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Mazda 6 2013 Road Test

Unlike most new cars that contain carry-over engines, transmissions and other technology, the new Mazda 6 is genuinely an all-new car.

Mazda calls the look, “Kodo, soul of motion” and the styling is meant to represent a crouching animal about to leap forwards. In ‘Soul Red’ metallic paint it somehow makes me think of a dragon.

Beneath its stunning looks is the Skyactiv engine, transmission, body structure and chassis technology that Mazda has been developing for the past four years to make a conventionally engineered internal combustion engined car as efficient and as exciting as possible.

The 150PS 2.2 diesel engine emits as little as 104g/km CO2, so costs buttons to tax. Even the automatic is under 130g/km, in the £100 a year annual tax bracket with corresponding benefits for company drivers.

We covered the Skyactiv technology in the car elsewhere, here: Mazda Skyactiv when we went to Majorca to test prototypes on a secret circuit.

Now it’s available, from £19,595 for the very well equipped 2.0 petrol engined SE, at least 9 months ahead of next year’s new Ford Mondeo.

The car comes on big wheels, but don’t let that put you off. The 17” wheels have 55 profile tyres so ride quality is not compromised. The ride is also surprisingly good on the 19” wheels with 45 profile tyres, but you only get them on top-end ‘Sport’ models.

There’s no hatchback but, as you’ll see from the price list, the Tourer is only £870 more than the saloon, instead of the usual £1,200 - £1,500. So it’s no big jump.

Whichever, you get a lot of technology for your money. I-ELOOP is particularly interesting because it’s something no one else offers.

Basically, it uses brake energy regeneration to charge a capacitor, so whenever you lift off or brake, the alternator charges the capacitor and that supplies electrical power for one minute before needing power via the battery. It saves about 11g/km CO2 on the 150PS diesel and offers 7.7 more mpg, though the savings are less on the petrol engines.

We drove both a 175PS manual diesel and a 150PS diesel automatic.

The manual pulled about 37.5mph per 1,000rpm and would trickle from 40mph in 6th, but did not feel as brawny as ‘my’ long-term BMW 320dED. Yet it rode sublimely, despite being on Sport spec 225/45 R19s, handled faultlessly and was astonishingly quiet on the Autoroute. It will make an excellent long distance cruiser for company drivers and ably fills the gap left by the delayed new Ford Mondeo.

The 150PS diesel automatic didn’t have a paddleshift but of course did have Mazda’s intuitive lever shifter: forwards to change down and back to change up. It behaved very well and very smoothly using the lever or left to its own devices, which most owners will inevitably do. Remember, this is a torque converter automatic, not a dual clutch transmission. Yet at 129g/km CO2 it comes in lower than the twin clutch automatics, so I can see big company car take-up of it.

Mazda regaled us with details of the car to the extent of overkill. Every aspect of the car has been carefully thought about. Even details like 1-litre bottleholders in both rear doors and tidy stowage of the load deck cover under the rear of the load deck floor. Mazda has also caught up with radar/laser/and camera pro-active safety systems that work at both low speeds of 3mph to 20mph in city driving situations and at from 10mph to 125mph out on the Autobahn. The excellent, regularly updatable touch-screen TomTom satnav adds just £600 to the price.

Full details of equipment for each model in the listings on the next page.

To my mind the BMW 320dED still beats the new Mazda 6, but it costs at least £6,500 more and the price gap widens as soon as you spec it up with satnav, automatic transmission and any more goodies.

Below that level, the new Mazda 6 creams the Citroen C5, Honda Accord, Hyundai i40, Kia Optima, Peugeot 508, Skoda Superb, Toyota Avensis , Vauxhall Insignia, VW Passat and even the redoubtable Mondeo.

It’s the most advanced and most efficient internal combustion engined car you can buy, or run on the company.

Mazda 6 2013 Second Thoughts

We drove the car again just prior to its UK launch on 26th January 2013.

This time, the 165PS manual petrol model, and the 175PS diesel manual.

Due to our plane landing late, the test involved a night drive on some sinuous hill roads near Setubal in Portugal, ideal to appreciate the active headlight system that not only sees you round corners but also self-dips when it spots an approaching car. As soon as it passes, you get full beam again.

The steering and handling proved to be very secure, too, tracking accurately with no discernible understeer at non-homicidal speeds. Ride remained excellent, even on 19” alloys with 225/45 R19 tyres. And the engine is usefully flexible, not needing 2nd gear when many other high power non-turbo engines would.

Next day, 125 miles in daylight in a 175PS diesel. This involved a mix of straight country roads and motorway, followed by a twisty bit North of Lisbon. Again I found myself unable to provoke any understeer and the engine pulled exceptionally well in 3rd gear out of uphill hairpin bends. Overall gearing was 35mph per 1,000rpm.

Judging the width of the car isn’t easy, though. Despite generally very good visibility out, unless you have the seat set very high you can’t see the bonnet, and the rear ¾ view can also hide cars lurking there..

The proximity warnings in the mirrors help here, but you still have to double-check before pulling back into a nearside lane.

Fit and finish is excellent. You are not short-changed anywhere. Only the ergonomics of the centre console are far from ideal. The gearlever sits ahead of the knob for the satnav, with two cupholders in tandem behind rather than in front of you. But perhaps I’m spoiled by the perfection of a BMW F30 3-Series.

Not for long, though, because that’s about to be snatched away and replaced by a Mazda 6 2.2D 150PS Saloon SE-L Nav that promises to beat even the BMW on fuel economy.

We’ll soon see.

 

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