|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
The transformation starts with the looks. First, the 6 is the most intensely styled car in the segment (or two or three segments up for that matter). The KODO “Soul of Motion” design language was introduced in 2010 and since then, it has catapulted Mazda’s design into primetime. The 6 shares a strong family resemblance with the CX-5—down to the same bold face, the same design elements, and the same relationship between elements. Upfront, the 6 features a bold face with the large wing grille and carved, highly-dimensional hood; headlights that feature LED daytime running lights that intensifies the impression of a piercing stare; the front fenders fork into upper and lower shoulder lines; and rear fenders that begin to swell from the center of the car. Indeed, the new Mazda6 looks sleek, only reiterated by its low 0.27 co-efficient of drag.
This sexy, voluptuous body rests on a class-leading 2,830-mm wheelbase which is some 100-mm longer than its rivals. And yet, thanks to a front axle that’s been pushed forward by 50 mm, the front overhang has actually been reduced by 104-mm and combined with the relatively tall ride height of 162-mm, the Mazda6 can actually pass through steep driveways and tight basement parking lots without any difficulty.
Despite the enlarged dimensions (4,865-mm length x 1,840-mm width x 1,450-mm height), the 6 is actually some 152 kilograms lighter than the previous model. This is achieved through the minute optimization of elements, part of the overall Skyactiv philosophy that includes Skyactiv powertrains, Skyactiv Chassis, and Skyactiv Body. 20 percent more high- and ultra-high strength steel is used, by weight, along with rigid, injection-molded foam that saves weight. The HVAC unit is smaller, the windshield lighter, and even the titanium bolts are only as long as they need to be. It may be down on weight, but it’s 30 percent more torsionally-rigid—it’s like having your cake and eating it too!
Like its exterior design, the Mazda6’s interior carves its own path with regards to design and execution. Most executive cars feature the same sort of interior treatment: lots of shiny faux-metal. In the 6, it skips the aluminum look almost entirely, sticking mainly to high-quality black plastics in various textures and a peculiar reddish horizontal accent that’s made to look like traditional Japanese wood lacquer. In the end, it looks cleaner and sportier. Soft-touch plastics are used on the upper dash and armrests while the knobs utilize black button centers with metallic surrounds. They, along with the black-backed glass screen for the climate control, come off as very Teutonic in feel and quality. The three-spoke steering wheel is small, but it’s thick and feels great in the hands. Due to its smallness though, the two horizontal spokes look like they’re made entirely of buttons.
Behind the steering wheel is an easy-to-use instrument cluster. Illuminated in white, it features the usual rev counter and speedometer. What makes it different is a 3.5-inch multi-information display nestled inside an analog gauge surround where data such as fuel consumption, cruise control, and i-ELOOP operation is provided.
The Mazda6 also offers the best seats of any priced vehicle with excellent support and adjustment. The driver’s seat offers 10-way power adjustment (including lumbar support) while the front passenger does with 4. The leather covering the seats are simply first rate and you can literally spend hours in either seat and you’ve got nothing but comfort to show for it. The rear seats also feature longer cushions (especially for the outboard passengers) compared to its predecessor and they’re just as comfortable as those in front. If no one’s sitting back there, the backseats fold in a 60/40 split, allowing the 6 to increase its already cavernous trunk space of 438 liters. Other cubby holes are at a premium though: limited only to a center console tray below the climate control, two cup holders and a small pocket near the shifter, and bottle holders (no space for books, maps or toll fees) on the doors.
Perhaps the only disappointing item in the cabin is the infotainment system, and it’s not because of the way it looks. The touchscreen interface is easy enough to understand, it’s full-featured, and offers a respectable aural experience (despite lacking the Bose speakers), but it doesn’t seem to communicate perfectly with an iPod (an iPod nano in this case). This causes the 6 to always start playing tracks in alphabetical order, if ever at all, since it sometime freezes the iPod leaving you with a permanent “Reading iPod” on the display. The same goes for the Bluetooth hands-free which is generally alright until you start using the built-in voice commands or let it read your SMS, then it starts lagging.
Unlike other executive sedans, the 6 is available with a sole engine: the 2.5-liter version of the Skyactiv-G with 189 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque. And despite not having a 6-cylinder engine or turbocharger under the hood, the 0-100 km/h blast clocks in at just 7.8 seconds. Along with the engine, the 6 comes with an idle start/stop system called i-stop and Mazda’s new i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system. The latter is an innovation because it’s capacitor-based. It’s able to fully recharge in 10 seconds of deceleration, can power the car’s electrical system for about a minute, and doesn’t re-route power through a lead acid battery. Parallel circuitry runs straight from the capacitor to a DC/DC converter to the accessories. The entire system adds just 10 kilograms, but offers an additional 10 percent of fuel savings. Meanwhile, the i-stop system cuts the engine imperceptivity, but restarts with a noticeable shake. During a week’s worth of driving with the Mazda6, the fuel economy figures of this executive sedan are nothing short of exemplary: 10.20 km/L (9.17 km/L city, 15.62 km/L highway).
Designed with “Jinba Ittai” (rider and horse as one), in mind, the 6’s road manners are simply fantastic. The 2.5-liter engine is sweet, making full use of the 189 horses available. Gingerly tap on the throttle and the 6 returns a smooth, relaxed, and quiet experience. Get on the engine, and it’ll let you know that it’s working, rocking out a tune that’s nothing short of sporty. There’s even a mechanical kick switch on the accelerator; place the pedal against the detent and even at highway speeds, the 6 will scoot up and salute. Push past the switch and the transmission will downshift as far as possible enabling the 6 to easily overtake slower traffic.
The suspension’s been firmed up through tweaks and adjustments resulting in a car that has more ground clearance but a lower center of gravity than before. The 6 is stable, surefooted, and above all, fun to drive. Sweeping bends won’t unsettle the 6, despite the relatively narrow 225-section tires. There’s no heave, no sensation or roll through corners. In fact, the only time the 6 will betray its large frame and front-wheel drive layout is when you subject it to a tight course such as a gymkhana. And even then, the 6 can pretty much stand up against the competition. The electric power steering system is fine, playing an excellent tune through any surface or condition. Sure, it doesn’t communicate as well as say, that on the MX-5, but it most certainly isn’t deaf—it will carry out all your commands confidently, albeit quietly. On the highways, the ride is a solid balance of sporting intentions overlaid with comfort. There’s minor wind noise around the mirrors, but that’s about it.
After everything’s done and dusted, there’s one acronym that best describes the all-new Mazda6: OMG. By and large, the Hiroshima-based carmaker has done a fantastic job with a car they would love to make noise with. It looks fabulous. It’s got a well-designed interior. It’s got a fuel-efficient yet potent engine. It’s got impeccable road manners. And priced at P 1,705,000, the all-new Mazda6 is a steal considering it’s priced the same as its predecessor. It also comes with all the luxury trimmings you can imagine: Smart Key entry, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors with a rear camera, automatic swiveling headlights, and even rain-sensing wipers. The Mazda6 still has its shortcomings, but all that’s immediately erased the moment you get in the driver’s seat. After a week with the Mazda6, you’ll simply like everything about it, and it manages to reignite that notion of spirited driving.
|Vehicle Classification||Executive Sedan|
|Body Type||4-door sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline 4|
|BHP @ rpm||185 @ 5,700|
|Nm @ rpm||250 @ 3,250|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Unleaded / 93~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,444|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (front)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|