
Power continues to come from two engines, but like most new mid-size sedan entries, Mazda6 has gone solely to four-cylinder engines. Unlike others, though, it is opting for a diesel variant.
For 2014, the car continues with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, but it’s a new SkyActiv version in place of last generation’s 170 hp (and 167 lb.-ft. of torque) version. The new engine makes 189 of each, while sipping 8.5 litres per 100 km in city driving and 5.0 on the highway (the old engine was rated at 9.8 and 6.6, respectively).
In place of the previous generation’s optional 3.7L V6, the new Mazda6 offers a 2.2-litre diesel four-cylinder with twin-scroll turbocharger. It makes 173 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque and reportedly delivers 5.5 L/100km in the city and 3.9 on the highway.
Both engines feature a stop/start function and a brake regeneration mode that captures energy and converts it into electricity to power peripherals and accessories. Both engines can be linked to six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.
Fuel economy is certainly the order of the day, especially with the stop/start technology, though I find the system noticeable (and bordering on harsh) with the diesel engine (likely due to a diesel engine’s rougher nature). But, I’ll take noticeable in order to get better economy every time.
There’s no denying Mazda6 offers a different take on the mid-sized family sedan, though in a segment where it is currently fashionable to not step outside the mundane, that may not necessarily translate into the sales increase Mazda is hoping for. Deliveries are expected in early 2013
Available trims: Exp. GS; GT
MSRP range: not yet set
Notable Options: TomTom navigation, i-ELOOP (brake regeneration)
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Available engines: 2.5L 4-cyl. (189 hp/ 189 lb.-ft.); 2.2L turbodiesel 4-cyl. (173/310).
Available transmissions: 6-spd. manual; 6-spd. automatic
Fuel economy ratings (L/100km): Euro comb. 4.5 (2.2 man.); 4.8 (2.2 auto.); 6.3 (2.5 auto.)
Competitors: Chevrolet Malibu; Chrysler 200; Dodge Avenger; Ford Fusion; Honda Accord; Hyundai Sonata; Kia Optima; Nissan Altima; Toyota Camry
Strengths: choice; economy; looks
Weaknesses: some stop/start harshness