New Mazda6: Driverís Delight with Skyactiv Power

By Lee Pang Seng
THE latest Mazda6 has arrived with the highly anticipated Skyactiv engineering that Mazda announced more than a year ago. The new Mazda executive sedan may have grown dimensionally over the old to lose some of its slimness, but it has not lost any of its agility when put to the task through winding roads.

This is largely due to the Skyactiv technology that has seen to improvements in just about every aspect of the new Mazda6 – from engine to suspension to chassis. The ‘Zoom-zoom’ element is also clearly fleshed out in the elegant yet youthful outline of the car’s body, a result of Mazda’s Kodo – Soul of Motion design theme. Its aerodynamic efficiency is borne by the low Cd factor of 0.27.

The muscular overtone rippling through the flow of lines from the headlights to the flanks add a macho touch to its coupé-ish body. This is achieved without losing the individual Mazda look but with a nice adaption of the front that carries the badge prominently, while being aggressively underlined by a stylish lower lip, complete with foglights.

Much had been said about the Skyactiv engineering that Mazda had embarked on with results it feels could match, if not excel, the advanced technology currently applied by other carmakers. We begin with the engine: behind its seemingly simple in-line four design with double overhead camshafts and 16-valve head lie significantly new details.

The compression ratio is a high 13.0:1 (from the previous 10.0:1) that is said to aid combustion while reducing fuel consumption. To prevent piston knocking from such a high compression ratio, cavity pistons are used. Such pistons have concave tops, much like a shallow bowl. Yet, it can run on RON95 octane petrol!

Other complements are the high tumble ports, multi-hole fuel injectors, and a 4-2-1 exhaust system (which may seem like a step back in time from the 4-1 system currently adopted but is found to work excellently in the Skyactiv perspective). The fuel efficiency is said to increase by up to 15 per cent.

In displacements, the 2.0-litre engine appears to be greater changed than the 2.5. It now displaces 1998cc (from 1999cc previously) with a major change in configuration, from oversquare to undersquare. The stroke is now a longer 91.2mm (from 83.1mm) while bore is smaller at 83.5mm (from 87.5). The 2.5-litre retains the same undersquare configuration with 89.0mm bore and 100.0mm stroke.

Output-wise, the Skyactiv-G 2.0 delivers 112.5kW (153bhp) at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm against the previous engine’s 108kW/ 147bhp at 6500rpm and 184Nm at 4000rpm. The Skyactiv 2.5 churns out even more at 136kW (185bhp) at 5700rpm and 250Nm at 3250rpm against 135kW/ 170bhp at 6000rpm and 225Nm at 4000rpm.

It has also gone six-speed automatic (from five-speed) as part of the Skyactiv-Drive high-efficiency system. The transmission has a lockup range extended to nearly 90 per cent or a lockup in each gear so that the gear is more positively engaged, adding to the good fuel efficiency factor. The Mazda6 2.0 comes with sequential shift (Power mode) for the floor gear while the Mazda6 2.5 has steering wheel paddle shifts for manual gear selection.

Likewise, the suspension may seem unchanged from the old with a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear but it was re-engineered and fine-tuned for high-speed stability and sharp response through corners at low and mid-range speeds. The electrically assisted steering has a ratio to complement the improved suspension characteristics.

The Skyactiv-body is also engineered according to the times with a lighter weight but with increased rigidity and safer performance. This is achieved with ‘widespread’ use of ultra-high tensile and high tensile steel as well as a ring structure and straight, continuous framework. Mazda says the Skyactiv-body is 30 per cent more rigid and lighter against the old, and can meet the world’s most demanding crash safety tests.

Dimensionally, the new Mazda6 is bigger over the old. It sits on a longer wheelbase of 2830mm (previous model 2725mm), is longer at 4865mm (4775mm), wider at 1840mm (1795mm) and slightly taller at 1450mm (1440mm). In kerb weight, more equipment and fittings have added to the car’s kerb weight with the 2.0 tipping the scales at 1393kg (old model 1335kg) and the 2.5 weighs a whopping 1444kg (1340kg).

We had a taste of driving the new Mazda6 through the winding roads up to and down from Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands. Our first impression was with the Mazda6 2.0, which revealed a quiet ride on the highways and secondary roads, with minimal road roar. Although it runs on 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/55 tyres, ride over bumps and ruts was comfortable as the impacts were well cushioned. The electric power steering was nicely weighted and gave a good feel of how the front wheels were pointing.

Through the ‘esses’, the Mazda6 2.0 took them with little body roll, even for the rather robust speeds that we were carrying (we had three on board). The engine ran smoothly and quietly at the high revs that we were using for the lower gears (third and fourth, and the occasional second), soaring up to almost 6000rpm at times. The gear ratios seemed rather wide and we were confident with holding a lower gear for the sharper turns.

While the front tyres squealed through some of the tighter corners, the understeer was not overly heavy and we could carry a reasonably quick speed through. For a car of its dimensional stature, the Skyactiv engineering allows the new Mazda6 to behave like a compact sedan. This should go down well with those who enjoy a bit of spirited driving through winding roads.

We could feel the extra oomph with the Mazda6 2.5 although the higher weight also came into play when pushed through corners (this model runs on 19-inch alloys with 225/45 tyres). The understeer seemed more pronounced although the car remained well balanced dynamically and the higher torque did its share keeping the sedan to its line through the bends.

Generally, the interior is as spacious as expected with good room all round, front and rear. The seat squabs also provide appreciable thigh support and there were ample spaces for storing minor items and cups. Among the standard items were the pushstart button; i-stop (Idling stop technology) that turns off the engine when you step on the brakes when coming to a stop and restarting when you lift off the brake pedal); rain sensing wiper; reverse camera with touch screen display; traction control system, to name a few.

The Mazda6 2.5 naturally has more: GPS navigator; 11-speaker Bose sound system; regenerative braking system; Smart City Brake System (that applies the brakes to avoid hitting the vehicle in front at low speeds in city traffic); land departure warning system; sunroof; adaptive front lighting; the list goes on and on.

The boot is huge and if you still want more, the rear seatrests are split 60:40 and can be folded to accommodate your expanded carrying capacity. The upholstery is in leather for all the models, and there is also a 2.5-litre five-door Touring for those who prefer the more outdoorsy image.

Another appealing factor is the reasonably attractive price: the Mazda6 2.0 is set at RM155,159 on the road without insurance; the Mazda6 2.5 is RM182,648; and the Mazda6 2.5 Touring is available for RM186,648. It’s a good reason if any to check out a Mazda for executive motoring.

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