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Mazda6 hatch to be axed

Way out: The popular Mazda6 hatchback variant faces the axe when the next-generation model - inspired by the Takeri concept - surfaces in 2013.

Australia’s most popular Mazda6 body derivative set to be killed off from 2013

Mazda logo2 Dec 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

THE most popular body derivative of Australia’s current Mazda6 range – the hatchback – is unlikely to be replaced when the next generation model family goes on sale here in 2013.

Instead, apart from a larger new Mazda6 sedan previewed by the sleek Takeri concept at this week’s Tokyo motor show, Mazda has developed a smaller, more sporting new Mazda6 wagon that will fill the role of both load-lugger and sports estate.

However, Mazda has not ruled out a third new body style to be offered alongside the redesigned mid-size sedan and wagon.

Mazda Australia says the final make-up of its new Six range is not yet decided and “will continue to meet the needs of local customers”, but the chief designer of the Takeri concept, Akira Tamatani, told GoAuto at the Tokyo show that only sedan and wagon versions of the all-new SkyActiv-based Mazda6 have been developed.

“Actually, we are dropping the idea of a hatch (for the next Mazda6),” said Mr Tamatani.

“With the (new) sedan we can achieve same sporty expression we achieved with (existing) hatch.”

22 center imageLeft: Mazda Takeri concept. Below: Current Mazda6 hatch and wagon.

The hatch body style accounts for the vast majority of current-generation Mazda6 sales in Australia, followed by the wagon and then sedan, although the single biggest-selling Six variant is the entry-level Touring wagon.

The Mazda6 is the only mid-size passenger car available in three body styles in Australia, with Ford recently discontinuing the sedan version of its Mondeo despite the fact sedans comprise the lion’s share of the segment, thanks mainly to Toyota’s Melbourne-made, fleet-friendly Camry.

If Mazda discontinues the Six hatch, the only mainstream five-doors remaining in Australia’s medium segment will be Skoda’s Octavia and the Mondeo, which currently outsells the Mazda6 to be the second-best-selling model behind the Camry.

Mr Tamatani said that, although the Mazda6 hatch was popular in both Australia and the UK, research showed that customers in both countries rarely exploited the more flexible access to the hatchback’s cargo area.

“We communicated with (customer) clinics in the UK and Australia and we found that users of hatch are using function of the lift-gate only once a year (to stow items that would not fit in the sedan’s boot),” he said.

“Australia has a very high mix of hatchback so that was a concern, but then we placed our emphasis on studying that area. But when we looked at the global market, UK and Australia were the (only) countries which had a high mix of hatchback.” The decision to axe the Mazda6 hatch is partly due to the consolidation of the third-generation model’s production in Japan.

Currently, Mazda produces a wide-bodied mid-size sedan in the US for North American consumption as well as the smaller Mazda6 sedan sold in Australia, Japan and Europe.

The next Six sedan will be a single global model that will grow significantly in size as Mazda aims at the world’s biggest sedan markets – the US, China and Russia – while a more compact, stylish new Mazda6 wagon will be aimed predominantly at Europe.

We expect the new Mazda6 wagon to emerge at the Paris motor show next September, followed by the debut of the new Mazda6 sedan at the Detroit motor show in January 2013, before both models go on sale here later that year.

The new Mazda6 sedan – which will do battle with the new Toyota Camry being launched this month and the Holden Malibu early next year – will be bigger in all key dimensions than the model it replaces here, liberating more rear legroom and front shoulder room.

Mr Tamatani said it would be only slightly smaller than the Takeri concept, which previews its sleek new design and is 115mm longer than the current Six at 4850mm, as well as 75mm wider.

Like the Takeri, which is a derivative of the Japanese word for ‘masculine’, the new Six’s wheelbase will be 105m longer than before at 2830mm.

The next Mazda6 wagon’s wheelbase, however, will be about 50mm shorter than the new sedan, as well as shorter overall than the current Mazda6 wagon, which is 4760mm long.

Apart from taking on sporty new mid-size wagons like Hyundai’s i40 Tourer, Mr Tamatani said Mazda’s new mid-size sports wagons could attract a number of existing hatch owners.

“With the sedan we have a very sporty design, so based on that the wagon model will express similar sportiness,” said Mr Tamatani.

“Of course we will protect functionality of wagon. However, when you look at all the competitors’ wagons and then the new Mazda6 wagon, it looks very sporty compared to others.” Interestingly, Mr Tamatani revealed that a third Mazda6 body derivative to run alongside the new sedan and wagon was under consideration, but Mazda officials would not confirm what form it would take or whether a crossover-style Mazda6-based model was on the cards.

“We have various ideas for another type of vehicle (instead of a new Mazda6 hatch),” he said.

“That study is an option to undertake. Feasibility of that will depend on the business market environment, but we always have the passion for new vehicles.” Despite Mr Tamatani’s explicit statements about the future of the Mazda6 hatch, Mazda Australia spokesman Steve Maciver said a redesigned five-door was still a priority Down Under and that, although body derivative decisions would be made at a global level, the brand’s next mid-size model range would in any case meet all local market demands.

“In terms of the new Six, there are still a few balls up in the air,” he said.

“Nothing has been absolutely finished, signed off, decided. The car isn’t here yet, it’s still a while away and there are a lot of things still on the table including body styles.

“At the moment we have a sedan, hatch and wagon, but I am not in a position to say what is going to be the line-up moving forward.” Whatever form they take – besides being wrapped in stylish new sheetmetal that bears Mazda’s new ‘Kodo’ design language – all new Mazda6 models will, like the Takeri, be underpinned by the same new SkyActiv chassis and body that forms the basis of the shorter-wheelbase CX-5 compact SUV due on sale in Australia in March.

Like the CX-5, the new Six will be powered by Mazda’s new SkyActiv-D 2.2-litre twin-stage turbo-diesel engine, this time matched with a (new six-speed SkyActiv-Drive) automatic transmission, and (in Japan) a new 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol four, with a SkyActiv-G 2.5-litre petrol engine likely for Australia.

Expect all new Mazda6 engines to come with fuel-saving idle-stop and i-ELOOP regenerative braking systems.

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