by Brad Leach - 05/12/12
With 'Movie Star' looks, more interior space, breakthrough technology and petrol or diesel engines, the all-new Mazda6 rockets to best-in-class in the mid-size segment. Priced from $33,460 Mazda has the '6' - sedan or wagon - keenly priced and ready to tackle the likes of Honda Accord, Hyundai i40 and Ford Mondeo.
All-new Mazda6 is the first Mazda passenger car to combine the full suite of SkyActiv engine and chassis technology and the company's tremendous 'Kodo' design theme. And Mazda is claiming a world-first with its fuel-saving capacitor-based i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system.
Mazda has changed its model grade naming system for the all-new '6': entry-level is now the 'Sport' (replaces the previous 'Classic'), then there's 'Touring', GT (replaces 'Sport Luxury') and the luxury range-topper is the 'Atenza'. All are generously equipped - Tom Tom satellite navigation and a reversing camera are standard across the range, only the 'Sport' model runs cloth seats - everything else gets leather (including a new off-white colour) - and the luxury Atenza scores Mazda’s new 'ActivSense' safety system which incorporates radar cruise control, lane departure warning, forward obstruction warning and blind spot monitoring - surprisingly this system is not even available as an option on other models.
The full range is:
Sedan 2.5l Petrol Sport $33,460
Sedan 2.5l Petrol Touring $37,500
Sedan 2.5l Petrol GT $43,220
Sedan 2.5l Petrol Atenza $46,810
Sedan 2.2l Diesel Touring $40,350
Sedan 2.2l Diesel GT $46,070
Sedan 2.2l Diesel Atenza $49,660
Wagon 2.5l Petrol Sport $34,760
Wagon 2.5l Petrol Touring $38,800
Wagon 2.5l Petrol GT $44,520
Wagon 2.5l Petrol Atenza $48,110
Wagon 2.2l Diesel Touring $41,650
Wagon 2.2l Diesel GT $47,370
Wagon 2.2l Diesel Atenza $50,960
For the stunning new 'Soul Red' multi-layer metallic paint (the colour which best highlights the gorgeous new looks according to Mr Hiroshi Kajiyama, the Mazda6 Project Manager who visited Australia for the launch) add $200 to the above prices.
Over the base model Sport, amongst the extras in Touring grade are leather seats with electronic adjustment for the fronts, 11-speaker Bose premium audio and front/rear parking sensors. GT goes further with additions such as 19-inch alloy wheels (17-inch on Sport and Touring), adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights, and glass sunroof.
On top of that, the Atenza grade's extras are highlighted by the ActivSense safety pack.
The petrol engine is Mazda's SkyActiv-G 2.5-litre direct-injection four-cylinder with 138kW at 5700rpm and 250Nm at 3250rpm. As we know, at the heart of SkyActiv engine technology is a reversal of current thinking on compression ratios and the petrol version runs a high-compression (13:1) configuration which Mazda says delivers the desired responsiveness across the range and low fuel consumption/emissions (in this case 6.6l/100kms which Mazda says is a 24 per-cent improvement over the old model and best-in-class).
Diesel power comes from the low-compression (14:1, the world's lowest) SkyActiv-D 2.2-litre, common-rail four-cylinder with 129kW at 4500rpm and 420Nm at 2000rpm. Fuel consumption is impressive at 5.4l/100kms.
Part of that consumption story is Mazda's i-stop auto star/stop system which restarts in just 0.35 seconds (petrol) and 0.40 seconds (diesel) and i-ELOOP (Mazda's brake energy regeneration system which powers a capacitor rather than a battery and which generates enough power for the vehicle's electrical systems).
All models drive through Mazda’s SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission (different ratios for petrol and diesel) with steering wheel paddle-shifters for manual changes.
Longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, the all-new Mazda6 gains inside with the 2830mm (sedan)/2750mm (wagon) wheelbase affording an extra 43mm of knee-room and 37mm more legroom for rear seat passengers. The rear seat cushion is longer too (although we reckon the front seat cushions do need to be longer).
As well as the usual black/charcoal interior colour, Mazda has cleverly added an off-white leather colour (all except Sport models). The Mazda6 wagon we drove at the launch had the off-white interior and it certainly looked smart.
So while there are a few familiar Mazda design cues here and there, mostly the all-new Mazda6 is totally new, contemporary and very classy inside with lots of high quality materials, soft-touch finishes and hand-polished aluminium highlights. One new feature is the accelerator pedal – Mazda following others by adopting the hinged organ-type pedal (said to afford better control).
The nicely-styled three-spoke steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach and combines with plenty of front seat adjustment to deliver a handy driving position. Instruments are conventional gauges in a curved binnacle with a 3.5-inch multi-information display screen located centrally between the speedometer and tachometer.
To the left, Mazda6 features a 5.8-inch touchscreen for audio, navigation and climate control (a rotary mouse-type controller on the centre console also provides adjustments and of course there are remote audio adjustments on the steering wheel).
