Big from Ja­pan

It looks like a mil­lion dollars but feels small and slick

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - NEIL DOWLING neil.dowling@cars­guide.com.au

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?

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

A lux­u­ri­ous and com­fort­able cruiser with a petrol econ­omy that will make diesel buy­ers re­con­sider.

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