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Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - Diesel hatch/wagon

Launch Story

Mazda logo20 Oct 2006

By CHRIS HARRIS

MAZDA has launched Australia’s first turbo-diesel powered Japanese passenger car.

In a surprising move, the Mazda6 wagon and hatchback are the only diesel recipients, priced from $35,205 and $38,090 respectively.

Many observers expected a sedan, since this was what Mazda displayed to test the waters at several recent motor shows around the country.

Designed, engineered and manufactured by Mazda, the engine is a 2.0-litre direct-injection single overhead cam 16-valve four-cylinder unit dubbed MZR-CD.

Mated solely to a six-speed manual gearbox, it delivers 105kW of power at 3500rpm and 360Nm of torque at 2000rpm, as well as a 5.9 litres per 100km fuel-consumption average, for a 1000km-plus range.

The highway result is 5L/100km, adding a further 250km to the Mazda’s potential range.

No automatic gearbox will be offered, which is good news for the sellers of the Mazda6 Diesel’s rivals, which include Volkswagen’s Golf, Jetta and Passat TDI, the Peugeot 307 and 407 HDI, Holden’s Astra Diesel, and Citroen’s C5 HDI, as well as the upcoming Renault Laguna DCi and Saab 9-3 TiD.

However, Mazda is confident that the sub-$40,000 pricing – which makes it Australia’s cheapest mid-sized diesel (it does not regard the Golf-based Jetta as ‘medium’) – will help the Mazda6 Diesel find success.

Among the MZR-CD’s technological highlights are a ceramic particulate filter system, which helps it ‘virtually eliminate’ diesel smoke and soot, to easily achieve a Euro Stage IV emission standard.

Mazda says the common-rail injection system pumps fuel at a high 1800-bar pressure, and in precise quantities for improved combustion efficiency, in the name of more power and less Nitrogen and particulate emissions.

The compact variable-geometry turbo-charger helps spread torque accessibility across a wide rev-range, and is designed for minimum lag and smooth operation.

Furthermore, overly rapid pressure increase in the cylinders, along with diesel knock and associated combustion noises, are tackled via the multi-stage injection system, which is performed up to nine times per cycle, as well as a low compression ratio (16.7:1).

The manual gearbox is the same three-shaft device that debuted in the Mazda6 MPS 4WD turbo, and features triple cone synchronisers in the first three forward ratios, a double cone on fourth and a single cone on fifth and sixth, to handle the extra torque loads, for smoother changes.

Another change over the petrol-powered Mazda6 is the implementation of slightly firmer spring rates for the double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension.

Mazda is slotting the diesel wagon at $215 below the existing petrol-powered, automatic-only Mazda6 Classic wagon equivalent, while it is taking a more luxury-focussed path with the hatchback.

However the Diesel hatchback is $5155 over the petrol Classic hatchback manual equivalent, although this is partly offset by its near $40,900 Luxury specification of leather trim, a Bose audio system and a power-operated driver’s seat with memory.

Both Diesels include climate control air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, trip computer, six-stack CD player, wheel-mounted audio and cruise control switches, remote central locking and power windows and mirrors specification.

Set conservatively, the sales target is 50 Diesels per month, with about 30 going the hatchback’s way.

Both private and user-chooser fleet buyers are targeted, who may otherwise choose a Honda Accord Euro, Subaru Liberty, Toyota Camry or one of the Mazda6’s aforementioned diesel rivals.

Mazda admits that an automatic gearbox could add another 50 per cent more volume.

Unfortunately none are on the horizon, as the Mazda6 Diesel is not destined for automatic-loving Japan or America.

Indeed, Mazda specifically designed it for European consumption, where driver preferences and taxation levies lean strongly towards manuals.

"At around 50 units per month (Mazda in Japan) is not going to fund an automatic development (just for Australia)," says Mazda Australia marketing manager Martin Benders.

The diesel passenger car market did not crack 1000 units until 2002, and then 7000 in 2005, with Mazda expecting around 15,000 to be sold by the end of this year.

If this car is a hit, then Mazda will look at importing the Mazda3 Diesel.

The Mazda6 Diesel range, along with the CX-7, new BT-50 B-series light truck replacement and the Kabura concept car from 2005, will spearhead Mazda’s motor show display at next week’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

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