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First drive: Premacy powers up

Speed blur: The Premacy's performance level has been improved courtesy of a 2.0-litre engine.

Mazda's compact people mover benefits from a bigger engine and more equipment

24 Apr 2002

MAZDA, one of the first manufacturers into the mini-people mover market in Australia, has boosted the claims of its five-seater Premacy with a bigger engine and more equipment.

But as the competition gets tougher with more entrants joining the fray, the company is forecasting more than $2000 worth of extra equipment introduced for a price hike of just a few hundred dollars will result in no sales increase.

In 2001 Mazda sold 1249 Premacys in 10 months and says it would be happy to sell about 120 per month in 2002. It has set the price of the new car at $28,580 for the five-speed manual and $30,570 for the four-speed automatic.

That's a price rise of $335 and $245 respectively, and Mazda is predicting the auto will account for 60 per cent of sales.

To maintain sales volume, Mazda has bumped four-cylinder engine capacity from 1.8-litres to 2.0, providing an extra 6kW of power (now 98kW at 6000rpm) and, more importantly considering this car's suburban ambitions, 11Nm of torque, which is now 174Nm and produced at 4500rpm.

That power figure is produced on premium unleaded fuel, but using the cheaper regular unleaded means a 5kW drop, giving you just a 1kW advantage over the old 1.8.

The 16-valve, double overhead camshaft engine is the same as already seen in the sporty SP20 Astina. Although torque is down slightly, it flexibly delivers 95 per cent of its pulling power from as low as 2000rpm.

Mazda now claims the Premacy accelerates from 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds, compared to the 1.8's dawdling 11.7-second effort. It also says in-gear acceleration has been improved. Of course, these are unladen figures, rather than with three kids and the shopping onboard.

Fuel economy claims are 10L/100km for both manual and automatic in the city, and 7.0 and 7.8L/100km respectively on the highway. The engine also meets Europe's Step III emission regulations, which are not due to be applied in Australia until January, 2005.

Rear disc brakes replace less efficient drum brakes and switchable traction control is now standard, the electronic aid modulating torque by adjusting the ignition timing and fuel supply rate when it detects front (driving) wheel spin.

These new features boost a safety package that already includes anti-lock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution, dual airbags and lap-sash seatbelts and headrests all-round.

Other under-skin changes include a stiffer chassis which Mazda says cuts noise, vibration and harshness levels and improves ride and handling, while retuning of the MacPherson strut-type independent suspension is also supposed to help in this regard.

Cosmetically, 15-inch alloy wheels replace plastic covers as standard equipment, although Mazda was offering this features as free aftermarket upgrade with the old model. The front-end gets a new face, incorporating new-look bumpers and the corporate five-point Mazda grille. At the rear there is a new vertical three chromed-ringed tail-light design.

Inside, there's a bunch of detail changes - double door seals and thicker front glass to reduce cabin noise, new trim which is more widely applied, reshaped seatbacks and seat cushions, the indicator stalk is now on the right-hand side of the steering column, 500ml drink holders are incorporated into the front door bins and there's a new radio/CD tuner.

All this is added to a standard equipment list that includes air-conditioning, power windows, remote central locking, roof rails, cargo cover and a 12-volt power outlet in the luggage bay.

The fundamentals of the interior design stay the same - five individual bucket seats arrayed in a two-three formation in a tall-boy wagon body which is shorter than a 323 sedan but has a wheelbase longer than the mid-size 626.

All three rear seats can be folded flat or they can be removed altogether, while the backrest of the front passenger seat can also be folded flat foradded flexibility.


When Mazda Australia launched the Premacy a little over 12 months ago it spoke of achieving up to 250 sales per month - a dramatically optimistic assessment as it turned out.

As Mazda Australia national marketing manager Martin Benders noted at this week?s launch: "We're not goign to push ahead (with Premacy sales) as fast as we originally planned."Mazda remains convinced the Premacy can acieve 200-plus sales per month, if it can just get people to sample the car, although current sales discourage it from spending big advertising dollars to attract attention. So there's a bit of chicken and egg situation going on here.

Those shoppers who do hop into the Premacy will find themselves, fundamentally, in a Mazda 323 Astina that's taken a big swig of helium and swelled up to be taller and more spacious inside.

The 2.0-litre engine does make a difference to performance (although we were sampling it on PULP), with an ability to clamber up hills and perform passing manoeuvres with more alacrity than its predecessor. More zoom-zoom if you like.

The engine mated neatly with the automatic version we sampled, shifting smoothly without killing off urge too much. Engine noise wasn't too intrusive unless called on to really rev out under hard acceleration.

Changes in the ride and handling claimed by Mazda weren't really noticeable, the car continuing to behave benignly, only some crashing over big potholes and ridges noticeable, along with some tyre noise on really coarse surfaces.

The lightweight steering remains fine around town and low-speed manoeuvres, aided by a good 10.8m turning circle, are a breeze.

And the rest of the package is familiar the headroom is enormous, the areas of glass expansive, visibility from the driver's seat excellent and the seating arrangements certainly smarter than your average five-door.

The controls are user-friendly, storage spots plentiful, child seat anchorage points conveniently positioned behind the rear seats and the boot space useful, even when all seats are in place.

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