15 April 2013

Mazda6 2013 car review

We’re offered the choice of sedan and wagon configurations, but the liftback which has been a part of Mazda6 and going back further still, the Mazda 626 range, for three decades, is no longer available, with Mazda saying that the wagon can fill that slot.

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New car report; High strength 6 pack

There’s an argument – quite a strong one – that says medium and large cars are a thing of the past, with the segment having given way to SUVs in recent times. Sales of bigger cars have been on the decline and their dwindling sales figures have seen the medium and large car sectors slide to the bottom of the sales ladder, with medium cars accounting for just 7.7% market share and large cars a mere 5.2%.

So why would any car company with any self respect want to play in this territory? Well, according to Mazda New Zealand boss Andrew Clearwater, it’s all about product. “Customers don’t buy cars based on segment” he says “and if you have a compelling product you can influence the growth of a sector.”

He says this was the case back in 2002 when the first generation Mazda6 was launched, and has been the case with Mazda’s impressive CX-5 too, which has made a strong contribution to the small SUV segment.

And his point that customers take price, overall value and lifestyle needs into account when selecting a vehicle is quite valid. Being the strongest player in the sector with the outgoing Mazda6, the stage is set for the new model to thrive.

New model, new technology

In 2012 we saw the introduction of Mazda’s SKYACTIV fuel saving and environmental technologies across the CX-5 range, as well as some of the i-ACTIVSENSE safety systems. For 2013, the Mazda6 picks up the SKYACTIV systems and further enhances i-ACTIVSENSE, making the 2013 Mazda6 the safest car Mazda has ever built.

In addition to the usual array of airbags, hi-tech braking, stability and traction control systems that we’ve come to expect, i-ACTIVSENSE now adds Radar Cruise Control, Forward Obstruction Warning, High Beam Control, Adaptive Headlights, Land Departure and Blind Spot Warning systems and a system that Mazda calls Rear Cross Traffic Alert which advises the driver of vehicles approaching from either side when reversing out of a parallel parking space.

Three engines are available, all using the full suite of SKYACTIV technologies. There are two SKYACTIV-G (gasoline) engines in 2.0 litre and 2.5 litre capacities, and the impressive 2.2 litre SKYACTIV-D (diesel) powerplant we first saw in the CX-5. Fuel saving technology extends to a system that Mazda calls i-ELOOP. Without getting too technical, this is basically a capacitor that captures regenerative power on deceleration, storing recovered electricity to briefly power the vehicle’s electrical system.

The direct injection petrol engines run an incredibly high 13:1 compression ratio and run on 91 octane fuel, with the 2.0 litre engine producing 114kW/210Nm and the 2.5 litre 138kW/250Nm. The SKYACTIV-D has the world’s lowest common rail diesel compression ratio at 14:1 and offers power and torque outputs of 129kW and 420Nm. Fuel economy for the petrol range is claimed to be 6.0L/100km for the 2.0litre and 6.6L/100km for the 2.5litre, with the diesel quoted at 5.4L/100km. All models have six speed automatic transmissions.

Three levels of spec are offered, a GLX, GSX and Limited. All have Bluetooth with steering wheel mounted controls, a reversing camera, cruise control and alloy wheels; 17 inch for the GLX and GSX, 19s for the Limited.

End of the liftback

We’re offered the choice of sedan and wagon configurations, but the liftback which has been a part of the Mazda6 lineup, and going back further still, the Mazda 626 range, for three decades, is no longer available, with Mazda saying that the wagon can fill that slot.

Continuing on with Mazda’s KODO, Soul of Motion theme, the 2013 Mazda6 adopts the familiar family face of all recent Mazda models, with sleek, sculptured lines that hint of slick futuristic styling, while staying true to the design language which make the obvious connection back to its predecessors, making it instantly recognised as a Mazda6, albeit a bigger one than before.

Towing limits range from 550kg to 750kg unbraked and 1,500kg to 1,600kg braked, depending on model.

It’s a great chassis and an enjoyable driver’s car that’s well planted, quiet, comfortable and roomy. There’s plenty of luggage space, it’s stylish, safe and while we haven't driven the entry level 2.0 litre models yet, the performance of the 2.5 litre SKYACTIV-G and 2.2 SKYACTIV-D gets the big tick. And then there’s the mazdacare programme which provides free scheduled servicing for 3 years/100,000km.

There has always been a lot to like about the Mazda6 and it has arguably set the benchmark in its segment as a truly good car. And yes, the new one is even better, but there's a price to pay. When the previous model was launched in 2008 it was a bargain hunter's dream, with pricing kicking off at just $35,759. That steadily grew to $41,945 by the time it was phased out, but with the entry level 2013 GLX ticketed at $45,495 through to a hefty $60,795 for the Limited, it's a very good car, but no longer the bargain it once was.

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