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LA show: SUVs helped shape Mazda6 makeover

Push to premium: The interior of the Mazda6 has been given a makeover, with new instrumentation fascia and new seats in the front and rear.

Interior quietness, quality and design were key priorities behind Mazda6 facelift

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Mazda logo5 Dec 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in Los Angeles

MAZDA says its facelifted Mazda6 is more than just a mid-cycle makeover with a new nose and turbo petrol heart transplant, with more emphasis placed on improving the visual harmony, quality of materials and sound insulation inside the car.

Set for launch in Australia from about July next year, the third facelift the mid-sizer has received since launching in late 2012 – as well as the second attempt at revamping the dashboard, following a restyle almost three years ago – has an all-new cabin, save for the carryover steering wheel and some trim components.

The aim is to help attract buyers seeking a more premium experience than what fellow mainstream manufacturers Toyota and Honda offer with their respective direct competitors the Camry and Accord.

According to Mazda North American Operations director of design, Julien Montousse, it was the Mazda6’s cabin that needed updating the most from a visual and tactile point of view.

“It is an all-new interior,” he told GoAuto at the global unveiling of the Mazda6 facelift at the Los Angeles motor show last week. “This is a premium luxury type of architecture, and what we wanted to do is reinforce the landscape format of the (completely redesigned) dashboard.

“You can tell that we are compressing the upper and lower dashboard to such an extent that your eyes are connecting to the opposite sides of the A-post. We are maximising the width when you sit inside it and we are giving you an open format that wasn’t there with the previous model.

“From an architectural perspective it’s about this horizontal immensity, which is a ticket of entry of premium… cabin width, visual width, physical width… and the door also contributes to this by linking graphically with what’s going in with the dashboard. But we wanted to still retain the driving engagement… it’s not about disconnecting the driver but rather wanting to enhance it, so when you sit behind the wheel it needs to ignite your mind.”

Other changes inside include a new-look instrumentation fascia, completely overhauled front and rear seating with ventilation added to the front and warming elements to the rear, an overhauled MZD Connect central screen with sharper imagery and greater functionality, a windscreen-based head-up display replacing the rising plastic screen and a higher and wider console divide between the front occupants.

The latter, along with more enveloping seats and improved ergonomic switchgear, are supposed to better connect driver with car.

“The goal of the seat and the whole lower part of the interior is to connect with the hip point of the car,” Mr Montousse explained.

“In some cars you might have a lot of space, but it could make you feel insecure, because in a crash your body would travel and hit something. So Mazda as part of its Jinba Ittai philosophy worked to get the surfaces closer to the occupants along with the door and console, it is to make people feel ‘nested’.

“That’s why we widened the seat, while with the upper part of the interior we went for better vision and more open spaces. So, there’s a duality between the lower part of the dash and the upper part.”

In terms of the Mazda6’s exterior changes, Mr Montousse pointed out that only the front clip (headlight, grille and bumper), tail-lights, bootlid and alloy wheel designs are fresh, but he said that the lowered and widened front fascia treatment “gives the car a new character”.

A two-year development with head office in Hiroshima, Japan, leading the charge and proposals coming in from Mazda’s design studios in Frankfurt and California, the sedan and wagon’s restyle was dovetailed with the second-generation CX-9 and CX-5 SUVs launched over the last two years, with the goal of presenting a distinct, premium family resemblance.

“From a sedan segment perspective, we wanted this to lead the way. We started to do it with the CX-9 that has a very premium front face, and we wanted to apply the same visual identity and impact on to the Mazda6,” he said.

Mazda North American Operations president and CEO Masahiro Moro added that the Mazda6 has benefited from the knowledge gained during the development of the company’s latest range of SUVs.

“We have learned a lot from (CX-5 and CX-9) what we learned was customers want premium features and execution in the interior,” he said.

“We have created a much quieter interior in the CX-9 and CX-5, and now we know how to make our cars quieter now, and we put that in the new Mazda6 as well. It is very quiet, we have changed how the chassis has been set up, and we have introduced a new engine (2.5T), and it is now hugely more upscale.

“Customers will be surprised when they get into the interior – such is the step-up in high-premium materials, stitching, attention to details… customers immediately desire these but don’t expect from a Mazda. And then when we send them on a test drive they are (further surprised) and then more so when they learn the price.”

While only the Mazda6 sedan was on display at the Los Angeles motor show, Mr Montousse confirmed that the wagon version would receive the same changes.

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