No matter how you picture it, either he, or the car, has it; Mazda6 frugality
Shocked and more than a little dazed by his fuel economy test, Iain Robertson repeated his customary 100-mile MPG route to confirm that 53.7mpg was possible from a brand new, non-turbocharged petrol engine, as fitted to the 2.5-litre Sport model.
We have all become familiar with the current crop of turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel engines fitted to our cars. Applying some form of boost to a normally-aspirated motor has become an expectancy, whether for the purpose of creating headline high-performance figures, to disguise potential lethargy, or for kudos. Yet, where most players have shot-off down a grunt-is-the-only-answer route, only a very few have stuck to an unmolested motor. Mazda is one of them.
Frugality is a key, no matter how you phrase it. At a time when diesel technology is being demonised (wrongly), it is immensely heartening to appreciate that a surprisingly large capacity petrol engine is capable of returning the impressive return stated above but they do not stop there. Developing a very reasonable 191bhp, allied to 190lbs ft of torque, the Mazda6 GT can sprint from 0-60mph in a seriously zesty 7.8s, before coursing on to a maximum speed of 138mph, while emitting 153g/km CO2, which places it in Band I for road tax and Group 29A for insurance purposes. I should also highlight that the test car was fitted with a 6-speed automatic gearbox (with paddle shifters), which makes its overall performance exceptional.
The company achieves its balance with an especially high compression ratio of 14:1. When you consider that most petrol cars hover around the 10:1 average, with diesels demanding 17 to 18:1, for their compression-ignition demands, perhaps you can comprehend that Mazda is doing it differently. The engine displaces 2.5-litres, which is quite large compared with a more average 2.0-litres in the class. There is a marginal trade-off, in the grumbly low-rev nature of the unit, which makes it feel unwilling to rev freely, although it can do and actually sounds quite sporty instead, especially at the upper end of its register.
To be fair, Mazda and I have a bit of history. I have won several class trophies for the firm in fuel economy competitions (Mazda6 in 2003; Cape-to-Cape rally in 2004; Mazda CX7 in 2005; Mazda6 estate car), even winning one event outright in a former Mazda3 MPS high performance model, for the greatest (and still unbeaten) improvement in the economy figure, over its stated Official Combined average. Therefore, the figures should not have come as a shock to me. Yet, even a perfectly normal drive across country in the latest test car, from Lincoln to Windermere in the Lake District, avoiding motorways, witnessed a cool 43.7mpg, against the stated figure of 42.2mpg, and that was without trying especially hard in a broad mix of driving conditions.
Of course, the latest Mazda6 is not just about low running costs, although they do help immeasurably. At 4.8m long and 1.84m wide the beautifully proportioned four-door saloon, finished in picture-perfect Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint (+£800), is among the larger models in its medium sector class. It is undeniably handsome, with a gorgeous organic flow to its coupe-like curves that contain a spacious cabin for up to five large adults and a massive 480-litres boot. The electric, glazed sunroof does rob a bit of useful headroom, making it a tighter fit for the two-metres tall driver, although legroom is plentiful. The rear seats can be folded readily from the boot by tugging on either of the pull buttons, at the top of the compartment, more than doubling the available space.
Impeccably well-built, the car’s interior is a paragon of clarity, its analogue dashboard (well, the speedo is a digital screen display), centre stack row of buttons that includes a second row for the heating and ventilation and incorporates a (brilliant!) CD player for the stereo system, is topped by a fixed, 7.0-inch TFT interactive screen. The sat-nav system takes a fair amount of acclimatisation, being neither logical in its access to specific requirements, nor one of the more modern displays. Yet, familiarity does breed and its virtual route check facility is useful and something that more sat-nav devices should carry.
The blend of Japanese Sen wood trim, with special leatherette stitched upholstery details and slush-moulded plastics is both practical and very neat. The front seats are both heated and chilled, while the outer rear pair are also individually heated. Nappa hide is used throughout for the seat coverings and both comfort and tactility levels are superb. Central armrests both between the front and rear seat occupants supplement the comfort levels and contain USB ports for electronic equipment, as well as additional in-car storage.
Naturally, in a very complete car costing £31,595 (prior to dealer discounting), apart from the bespoke paint finish (Soul Red is a Mazda signature finish), there are no extra cost items fitted to its comprehensive GT specification. Yet, it features the full spectrum of electronic driver aids and safety devices. Put into perspective, an equivalent Audi A4, or BMW 3-Series, looks very expensive alongside the Mazda6. Its ride and handling, on MacPherson front struts and a multi-link located rear axle, is also exemplary and the car simply devours cross-country mileage, with so much ease and minimal fuss that you can step out after a four hours session at the steering wheel (admittedly too lengthy a trip, without a stop) and repeat the exercise again.
My particular fascination for Mazda lies in the car’s ‘everything-in-the-right-place’ stance. As a brand, Mazda remains exceptionally user-friendly, even though none of its models lean even lightly towards electricity as a motive force, either by hybrid, or EV development. It needs to be stated that the company will incorporate those options in due course but only if it is forced to. While some observers might consider that to be foolhardy, I believe that Mazda is small enough to change direction, when it absolutely must, but it remains a producer of driver-orientated motorcars that are also unerringly honest in their appeal.
Conclusion: Why would you consider anything other than a Mazda6 GT, from a brand that possesses a history of providing great value for money? Knowing that you can exceed 40mpg with great ease in a large automatic saloon is much to its credit.