ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: New Mazda6 range first drive
Packed with new technology and a different approach to the future of engine design, DAVID HOOPER has a look at the new Mazda6 range.
YOU’RE looking at the most important new car Mazda has ever made – and that’s by the company’s own admission – so it had better be good.
Pitching into a crowded market against premium competition from the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, you begin to understand the scale of the challenge facing this new Mazda6.
It arrives against a backdrop of falling sales of the old model which tumbled from 14,000 fleet sales in 2006 to just 4,000 in 2012, blamed on increasingly uncompetitive BIK and C02 figures in a shrinking market sector, so this car has a lot of ground to make up.
This is the second model in the range to adopt the Kodo design language – The Soul of Motion – and the car has stayed remarkably faithful to the original concept shown at the Tokyo Motor Show. I think it looks fantastic, with its attention-grabbing front grille and sleek styling.
There is no hatchback in the new line-up, only the saloon and Tourer, or estate, yet 75% of outgoing Mazda6 sales are hatchbacks. Mazda say they have consulted their customers who said they would not be put off buying a Mazda6 saloon if there was no hatchback offered, and when you consider its upmarket BMW and Mercedes rivals, there is no hatch option in those ranges either, but then the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia dominate this market sector by a big margin are both large hatchbacks.
Bootspace in the Mazda6 saloon is generous, but if you need more space for lots of boxes, then the Tourer has to be the way to go. Alternatively, say Mazda, for more flexibility there’s the CX-5.
Both bodystyles look superb, the interiors are beautifully designed, feature clear instrumentation and are of a quality which is certainly a match of any competitor.
Instead of going down the hybrid route to reduce emissions, Mazda decided to go a different way and make conventional engines better. It called its new technology Skyactiv and through clever design and lightweight body structures, the theory works well in practice.
The next step in its evolution is brake energy regeneration, which can deliver up to 10 per cent savings in real world fuel consumption. Mazda’s i-ELOOP system charges a capacitor under braking which charges the battery which in turn runs the car’s electrical systems.
The system is standard on all diesel models and the 165PS petrol version.
The result of all this clever tech are fuel consumption figures of up to 67.3mpg and C02 emissions figures which start from 108g/km, which are best-in-class. For company drivers, the BIK rates start from £52 per month.
Inside, the car is spacious and comfortable, without feeling enormous and there is ample room for two six-footers to sit one behind the other. Headroom is also good, even in the back of the saloon with its sloping roofline, although there is more for rear passengers in the Tourer, with its longer roof panel.
The tailgate in the tourer is nicely balanced and easy to raise or lower with one hand, and I liked the way the load cover clipped onto the bottom of the rear window so that as you open the boot, it lifts up to allow easy access to the load area.
The rear seats on both models will fold down by pulling a single lever – another one-handed operation – to reveal a large, flat load area.
Storage around the cabin is a bit limited, and the door pockets are small, only big enough for a bottle of water.
The is lots of new safety kit too, Smart City Brake Support, first seen in the CX-5 which was launched in 2012, is standard across the range and helps to reduce low-speed accidents by applying the brakes at speeds of up to 20mph. i-Activsense is a radar cruise control system on high spec models, both of which have helped to reduce insurance costs.
The Mazda6 has an upgraded multi-media system, with a 5.8in colour touch-screen which includes USB and MP3 connectivity, while the Multimedia Commander lets the driver easily control the sound, TomTom-based navigation, and Bluetooth phone, depending on model. There’s even a Bose sound system on higher grade models.
The first car we drove was the 2.2-litre diesel saloon, with 175PS. The high-spec Sport Nav model, it featured a smart cream leather interior, well worth the extra £200, and the same soft-touch dash that works so well in the rest of the range. There are also some smart, chrome highlights around the premium-feeling cabin.
The engine pulls well through the gears and is very quiet at cruising speeds. The ride quality is as good as anything in this class, although freezing, snowy roads did restrict us from exploring the car’s handling abilities, but from what we could ascertain, there was certainly nothing to dislike. The steering provides plenty of feedback and the seats are comfortable, even after a long drive.
Next up was the 165PS petrol-engined Tourer, again in Sport Nav trim. There is little difference in levels of refinement between the saloon and the Tourer, and the precise manual gearbox was a delight to use in both cars.
We also briefly tried the six-speed automatic version in the 150PS diesel. Again, there were no complaints, the auto making smooth changes and always seeming to be in the right gear, which is handy – and not always the case with some autos.
The new Mazda6 needs to win back some much-needed sales for the brand, but with some brilliant new technology and high quality products, I believe it is now well placed to do just that.
Read more about Skyactiv technology
THE VITAL STATISTICS
BODY STYLES: 4-door saloon and 5-door Tourer
ENGINES: 2.0 Skyactiv-G 145PS petrol, 2.0 Skyactiv-G 165PS petrol, 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150PS diesel, Skyactiv-D 175PS diesel.
TRIM GRADES: SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport, Sport Nav.
PRICES: From £19,595
IN THE SHOWROOM: Now
ο All data correct at time of publishing.