Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: October 5, 2016
For some unbeknownst reason, I tend to drive downtown a lot during peak rush hour traffic. I could easily take public transportation, but evidently I seem to enjoy being trapped in a car, hands white knuckled and teeth grinding away on a “highway” that’s really just a parking lot in disguise. Obvious stress management issues aside, if I were to take a sample of the 10 cars in front or behind me at any given time, I could be certain that a good chunk of them will be mid-size sedans – probably Camrys in beige – how exciting. Be still my beating heart.
But Mazda, the ever quirky Japanese manufacturer, thinks the segment doesn’t need to be a frozen wasteland of perennially boring Camrys. There’s an opportunity to produce something fun – and they’ve done so with the launch of the Mazda6. Now in its third generation, the 6 (not to be confused with the unofficial name thrust upon Toronto) has received a subtle nip tuck that should keep it competitive with the ever shifting mid-size market.
Changes on the outside are extremely understated. In fact, at first glance you wouldn’t be able to tell any standout differences. However, the manufacturer says the intakes in the front bumper have been changed, the grill slats have a subdued shine to them, and perhaps the most visually obvious change – an LED daytime running light that outlines the brand’s signature flying-V grille. The overall effect of the Mazda6 remains unchanged, it still imparts a sense of elegance to bystanders, but it now does so with quality materials that match its premium aesthetic.
Same goes for the inside too – enter the cabin and everything is covered in soft touch materials. It’s almost as if Mazda made it a mission to make sure nothing your fingers frequently touch would ever feel cheap; and they’ve certainly succeeded. Anybody who says otherwise probably expects their family sedan to have the power of a BMW M5 at the cost of a Power Wheels toy.
In fact, the cabin of the Mazda6 has been completely reworked. The biggest change is the center dash and console. The dash has been sculpted around the iPad-like infotainment screen. It now sits upright like a monolith feeding clueless drivers the sweet nectar of turn-by-turn navigation. The body coloured plastic strip running along the central air vent has been replaced in lieu of leather and brushed aluminum. Finally, the HVAC controls have been truncated to take up less real estate. All this automotive Feng Shui cumulates into a cockpit experience that’s more in line with this decade of vehicles.
Underneath all the cosmetic surgery are the underpinnings of last year’s Mazda6; a 2.5L SkyActiv four powers the family sleigh. Producing 184 horses and 185 lb-ft of twist, it’s probably the weakest link in the vehicle. Does this mean the underpowered Mazda6 won’t be fun? For those wondering, allow me to direct your attention to the answer – which for once literally is Miata. See, the company has gotten used to squeezing every ounce of fun from a chassis that’s down on power. What the 6 (again, not the city) lacks in straight line speed, it makes up for in eagerness to change direction and steering feel.
Throw it in a corner quickly and the car’s response is immediate. The weight of the wheel intensifies, and the weight of the car shifts to the outside wheel, but it doesn’t overwhelm the tire. You get the sense that the car has more to give and so you respond by pushing it slightly harder. This back and forth goes on until eventually you enter a corner just a tad too quick and you feel the front tires start to give way to a hint of understeer. It’s only then that you realize how engaging it was being behind the wheel.
Equipped with the company’s SkyActiv automatic transmission, the car shifts relatively quick too. It’s one of the first of its kind automatics that blends the performance of a DCT with the fuel economy of a CVT. Put simply, in the lower revs the transmission operates using a torque converter. As the revs build, it switches to a clutch type transmission. The result is pretty phenomenal: it’s not as quick as a true DCT, but it certainly is quicker than a German yelling “Porsche Dopplekuplung!” – or a traditional automatic (don’t get me started on the CVT).
Starting at $32,895, the Mazda6 has the option of a Premium Package and Technology Package. The Premium package adds some extra niceties within the cabin such as Nappa leather upholstery, black headliners, and a premium stitched steering wheel, a $1,500 option that some might happily skip.
The Technology Package includes all the driving nannies you’d want including smart brake support, radar cruise, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and assist. It’s the more expensive option of the two at $2,400 but still a fair price to get all the features you’d expect in a more premium car. Personally, we’d skip both options and opt for the 6-speed manual transmission. It knocks $4,200 from the sticker and offers a lighter, more rewarding experience.
Think of the Mazda6 as a stop-gap car. It’s far from a canyon carver, or even a sports car for that matter, but it never claimed to be. At the core, this is still a four-door family sedan with sensibility in mind. It’s not particularly fast in a straight line and that’s OK, it has the verve and excitement to keep a smile on your face and remind you of why you enjoy driving from Monday to Thursday. And it teases you just enough to remind you that come Friday morning, you get to open the garage and take the weekend toy to work – Mazda just hopes it’s the Miata.
型号 Model: 2016 Mazda6 GT
顏色 Paint Type: Sonic Silver Mica
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $32,895
試車售價 Price as Tested: $35,695
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,830
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,895 / 1,840 / 1,450
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,442
引擎 Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.5 L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine
最大馬力 Horsepower: 184 hp @ 5,700 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Independent with MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Independent multi-link with coil springs, stabilizer bar
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: 4-wheel disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: 4-wheel disc
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway)- L/100 km: 9.4 / 6.4
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 225/45R19