May
2008
DRIVING
 
Vol. 4 No.4  
 

Hot wheels

The new Mazda 6 may be a looker, but how attractive is the drive? asks Adrian Ion
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One of the most beautiful cars in the middle segment, the new Mazda 6 takes its cue from the image of a vehicle in movement. Although this is clearly influenced by Ford’s kinetic design principles, the 2008 Mazda 6 surpasses its main competitors in the segment in overall looks.
The body is an assortment of dynamic curves moving from the front grille to the bumper. This represents an evolution from the previous Mazda model, which also displayed the elegant lines a driver would expect to see on a Lexus. Indeed, if this car was stamped with Toyota’s luxury brand on the bonnet, it could double its price.
The 6 looks best in its hatchback version, which Mazda has cunningly renamed a ‘sport sedan’. The 2008 model is slightly larger than its predecessor, but thanks to thorough weight reduction measures, Mazda has introduced a lighter vehicle with even better handling.
Mazda’s tradition of a sporty and responsive drive is taken to another level by this model’s distinctive design and increased functionality. The all-new version also makes a leap forward in quality. The designers have followed the trend of environmentally-friendly cars and all engines have been tuned up to lower CO2 emissions and increase fuel efficiency.
The result is a thrilling experience as the Mazda is pleasant to drive and nimbler than some of its rivals. Still the major drawback is the lack of real power, because the top engine is 170 horsepower, which is insufficient compared to the image the car projects. An engine similar to the old MPS version, which rises to 220 hp, would be a more suitable choice for drivers who seek the thrill of a sportier drive. Mazda has not yet announced the date for launching an MPS version, nor its type of engine, but this will undoubtedly be a fun driving machine.

Sporty but sedate

The 140 hp diesel engine is a bit too weak for my taste, but works well with the 6 speed manual transmission and exhibits a spirited performance. A minimum 170 hp diesel engine would best suit the car and I imagine Mazda will introduce later some more powerful engine choices. The clutch is a bit touchy and it takes a while for a driver to adjust its temperament. From this perspective, an automatic version would be a welcome addition. In the range the only version that can be fitted with automatic transmission is the two litre-petrol, but hopefully others will follow. The steering is responsive and is accompanied by a good feel and feedback. The diesel engine is very smooth and no noise from the engine is perceivable in the car. Overall this is a very quiet vehicle.
All Mazda 6 models come with antilock disc brakes, traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags and stability control.
Inside, the 2008 Mazda 6 has a clean and contemporary design, with solid build quality and easy-to-operate controls. Most materials are attractive, but they are a step below in quality compared to what are found in its German competitors. The GT version in the test drive comes equipped with almost everything one could wish for, from xenon adaptive lights to 18-inch alloy wheels, full leather interior, power seats with memory, separate driver and passenger adjusting air-conditioning, cruise control and an eight speaker Bose stereo all for around 24,000 Euro plus VAT for the diesel. The most expensive version in the range does not rise much above the 25,000 Euro mark. This is a pretty decent price tag for what the car offers.

Mazda 6: vital statistics

Engine versions:
1.8 petrol - 120 hp,
2.0 petrol - 147 hp
2.5 petrol - 170 hp
Diesel version 2.0 litre - 140 hp.
Three body styles: four-doors saloon, hatchback and estate.
Prices start at: 16,798 Euro plus VAT
Warranty: for three years or 100,000 km


 
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