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Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - sedan/hatch/wagon range

Launch Story

Mazda logo15 Feb 2008

By GEORGIA OCONNELL

THE sequel to Mazda’s second most popular model has hit Australia and with more space, equipment, refinement and performance available for a lower price, it appears that diesel power and a turbocharged all-wheel drive MPS variant are the only absconders from the tasty new Mazda6 menu.

Officially released this week, the second-generation Mazda mid-sizer again comes in four-door sedan and five-door hatch and wagon bodystyles and offers two transmissions, but although four specification grades are now available, replacements for the AWD MPS turbo sedan and 2.0 MZR-CD turbo-diesel hatch and wagon are not yet on the horizon.

Prices start from $29,740 for the six-speed manual-equipped Mazda6 Limited sedan (down $250 from $29,990 for the Mazda6 Sports sedan it replaces) and extend to $46,910 for the newly introduced five-speed auto-only Mazda6 Luxury Sports hatch variant, which replaces the $39,990 Classic Sports hatch.

On top of the new Limited entry-level sedan, the four-door comes in Classic (also available as a manual or auto) and auto-only Luxury trim, while the hatch starts at $34,910 for the Classic manual (up from $32,990 for the previous Sports hatch auto) and comprises auto-only Luxury and manual/auto Luxury Sports variants.

Following the oil-burning MZR’s demise, the new Mazda6 wagon comes only in Classic automatic form, priced at $37,520.

Mazda expects its redesigned medium model to be even more popular than the original Mazda6, which became the booming Japanese maker’s top-selling import after it launched here in September 2002. Since then, Australia’s medium vehicle segment has grown almost 250 per cent and now comprises 20 models – up from only seven five years ago.

The original Mazda6 averaged more than 1000 sales per month every year for a total of almost 70,000 examples in Australia, but Mazda expects its successor to find closer to 1100 new homes monthly, depending on supply.

Of that, Mazda expects the sedan to account for 40 per cent of sales, the wagon to comprise just 10 per cent and the hatch to be the most popular Mazda6 derivative at 50 per cent. It says that, initially, 70 per cent will be automatic, rising to 80 per cent over the model’s life cycle. The Classic hatch auto is expected to be the top-seller.

While the forecast 13,000 annual sales still equates to only half the number of Camrys Toyota sold last year, it is well up on its closest rivals in Subaru’s Liberty and Honda Accord Euro, which will also be renewed this year, maintaining Mazda6’s standing as one of the most successful medium-sized cars in modern Australian history.

Mazda says its new Six, its third new model in six months, was benchmarked during development against European mid-sizers like the Volkswagen Passat and BMW 3 Series and is the only model in its class to come in sedan, hatch and wagon forms.

Designed by Youichi Sato, who also produced the Mx-5, RX-7 and RX-Evolv concept, the sedan and hatch are bigger in all key dimensions including wheelbase (up 50mm to 2725mm), length (up 65mm to 4735mm), width (up 15mm to 1795mm) and height (up 5mm to 1440mm).

Mazda says 300 hours of wind tunnel testing has resulted in a best-in-class aerodynamic drag factor of 0.27Cd for the identically-sized sedan and hatch (down from 0.30Cd) and 0.28Cd for the longer wagon (down from 0.32Cd), which is 75mm longer than before at 4765mm, 15mm wider at 1795mm, 10mm higher at 1490mm (with roof-rials) and adds a third side window.

With weight gains of between 50 and 85kg, the Six hits the scales at weights ranging from 1407kg (Limited sedan manual) and 1513kg (Sports Luxury hatch auto). At base level, that compares to 1395kg for the current Accord Euro and 1460kg for Camry.

Mazda says extra standard specifications could have resulted in a 90kg weight gain, but its “Gram Strategy” saw 5kg shaved from the seats, 6.8kg saved in interior trim, 4kg shed via redesigned rear suspension and 6.7kg lost in underbody components.

Lower noise, vibration and harshness levels, which are claimed to reduce interior noise by 2.5dB to 67.5dB at 60km/h on rough roads, are the result of a new dash/instrument cowl, new floor structure, improved door seals, thicker sound damping materials and new suspension dampers, as well as local body reinforcements.

