Big from Japan
It looks like a million dollars but feels small and slick
SALES of the Commodore and Falcon plummet because we no longer want large’’ cars. Yet fortunes of the similar-sized Hyundai i40, Mazda6 and Toyota Camry are on the up.
The new Mazda6, a superb piece of engineering, looks a million dollars. It’s just 40mm shorter than a Commodore. Perhaps public perception is mired in misinformation about large-car fuel consumption— the Commodore claims a reasonable 8.9L/100km and the Camry quotes 7.8L.
So there’s not a lot in it. Are we missing something?
In Atenza flagship trim, the Mazda6 lacks nothing but at $46,810 plus on-roads it wouldn’t want to. This version is meant to lure the luxury buyer rather than the family. That means it’s in deep waters, up against not only premium versions of Asian cars but nosing into the Euro domain.
The equipment level is very good, highlighted by sophisticated safety gear (lanechange monitor and active cruise) as standard, then extending to Bose audio, perforated leather upholstery, 19-inch alloys and sunroof.
So-called SkyActiv technology is applied to drivetrain, suspension and body.
The 2.5-litre petrol engine (138kW/250Nm) has no turbocharger yet is quick and averages a tiny 6.6L/100km (7.2L on my suburban test), excellent for an automatic. All Mazda6s get i-Stop (Mazdaspeak for stop-start) that kills and restarts the engine when idle. But a world-first compact, lightweight capacitor— called i-Eloop— stores regenerative energy to ensure the battery has the spark to continually restart the engine. Clever, despite a recent recall scare.
A few years ago a car that looked a lot like this was wheeled out in Milan and we thought it would never make it to production. Yet here it is.
It’s long and low, with flowing lines that don’t mimic many other cars. Inside it’s accommodating though its low profile can make rear headroom tight. The dashboard is very well executed though perhaps a bit fussy relative to a new wave of Europeans (Volvo V40 is one).
The boot opening is a bit narrow but floor length and width is generous. The previous generation’s popular liftback has been replaced by a wagon.
Among the best around, certainly at this price. Highlights are autonomous low and high-speed braking, radarbased active cruise control, incab warning of an impending prang, lane-departure warning system, emergency brake display, blind-spot warning and cornering headlights.
On top of this are six airbags, five-star crash rating, electronic stability and traction control, front and rear park sensors, rear camera, bi-xenon headlights with auto dipping, daytime running lights and hill holder.
Mazda enforces its driveroriented philosophy with a pilot’s position that is low and a dash that curves to partially envelop you. The car feels smaller and sportier than is the reality.
The engine is a bit raspy at idle— one onlooker thought it was a diesel— but hushes when under way and is practically inaudible when cruising. Power is linear and sparks up quickly when hurried.
The 2.5 is, thankfully, perkier than the 2.0-litre equivalent used in the Mazda3 yet it’s equally frugal. The 6 has a solid feel on the road and the electric-assist steering is among the best around for positive feel through the bends.
Even the ride is supple. Yes, it’s a bit big but parking is eased by the rear camera and front and rear sensors.
A luxurious and comfortable cruiser with a petrol economy that will make diesel buyers reconsider.