I can’t deny a certain pang of disappointment as I drive off in the Gun metal grey Mazda 6. After all ‘zoom-zoom’ sport saloon is the message that Mazda are giving out. Then reality sets in and I reposition my parameters. This is after all not the top of the range model and pricing wise it’s a lot of car for the money. Two other things I remind myself of are that my normal car retailed at over £50k when it was new, and the last car I tested prior to this was another Mazda – the latest incarnation of the phenomenon that is the MX5. In particular it was the hugely enjoyable MX5 1.8i sport, to which I really could say ZOOM ZOOM.
||Mazda 6 TS2
25th April - 1st May 2003.
Roadtested by Neil.
So let’s talk about what the car looks like. Well for a start I am surprised by the width of the car from the front. I have not seen too many 6’s on the road and when I have they have always been moving, from the front they appeared quite pointy. Close up the car seems wider and I realise that Mazda has done a good job of obscuring the size of the car, which is comparable to the Honda Accord and Jaguar X-type. This car shows off the shape well, and as I have always had a soft spot for this colour, in my opinion it is one of the best colours for the car.
Inside things are also looking good. The car feels modern (as it should do) and with chrome-surrounded dials exudes some sporty connotations. The central console has a definite Alfa feel and adds a lot to the general ambiance of the interior. There are a number of things that do not fit in the picture – such as the silver facia finishing half way down the central console – just after the gearstick. After this point the plastic used lets the car down. Also the plastics and general quality of the buttons used for the door electronics (electric windows etc.) is not to the same standard as the rest of the car.
The car has two trip computers – which is useful for tracking trips within trips. The on-board computer is housed in the central console and tells you the remaining range left in the petrol tank; average speed; current fuel economy and finally average fuel economy. The later two are quoted in L/KM, which to most people in the UK will mean absolutely nothing.
The seats are comfortable but not particularly sporty – there is for example no side support – which would help with the sporty suggestions. The steering wheel feels well positioned, as too does the gearstick. Pedal positioning is ok too.
|The boot is large (500ltrs) and features Mazda's ‘karakuri’ seat system. This is a single touch button on either side of the boot which causes the seats to fold. In the rear there are similar buttons.|
On the move the car feels quite high up, light (not helped by over-assisted steering), and not particularly fast. The car has a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engine producing 141bhp and 134lb ft of torque, it weighs 1350kg and has a not particularly impressive 9.7secs to 60mph and a top speed of 125mph. However once you acclimatise yourself within these parameters, it does give the impression of being faster than the numbers imply. The progress through the gears is enthusiastic and on the motorway you can hustle the car along without any problems at all.
Whilst the steering is light, it is quite direct, but the lack of feeling does hinder you exploitation of this. In the wet (of which most of the week was) the front wheels were prone to a considerable amount of spinning and this is with DSC switched on. In the dry the car is better composed and there is virtually no wheel spinning at launch.
Motorway driving was something I thought was going to be a problem, due to some of the press indicating that the car was noisy, and in particular the engine was. However I did not find this to be the case, a 4-cylinder engine is never going to be the quietest or smoothest power you’d find in a car but this engine whilst quite noisy during acceleration was not overly audible when cruising at 70, 80 or 90 (where road conditions apply). In fact other factors such as tyre and wind noise contribute far more to the picture than engine noise. Comparing the car to the ZS180 for example it was far less noisy.
Over the week I adjusted more to the car and found I did actually start enjoying it. Grip was not a particular issue to the car and nor was road holding in general. In fact you’d expect this as there is no difference between most of the mechanicals in this car and the current range-topper the 2.3 sport. I didn’t get the motivation to push the car too hard – the combination of lack of power and general light feeling did not encourage such behaviour. But in the segment that this car occupies the car does a good job and cannot be classed as a slouch.
First thing Monday morning I needed to get across the country to a conference near Droitwich. The weather was lousy and I jumped in the 6 not feeling too wonderful. The journey passed reasonably quickly – the Bose stereo in particular helping out during the traffic jam that greeted me on the M42. Sitting in traffic I did feel happy in the Mazda 6, the car does differ from the usual rep fodder and from the inside does feel a bit out of the ordinary. In the end the trip was just under 3 hours of driving in pretty grotty conditions.
On the flip slide the journey back was in great spring weather: blue skies, sunshine and no traffic jams. The car was far better in the dry and in fourth and fifth gear in particular was quite responsive. I enjoyed the drive back and even after two missed turns was still in good spirits when I got home. This journey was the turning point for the car and I enjoyed it for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, it did not rain again so I wasn’t able to test out the car again to see if I preferred it any better.
Comparison to the 2.3 Sport
During the course of the week I visited Godfry Davis Mazda in Nottingham and spoke to Mike Wright. Mike has been selling Mazda’s for 30 years. And so the quick visit to assess the Mazda 6 2.3 sport turned into a longer visited discussing various cars and technologies that Mazda has produced over the years.
His take on the new 6 was that it ‘hit the mark, was well timed, and was well specced and priced’. He said it was doing particularly well with fleet buyers, who were seeing the strengths in Mazdas durability and with servicing every 12kmiles or 12 months reduced maintenance costs. In addition for once insurance group ratings of the cars were compatible with its rivals (makes a change for an Asian car). Mike also said that they haven’t got enough of the 6 to sell. Which should make for good news at Mazda HQ. Mike’s favourite of the range is the low-pressure* turbo-diesel and this seems to be selling the best too. It has a good balance between the low-end torque and the turbo power, which makes it a good buy and not much slower than the petrol version. (*Mazda sells two versions of the turbo-diesel a low-pressure (121bhp) and a high-pressure (136bhp) turbo-diesel).
The visual differences between the 2.3 Sport and 2.0 TS2 are; from the front the Sport has headlight washer nozzles in the top of the front bumper; from the side the main difference is the wheels, which are an inch bigger on the sport (17inches); from the rear the Sport has 2 exhausts one on each side of the car and a boot spoiler
The Mazda 6 Ts2 retails at £16,495. This puts it head to head with the following saloons :
Mondeo 2.0 Zetec £16,145; Honda Accord 2.0i Vtec SE £16,495; MG ZS180 £16,640; Seat Toldeo 2.3 V5 £16,695; Skoda Octavia vRS £15,100; Toyota Avensis 2.0 VVT-I £16,790; Vauxhall Vectra 2.2 Elegance £16,645; VW Passat 2.0 Sport £16,980;
Quite a tough market segment and the Mazda competes well in terms of value for money. On the Zoom-Zoom front the MG probably is the leader, with the Skoda and Seat fairing well too.
Thanks to Mazda for the loan of the car.