One of our readers, Mr SC Cheah, wrote in last month requesting for a review of the Mazda6 2.5. KON responds....
|[+ click to enlarge] |
|One of the most expensive cars in the D-segment, but has the biggest wow factor too.|
|2.5-litre four pot has more than enough grunt for 6's frame.|
|Cabin is well-appointed and boast excellent fit and finish.|
The following letter was received last month from one of our readers, Mr SC Cheah:
I am looking to purchase a D-Segment car. I am interested in the 2011 Mazda6 2.5. I would like to request for an in-depth test drive review of it; even better if you folks can do a shoot out against the Nissan Teana 2.5, Honda Accord 2.4, Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Sonata 2.4 and Toyota Camry 2.4.
Having been owner of 3 generations of the Camry since it was introduced in Malaysia, I am currently using a 2003 Camry 2.4V. The Camry is very reliable but I am looking at something more exciting this round. I have tested the Mazda6 and was very impressed with its pick up and build quality. Handling is good but it is not as comfortable as the Camry.
I will be driving the car to work alone most of the time and will be using it as a family car sometime over the weekend. My wife is still keen on a Camry because that car has never failed us.
Rgds & Thanks
|After 3 generations with the Camry, Mr Cheah is now looking at more exciting options. |
Dear Mr Cheah,
Thank you very much for your letter. It is our great honour to receive your continuous support, which we hope to maintain for years to come. We hope our reply to your request has not come too late in aiding your purchasing decision. So, let's cut to the chase and address your questions.
We were not able to secure any of its rivals for a comparison test, but as we go along, we shall also be providing insight on how various aspects of the Mazda6 fare against the competition. Among all its rivals, the Ford Mondeo is now something of an unknown quantity, as it has just been introduced with the new 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine that puts it right on top of the class in the power stakes.
As we publish this, Ford has yet to confirm finalized prices for the Mondeo EcoBoost, so until then, the Mazda6 2.5 would be the most expensive option in this market segment, being yours to drive away for RM179,663.20 after insurance. Sticking with your wife's advice and going for the Camry 2.4V saves you about RM4,700, but to be frank, choosing the 6 over the Camry buys you way more than RM4,700 worth of extra street cred. You can thank its combination of good looks and the Mazda badge for that.
|Boasts a wow factor that rivals can only envy. |
Quite simply, the Mazda6 boasts a 'wow' factor that none of its competitors come quite close to matching. Also, unlike its competitors, the 6 also attracts slightly different buyers in the segment. While sales of the Camry, Accord and Sonata are dominated by the 2.0-litre models, some 65% of Mazda6 customers pick the 2.5, according to one reliable source in our forum. This indicates a profile of buyers who wish to be seen differently and are unwilling to settle for compromises i.e. the Mazda6 2.0.
The 6 looks good from the outside, and it is just as good inside, where you step into probably the best finished and appointed cabin of the market segment. Only the Sonata has a cabin of comparable design, but despite vast improvement from its predecessor, Hyundai's fit and finish is still second best when compared to the Mazda. Buttons, and there are quite a few of them around, reek of quality when pressed, so at no point will you feel shortchanged.
|Trip computer display is housed on top of centre console. |
As you will be migrating from a Camry, you will need to get used to having less space in the cabin, and those at the rear will have adapt to life without rear air-con blowers. That curious omission aside, however, the Mazda6 is very well-equipped for the money - tilt & telescopic steering adjustment, paddle shifters, steering-mounted controls, bi-xenon headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), electric sunroof, ABS, stability control, and traction control. The audio system has a 6-CD changer with MP3 & AUX Jack, and in the 2.5 tested here, sound is blasted out from eight BOSE speakers. Other items exclusive to the 2.5 are sunroof, leather seats, and push-start button.
|Compared to rivals, rear passengers get less room and no air-con blowers. |
Despite having one of the segment's biggest engines under its hood, the Mazda6 2.5 is actually quite far from being the most powerful. Mazda quotes 169hp @ 6,000rpm and 226Nm @ 4,000rpm from the 2,488cc MZR twin-cam four-potter. Rivals offer on par figures with their 2.4-litre motors, and the Nissan Teana's 2.5 V6 mill even boasts a 11hp advantage over the Mazda, say nothing about the Ford Mondeo's upcoming 200hp / 300Nm EcoBoost motor.
It takes more than just numbers to make a good car, and as you have experienced, the Mazda6 2.5 isn't what you would call underpowered. The engine pairs well with its 5-speed automatic transmission to give the 6 good pick up, though the motor ultimately lacks smoothness higher up the rev range. Having easily managed cruising speeds of 160-170kph in our test runs, we have no complaints of the 6's straight line pace.
|5-speed automatic is a decent unit with manual override. |
Surprisingly, the one area where the Mazda6 did not exactly meet our expectations is its handling. It is definitely better than the Camry, so in that sense, you're really making an upgrade, but it isn't as far ahead of other rivals as its styling suggests. I have not clocked too much mileage on the previous 6 myself, but the consensus amongst journalists who have is that the current 6 has been softened compared to its predecessor. The result is that the 6 is now very comfortable, despite wearing 45-series 18-inch rubber.
While the 6's dynamic repertoire should still satisfy many drivers, it is simply not as sure-footed when hustled around bends compared to, say, the Honda Accord, let alone the Ford Mondeo. As you dial the speedo upwards, the 6 does not feel as calm and composed as the aforementioned rivals. No doubt the softer suspension settings now give the 6 appeal to a wider audience, but the directional sharpness that made the first generation model a hit with enthusiasts has been lost.
|This is probably the best option outside the established choices. |
It's not all bad though. If you're not the aggressive type of driver, there are still plenty of compelling reasons to go for the Mazda6 - stylish design, superb interior ambiance, and excellent levels of equipment. All these factors combine to give the 6 that aforementioned 'wow' factor that is unmatched among segment rivals, even the Ford Mondeo with its new state-of-the-art EcoBoost engine.
In the matter of after sales, you will have to get used to a smaller service network and slightly higher maintenance costs than what you are used to with the Camry, but quick checks on listings around the net show strong residuals. Examples from 2009 fetch between RM140,000 and RM145,000, on par with units of the Camry 2.4V from the same vintage.
So, here's the recommendation, if ride and handling is a top priority for you, the Mazda6 is not an exact fit to your bill. However, if you are looking for a stylish mode of transport and one that rewards you with a sense of occasion every time you sit inside, it is time to give your Mazda sales rep a call.
Editor's Note: Sharp-eyed readers may notice that the 'MBW 8000' plate was previously attached to a white-coloured Mazda6 2.5 test car. That car has now been sold, though Bermaz has kept the number. Our test car for this review was only recently registered, and had less than 1,000km on its odometer when we picked it up.