On my drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in the new Mazda 6, a hurricane was at my heels, or wheels to be exact. But then, the Mazda 6 is so agile in its handling that I could always outrun the tornado.
THE UPSIDE: Agile handling, Premium features affordably incorporated, Striking design, Larger space than earlier version, Excellent fuel efficiency
THE FLIPSIDE: Wind noise at highway speeds, front windscreen raking inwards, some options not available in UAE
THE PRICE: 2.0 S AED 75,000 / 2.0 S Station Wagon AED 79,000 / 2.5 V AED 83,000 / 2.5 V Sunroof AED 95,000 / 2.5 R AED 110,000 The price of all the 2.5 L variants are inclusive of free insurance and registration at the time of publication.
It all began as a silent stride at city speeds, as neither the engine nor the wind noise disturbed the cabin ambience. It was on the highways, especially against the wind, that the car raked up the hurricane I was referring to at the start. You will be better off allowing the absolutely delicious sound of the 11-speaker Bose system to override the hurricane, because it’s so unfair to a car that rides so well that this should surface as a point of contention.
The 0 – 100 came up in 8 seconds and the braking was excellent in a straight line stop, though there was a slight loss of traction felt. Switching off the traction control marginally improves things and adds to the fun you can have with the new Mazda 6 and calling in the hand brake does its bit, though only a bit.
The steering is one of the best you can hope for outside the German triangle and the front seats have got you well-cuddled with the cheeks bolstering your corner moves but they are narrower than heavy-built frames would like. And while the Mazda 6 is habitually precise on a straight line or a curve, there is an occasional under-steer which can be easily corrected.
On my drive to Abu Dhabi and back, the car yielded a compelling fuel economy of 9.6L per 100kms (10.43kms per litre) despite some hard testing.
Design is a double-edged sword. While the overall low profile and sharply raking windscreens should be playing their part in the aerodynamics and the sharper handling, not to mention the sporty look, it feels strange to have the windscreen so pulled back that it stops short of grazing the driver’s head with the light switch controls popping up to your immediate right and the sun visor directly above you; straightening it outwards could leave you in a ‘blind’ spot! Alright, so you can tilt the sun visors to suit the setting but that’s another thing. The whole front has a caved in effect on you till the time you get used to it, as with the wind noise.
On the other hand, the very same design actually makes for a large viewing area, especially with the side view mirrors leaving a gap from the A pillars making turns easier with direct view of what you are turning into. But the large expanse of glass perhaps also explains why the air conditioning in my European spec car was, on a January afternoon, not as effective as it otherwise would have been.
Cabin and Controls
Mazda has strategically done something that the others in the segment have not had the foresight to do yet – add truly premium features to the cabin beyond just changing the lamp or grille design. Take the Bose music system, with its eleven speakers. By introducing it into the cabin of the Mazda 6, though only in the top edition, Mazda has clearly stated its intentions to lure those considering a Lexus or an Audi, with utmost value.
The new Mazda assails the market with a whole artillery of driver assist gadgets. As I deliberately steered in test persistence, lane departure warnings kept showing up on the 3.5” driver information screen. The test car also came with rear vehicle monitoring, which is Mazda’s name for the blind spot monitor, advanced front sensors, tire pressure monitoring, IE loop (the start-stop system of the Skyactiv Mazda), radar cruise control and even walk-away locking system. The last one actually means you don’t have to take the key out of your pocket, ever. Just walk away and the car will lock by itself!
The lower profile augments the sporty and aesthetic side of the new Mazda 6 but eats up a bit of the headroom but it doesn’t impede the overall comfort inside the car. From a shrunken presence in the segment of the Camry and Accord, yet hardly larger than a Corolla or a Civic, the Mazda 6 has grown to become an imposing rival with an addition of almost 5 inches (125 mm) in length. It is large.
What do you get in the UAE?
Some of the fantastic stuff that beefed up my European test car don’t carry forward in the version available in the UAE. Notably the IE loop system, the tire pressure monitoring and the walk-away lock feature.
Anyway, the start-stop can get on your nerves at times because of the jolty awakening and after three hours of drive, all that I could save was, one and a half minutes of stoppage time according to the computer. In truth, none of this really matters to the Middle East customer, and adding those might actually take the pricing into the higher bracket which is not exactly what Mazda wants.
In the ME version, the 5.8” screen in my test car has been upgraded to a 7½” screen which is a plus point with the two control knobs being replaced by buttons instead. So you have a larger screen with a column of buttons flanking both sides.
The dual convenience of having a manual knob control besides the touch screen as in the Audi is also missing in the UAE version. An extra niche for coins or even your mobile phone takes its place.
The truth is that all this ‘missing bits’ restricts the price to an affordable AED 110,000 for a car that approximates the convenience and luxury of a premium sedan.
The essential all-new Mazda 6
Aspiration, which is not a bad thing at all, shows itself in every line and bulge of the all-new Mazda 6. The semblance to Audi in cabin arrangements and to Maserati (Maserati!) externally, surfaced in various extents. Right from the knifed-down grille or even the large handle bars. But, mercifully, Mazda has left out the large paddle shifts of Maserati that is wielded like a Samurai sword, and opted for a much, much smaller one. It would have been presumptuous to do otherwise.
As of now, the all new Mazda 6 is the best driving car in its segment tagged as affordable, guarantees eye-balls next to mundane rivals who haven’t dared to emulate an Audi or a Maserati, and offers the extra space that makes it the most desirable car on a mide-size budget.
Drive courtesy: Mazda Galadari Motors, Dubai
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy