Upgrade further enhances Mazda6

MAZDA6 WAGON: Upgraded with a wealth of new features for comfort, convenience and safety.

At the media launch for the CX-9, Mazda New Zealand was upbeat about its product range and its position in New Zealand’s difficult, but buoyant, new car market.

Deservedly so, the Mazda-branded product which is landing here now is comprehensive, desirable and downright pleasant to drive in.

However, at the media conference I noticed one small glitch, the Mazda6 diesel is performing below the company’s expectation in terms of sales. That really surprised me, but I put it down to a small total market backtrack on diesel powered cars and Mazda, too, are feeling it.

However, Mazda can look at the six diesel with a bit more optimism, the entire six range has just had an upgrade and it is a case of making a good car just that much better. I was fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of my favourite Mazda6, the diesel Limited station wagon.

As you would expect from a mid-life enhancement, the new Mazda6 is quieter than before, it is been refreshed through the interior and is fitted with a raft of new kit – most of it for safety. Some of it includes advances to the brake support function, sensing pedestrians and vehicles at increased speed; there’s also the inclusion of traffic sign recognition which will warn the driver of approaching stop and speed signs, and G-vectoring control which operates in conjunction with steering wheel input to produce predictable vehicle handling behaviour.

While these advances are mostly unseen, the reality is that the Mazda6 is a more involving and safer car, that along with a dynamic driving experience.

Under the bonnet sits a 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel engine. It, too, has had some tweaks to make it quieter and more responsive. Mazda rate it with 129kW and 420Nm, both outputs delivered at usable points in the rev band at 2000rpm and 4500rpm respectively. Consequently, it is a spirited performer and delivers solid power through the mid-range which is why I’ve always been smitten with diesel power, the surge is quite delightful.

The acceleration figures are quite entertaining as well, the diesel variant will lunge to 100km/h from a standstill in 8.7sec, and will cut out a highway overtake in 4.7sec. On the subject of figures, when I’m picking up a test car I’m always smitten when it shows in excess of 800km before needing a refuel.

The modern diesel is so fuel effective, Mazda claims a 5.4l/100km (54mpg) combined cycle rating for the twin-camshaft, 2191cc unit. That correlates well with the 6.3l/100km (45mpg) figure constantly showing during evaluation, it will also sip fuel at the rate of 5l/100km (56mpg) at a steady 100km/h, the engine turning over at just 1750rpm.

Drive is channelled to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Interaction between the two is fluid, the gears change quickly and are smooth, if the driver wants to take control over that process, steering wheel-mounted paddles allow him/her to do that.

I had a photographic assignment to undertake at Whitecliffs in the Canterbury high country so I took the test car on a route which then backtracked through Windwhistle and Hororata. The efforts Mazda has made to dull sound in the six have certainly worked, it is whisper quiet on the long straights, and even with large and low profile Bridgestone Turanza tyres (225/45 x 19in) there is little road noise.

When it comes time to tackle the quick corners in that part of the country the Mazda6 is well balanced and it has directional accuracy well presented for vehicle type.

I particularly like the way it feels through the steering, it is sharp and loaded with feedback as to how the tyres are behaving in a corner. I guess a lot of that comes back to the G-vectoring control system which learns and works with the driving style to produce a dynamic yet natural motion.

The advancement
Mazda has made with the new six doesn’t come at a cost, the entire range is priced much the same as the previous generation model which, to my way of thinking, represents good value.

The diesel wagon sits
tall in the range at $58,245, but with a starting point of $43,795, I can’t help
but think the Mazda6 is one of the bargain sedan/wagon purchases in the market. It is also functional with its load space of 506-litres to 1648-litres.

The final process of my daughter moving back home for the summer, from her student flat in Riccarton, involved dismantling her queen size bed and transporting it back to the Kiddie dwelling.

I used the Mazda6 for that purpose, and although the bed head was problematic, the task was completed, reinforcing my enthusiasm for the modern station wagon.