Luggage space for the sedan is 438-litres, while the wagon provides 451-litres with the 60/40 split-fold rear seat in place or 1,593-litres with the rear seat folded. Mazda concedes the wagon cargo capacity is slightly down on the current Mazda6 even though the all-new model’s cargo area is wider. On the plus side, the all-new Mazda6 wagon runs a very clever tonneau cover attached to the tailgate – much easier to operate and store than many rival wagons.
On the audio front, Mazda6 Sport model comes with a six-speaker system, while the others score an 11-speaker, 231-watt premium Bose system (and here’s technological progress – the 11-speaker Bose system actually weighs 20 per-cent less than the premium audio system in the outgoing Mazda6). Both have the expected connectivity systems and hands-free steering wheel controls.
Well there’s a debate going on. Is the all-new Mazda6 correctly categorized as a mid-size vehicle? At 4,865mm in overall length, 1,840mm in width, 1480mm in height (wagon) and with a wheelbase of 2,830mm (sedan), Mazda says the newcomer is the largest comparable mid-size vehicle.
And this has led to some suggesting the ‘6’ should be classified - like the Chrysler 300, Commodore and Falcon - in the ‘Large’ segment. We don’t buy that – park the all-new Mazda6 next to a Ford Mondeo or a Kia Optima and there’s little to separate their dimensions.
However there’s a lot to separate their looks. Yep, Mazda has nailed the style of the all-new Mazda6 and in our eyes it has eclipsed the Ford Mondeo and Kia Optima to become the styling leader in this league.
Not surprising given Mazda’s stylists were drawing inspiration from the spectacular Takeri concept car which Car Showroom checked-out at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show.
Japanese stylists are traditionally conservative, but to be honest photos don’t do justice to the edgy looks of the all-new Mazda6. It’s low, wide, muscular, curvy and very sporty from any angle. Mazda says it’s the best example yet of its ‘Kodo’ design theme – that is highlighted by the Mazda ‘face’ front-end and hallmark wings.
But those prominent fender curves and long bonnet actually make the cabin look small. The flowing roofline and three-window sides blend harmoniously with the equally curved rear-end.
GT and Atenza models are distinguished by their glass sun-roofs and adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights. Like the Touring model, they also run 19-inch alloy wheels (17-inch on Sport).
As evidenced by its unique height and wheelbase, Mazda designed the all-new Mazda6 wagon as a wagon from its inception (it’s not a ‘re-do’ of the sedan). So its looks are a total package and it looks brilliant.
During a full day in Adelaide and the Adelaide hills, Car Showroom got behind the wheels of a GT grade Mazda6 wagon (diesel) and range-topping Atenza sedan (petrol). That means both of our cars ran the 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile 225/45 R19 tyres.
Underneath, a total change on the suspension front for the all-new Mazda6. At the front a MacPherson strut design replaces the previous double-wishbone layout and the rear goes to a new multi-link design.
The result is a sporty on-road dynamic to match the sporty looks of the all-new Mazda6. Steering feel was nice, chassis balance was nice, turn-in was nice, grip levels high and there was little bodyroll – just as we would expect from Mazda.
We enjoyed the superlative refinement of Mazda’s 2.2-litre diesel and the extra torque required less gear-shifts over the twisty stuff (we expected good things from this engine after its debut in the CX-5 SUV and we weren’t disappointed). On the other hand, the SkyActiv 2.5-litre petrol engine was no laggard, responding well when cracked and delivering a pleasant exhaust note when working hard – manual gear-changes in the six-speed auto were very quick.
Along with several of our colleagues in Canberra, we felt the front seats in the all-new Mazda6 were a little short in length under the thighs.
A Car Showroom favourite in this segment is the Ford Mondeo. German design and German manufacturing means abundant quality and sporty dynamics. While Mondeo starts at $31,490, to match the performance of the Mazda6 engines, you’re looking at the 2.0-litre turbocharged Zetec grade Mondeo in petrol (starting price $37,740 for the sedan). Ford’s 120kW/340Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is slightly outgunned by the Mazda 2.2-litre.
Another Car Showroom favourite is of course the Honda Accord Euro. Ranging from $30,340 to $43,140m the Accord is only a sedan and there is no diesel engine. However Honda has the Accord bursting with features, it’s beautifully built and drives…well, like you expect a Honda to drive.
And our other two favourites are both Korean – the Hyundai i40 and Kia Optima.
Like the Accord, Kia Optima is only sold as petrol-powered sedan and the two model grades range from $30,490 to $36,990. But the Optima is a looker, from any angle inside and out.
Hyundai’s i40 sedan and wagon were crafted at the company’s European styling studios in Russelsheim, Germany with European sales very much in mind (Mazda says the Mazda6 gets the nod towards success in North America). Ranging from $29,990 to $46,490 and available in sedan and wagon, diesel or petrol, the Hyundai i40 has the most complete range to challenge the Mazda6 and is also very easy on the eyes. Check the specific features of each model which are important to you.
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