The latter sees flexural body stiffness improved 32 per cent on the sedan, 45 per cent on the hatch and 33 per cent on the wagon, while torsional body rigidity is claimed to be up 14, 30 and 25 per cent respectively.

Inside, a more upright steering wheel (now angled at 21 degrees instead of 23 degrees), a 32mm higher and 21mm closer gearshifter and more supportive seats are claimed to increase occupant comfort, while new door mirrors and rear head restraints are said to deliver segment-best visibility from the new bodyshell. There’s also a redesigned, larger-capacity cabin heating/cooling system.

Apart from 9mm more shoulder room, 13mm more rear knee room and 20mm more rear legroom, it’s claimed the redesigned hatch and sedan cargo compartments are the widest in class, with the sedan and wagon displacing 519 litres and the hatch swallowing 510 litres. All models continue with Mazda6’s Karakuri seat folding system, which in the wagon incorporates a luggage cover. Un/braked towing capacity is 550kg/1500kg respectively.

The new Mazda6 features re-engineered high-mount front suspension wishbones mounted a subframe with six mounting points rather than four, plus an updated independent multi-link rear suspension system with revised dampers (that are claimed to deliver more linear rebound response) and 25mm-higher, 10mm-thicker trailing arm bushes that aim to better control rear wheel lift.

For the first time, the Mazda6 now features an electrically-assisted power steering system. Borrowed from the RX-8 and said to be the result of more than 140 calibration tests, it’s claimed to reduce fuel consumption by two per cent, requires a lithe 2.87 turns lock-to-lock and returns a turning circle of 11 metres (on 16 and 17-inch rubber 11.4 metres for the Sports Luxury hatch with 18-inch wheels).

Front brake rotor diameters have increased 16mm to 299mm, while the rear discs remain 280mm. All four brake callipers remain single-piston units.

The previous model’s MZR 2.3-litre 16-valve DOHC inline four-cylinder engine is replaced by a bored and stroked, Euro IV emissions-compliant 2.5-litre version with sequential variable valve timing, which displaces 2488cc and remains undersquare with 89x100m bore/stroke dimensions.

Maximum power on the recommended 95RON premium unleaded fuel is up 3kW to 125kW at 6000rpm, while peak torque rises 10 per cent or 19Nm to 226Nm at 4000rpm.

Smoother, quieter and offering improved low-rpm torque delivery, the new engine improves claimed 0-100km/h acceleration from 8.9 to eight seconds in manual form, while official combined-cycle ADR 81/01 fuel consumption is reduced by 4.5 per cent to 8.4L/100km for the manual sedan, rising to 8.9L/100km for Classic auto variants. CO2 emissions range from 199g/km for manual sedans to 211g/km for the auto wagon.

The five-speed Activematic automatic transmission with manual shift mode continues, while the six-speed manual gearbox is said to offer a 15 per cent reduction in shift effort thanks to a retuned control cable and internal upgrades.

All MkII Mazda6s feature six airbags as standard (including twin front, front side and side curtain airbags), plus front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load-limiters, active front head restraints and crushable brake and clutch pedals. Mazda expects its new Six to be the fourth model to achieve a five-star NCAP crash test rating, after the CX-9, CX-7 and Mazda2.

DSC stability control, TCS traction control, ABS anti-lock brakes, EBD electronic brake-force distribution and EBA emergency brake assist are also now standard across the range, while the base Mazda6 Limited sedan also gains cruise control.

Other standard Limited sedan features include 16-inch steel wheels, body-coloured door mirrors, air-conditioning, remote central locking, a reach/rake-adjustable steering wheel, four-speaker CD/MP3 player, four power windows and power mirrors.

All three Classic bodystyles add 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, dual-zone climate-control, front-seat lumbar adjustment, a leather-clad steering wheel, trip computer and a six-CD/six-speaker audio system with steering wheel controls.

In addition, the Luxury sedan and hatch offer full leather trim, Xenon headlights, a powered sunroof, blackout instrument cluster, leather-clad gearlever, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with memory and a premium 240-Watt Bose sound system.

Finally, the flagship Mazda6 Sports Luxury hatch offers up 18-inch alloys, a sports bodykit comprising rear wing, side skirts, an “aero” front bumper with sports grille and aluminium-faced pedals. All versions come with a full-size spare wheel, but satellite-navigation is not available.

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