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New Mazda 6 ups the stakes


Battling torrential rain for most of the journey, the all new Mazda 6 was still able to show us that the Japanese marque is determined to keep its ‘best selling import’ record in tact for a sixth successive year.

Mazda followed up a hugely successful 2007 with a record January, posting over 7000 sales and rocketing them into the New Year. There is little doubt that the new 6 will continue the success, with its drive and looks eclipsing the Mondeo, punishing the Camry and not surprisingly trouncing the Epica.

Bigger, faster and lighter than its predecessor, the second generation Mazda6 is also slicker, showcasing Japanese design and precision. Designer Kouichi Hayashi has introduced three key design motifs; grace, dignity and exquisiteness to explain the direction Mazda are taking with the new look.

“It’s time to be Japanese. The old Mazda6 didn’t reflect true Japaneseness.” said Hayashi. “Think of it as bringing hi-tech skyscraper architecture next to traditional shrines.”

Most of us gave the new sporty, muscular shape the two thumbs up and although the Mazda design team didn’t mention Europe once during their presentations, you didn’t have to squint too hard to find certain elements similar to those found in some European cars. The stunning Mazda6 wagon bore a significant resemblance to the Peugeot 407 Touring, especially the side profile from the xenon headlamps down. The reclined A pillars flowing towards the back end, prominent wheel arches and short overhangs, enhanced this impression. The rear of that same car looked eerily like an Audi A4 Avant at first glimpse.

Elegant new 16, 17 and 18 inch, three-dimensional spoke design wheels again help to push the new 6 into a category all of its own.

Drive trains across the range are maintained. The MZR 2.5 litre, four cylinder S-VT engine produces 125kW @ 6000 rpm and 226 Nm @ 4000 rpm – both figures are up marginally from generation one. A diesel version is likely but probably not until 2009. Fuel consumption at 8.4l/100km, for the manual sedan, is 4.5 percent less than the outgoing model.

The model line up includes the Limited (sedan only), Classic (sedan, hatch and wagon) and Luxury (sedan and hatch) editions. All of which are roomier inside allowing greater shoulder, knee and rear leg room.

Stepping into the car for the first time, it is fresh and clean, thankfully moving away from the all too familiar Japanese cluttered tack that we see way too often. It would have been nicer if rain sensing wipers had been installed given the horrendous weather outside. The cockpit was snug and instruments and controls were intuitive. Tactile door and dash trim, and soft leather seats (on the top spec models) give it a premium feel.

Mazda’s designers again attached a rather naff set of ‘pillars’ to describe how the interior was built. This time they were ‘emotional bond’, functional beauty’ and ‘customer delight’. Pushing twee design principles in the face of hungry motoring journalists is bearable at first but soon becomes a big bowl of wrong.

Safety features include Dynamic Stability Control, a Traction Control System and antilock brakes (ABS), with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist, standard on all models.

Mazda expects the new Mazda6 to return a 5 star ANCAP rating when tested.

On the road

It was a shame the weather was so bad but the Mazda gripped the road well even in the dodgy conditions, and the seats were such that you weren’t thrown around the cabin. The steering was responsive and the DSC was subtle, unlike the grinding version in the Camry.

The extra power in this year’s model pulled the lighter car along at a nice nippy pace, and at high revs there was a pleasing high pitched growl.

We had to keep the revs up dropping down to third to corner well, or else the engine would lose too much grunt and we had to resort to second to get it going again. A few in the group had problems with the car slipping out of gear but we were fine.

Brakes were up to the task under the duress of four hours of hard turns, thanks largely to horseshoe shaped tyre deflectors which were not only effective in reducing air resistance and improving stability at high speeds but improved brake cooling as well.

The new Mazda6 has all the makings of another successful offering from a company on a high. It will be the benchmark in the medium car sector no doubt about it. Pricing from $29,740 to $37, 520.

 

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