2013 Mazda Mazda6 GT-V6View Vehicle Profile
2014 Mazda6: Sedan goes from demure to dashing
Mazda6 marks return to boldness with new design and energy-saving system.
Mazda’s 6 got its mojo back.
Replacing the ultra-conservative 626 in 2003, the first generation Mazda6 introduced curves, fenders, and squinty, multi-element lighting to Mazda’s corporate “look.” The 2009 follow-up failed to maintain the original’s stylistic momentum, however, and with the mojo gone, buyers looked elsewhere to get their mid-size sedan fix.
This new car, a 2014 model set to grace our shores in early 2013, marks the return of Mazda’s boldness, incorporating much of the new “Kodo — Soul of Motion” design language first expressed in 2010’s Shinari Concept, and refined further to become this past year’s Takeri Concept. Takeri, as it turns out, was a thinly veiled preview of what chief designer Akira Tamatani penned to be our next Mazda6. Particularly from the front and in profile, this car is a looker.
The beauty is more than skin deep. Like the just-introduced 2013 CX-5 crossover (which also wears Kodo design elements), the 2014 Mazda6 incorporates the Japanese automaker’s SkyActiv technologies. SkyActiv is not any one feature, it is a range of engineering optimizations — both big and small — intended to work together to improve overall performance and economy. All-new, more efficient engines and transmissions play a big role, but removal of excess weight through lighter components, even the few grams saved in individual bolts and spark plugs, adds up.
The new car sheds approximately 100-200 kg depending on configuration, though some amount of this is likely the result of the return to a single global vehicle design that’s smaller than the plus-sized, North America-specific 6 we’re currently offered. The 6’s predicted 1,360 kg minimum curb weight would make it among the lightest in the mid-size class.
The sedan’s reduced overall length is offset by a longer wheelbase, so there is sufficient rear-seat room for my slightly chunky 5’11” form to sit behind myself comfortably.
Mazda will also produce a wagon version, but it sadly is not planned for North America.
The 6’s interior is restrained in comparison to the exterior, though the shapes on the door panels echo the body lines on the outside of the doors. Soft touch materials and metallic trim are used to good effect.
Optional are several camera and radar sensor-based safety technologies, among them Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Forward Obstruction Warning, Lane Departure Warning system and Smart City Brake Support, which can actually apply the brakes should the driver not take effective action at low speeds.
There’s not a lot of truly bad pavement in this part of France, so my initial observations about the suspension’s compliance are somewhat limited. Still, Mazda has a good track record of producing cars that are agile without being unduly harsh. Smaller imperfections are dealt with unobtrusively and there’s only moderate body lean as cornering forces increase.
If there’s one criticism of the chassis I’d have to make, it’s that the otherwise accurate-feeling electrically assisted steering is lighter and more sensitive than I’d prefer at highway speeds. Nitpicking, I know.
Initially just one engine will be available in Canada and the U.S., an all-new 2.5 litre “SkyActiv-G” four-cylinder producing 189 hp and 189 lb.-ft. of torque — solidly mid-pack amongst the base engines in this segment; Honda’s Accord, for example, is rated at 185 and 181 respectively. Mazda remains non-committal on the possibility of our ever receiving the excellent 173 hp 2.2 litre “SkyActiv-D” turbodiesel four cylinder. Hopefully we’ll at least get the slick-shifting manual gearbox; both it and the new “SkyActiv-Drive” automatic transmission feature six speeds.
I had a chance to sample both engines. Both provide decent thrust — the diesel’s immense 310 lb.-ft. of mid-range torque proving a perfect counterfoil to the gasoline engine’s broader r.p.m. range.
Mazda’s powertrain engineers claim to have spent as much effort in making the 2.5 litre four sound “right” at high r.p.m. and under hard acceleration as they did making it quiet while cruising. The fours in the Toyota Camry and 2013 Chevy Malibu are comparably hushed at low r.p.m., but the Mazda’s engine note seems less coarse as the revs climb into the upper third of the tachometer.
Mazda had yet to determine if we were going to get the company’s potentially fuel-saving i-stop idle-stop system, but we will be getting Mazda’s clever i-ELOOP energy recovery system. I-ELOOP uses a special alternator, a DC-DC converter, and a big capacitor to quickly store otherwise wasted energy while coasting or braking. That same electrical energy can then be fed back into the vehicle as required, reducing the alternator’s workload — and therefore fuel consumption.
Pricing has yet to be determined, but it’s my guess that when the 2014 Mazda6 arrives in Canada, likely sometime around February of 2013, it won’t start much more than $1,000 from the 2012 Mazda6’s base MSRP of $24,145. The mid-size sedan segment is hotly contested and crowded with plenty of new or recently redesigned competitors. Standout looks or not, Mazda can’t afford to price itself out of the market.
PRICE: TBD (2012 Mazda6 starts at $24,145)
ENGINE: 16 valve 2.5L 4 cylinder
POWER/TORQUE (hp/lb.ft.): 189/189
COMPETITION: Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry
WHAT’S BEST: Stylish; well-sorted chassis; should return good fuel economy.
WHAT’S WORST: May not get the diesel engine, probably won’t see the wagon; could be relatively expensive.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: The wagon version is not only shorter, but has a different wheelbase from the sedan.
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