Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: 2012 Mazda6, CX-7 and CX-9

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Normally, when one thinks of the Mazda brand, the image of a young driver, perhaps bordering on “boy-racer” comes to mind. Mind you, with products like the Mazda 2, 3 and the MX-5, that’s not such a bad thing. However, bringing back the love in everyday driving goes way beyond the “go-fast, live-fast” mantra that’s been instilled, somewhat unofficially, to the Mazda brand. In fact, beyond the compacts and sports cars, Mazda is home to three bright driving gems, all of which show an equal dose of sophistication and speed; comfort and handling fun; practicality and attitude: the Mazda6, CX-7, and CX-9.

Driving and comparing Mazda’s executive sedan, five-seater and seven-seater crossovers may seem somewhat odd given the different market segments they’re supposed to cater to. However, after driving these cars back-to-back-to-back, one thing’s clear: they’re all machined from the same magical piece of Mazda magic. The sheet metal alone serves as an indication to the sort of experience waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s the 6, CX-7 or CX-9, they’re equally aggressive and expressive without being comical or over-the-top. The flowing lines and taut features continue to remain fresh in the respective segments they’re in; while the squinting headlamps and large, smiling grille clearly ties them together as one family.

Stepping inside, it’s quite surprising how Mazda has managed to retain a singular approach to these three vehicles. Despite their varying sizes, they all have a driver-centric approach with a snug, cockpit design that allows for easy and intuitive use. Minor differences notwithstanding, the 6, CX-7, and CX-9 all follow the very same design scheme with large, square buttons scattered throughout the center console and toggle switches on the steering wheel. The operation of the radio and climate control may look daunting, but thanks to large rotary dials for major controls and well-labeled functions for minor controls, it’s a breeze to understand and master. Aside from the general look of the interior, all three cars share a sporty feel down to its color motif with a black-on-black scheme on the 6 and CX-7 and a black/gray combination for the CX-9.

Sporty as they are in appearance and feel, the 6, CX-7 and CX-9 doesn’t treat passenger comfort as an afterthought. Aside from boasting fully-laden interiors with features like leather seating, power seat adjustment, automatic climate control and cruise control among others as standard, these three Mazdas offer commendable accommodations on all rows with firm, supportive seats. They even make luggage or grocery hauling an easier chore thanks to split-fold rear seats complete with a single-action lever located in the trunk area to drop the seats down.

After making sure all the passengers are happy with their accommodations, Mazda also made sure that the driver’s even happier. In fact, be it the 6, CX-7 or CX-9, they all offer a very similar driving experience which threads the fine line between sportiness and comfort beautifully. With independent suspension and aggressive tire fitments all around (17’s for the CX-7, 18’s for the 6, and 20’s for the CX-9), they can equally carve up twisty mountain roads or soak up the worst Manila pothole with considerable ease. They’re absolutely no shudder, shock nor unwanted vibration, equating to a solidly engineered body. Indeed, the driver’s seat is a place of Zen-like calmness. With a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic shared between them, the 6 and CX-7’s 172 horsepower and 163 horsepower respectively, may not earn them titles for being quickest off the line, but they’re equally adequate at any given situation. Both of these cars share a peppy accelerator pedal that makes them feel even quicker. Nonetheless, fuel economy remains exceptionally well, hovering between 8-9 km/L in city traffic. Meanwhile, with 277 horsepower from its 3.7-liter V6 (mated to a 6-speed automatic), the CX-9 is light on its feet, defying its huge size. All weather security is added with an active torque-split all-wheel drive at the expense of fuel economy which hardly goes beyond 6 km/L.

With prices at P 1,533,000 for the CX-7, P 1,688,000 for the Mazda6 and P 2,362,000 for the CX-9, the admission ticket for expressive design, advanced engineering and everyday driving fun isn’t as expensive and out of reach as you’d think. Most people will probably dismiss Mazda as something only the young will understand. However, if cars such as the Mazda 6, CX-7 and CX-9 are any indication, Mazda can conjure up equally comfortable and mature cars which still retain all the youthful looks and moves.


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