BY ANDREW MUZAMHINDO
IN Zimbabwe, the brand Mazda is synonymous with 323 model and the workhorses namely B18 and the irreplaceable T35. Mazda 6 is one car that has not made a mark locally.
It is one of those cars you do not bother to take note of. It is just there. If one is a serious motoring enthusiast, it not easy to ignore the Mazda 3 and 6. They stand out in their own right. Who says a family sedan has to be sedate?
Amid a deep field of competitors, the Mazda 6 proves otherwise, with athletic performance and little in the way of sacrifice. In addition, sleek styling, comfort for full-sized adults, top safety scores and a price that will not break the bank all combine to make it a worthy choice.
Mazda prides itself in delivering an exhilarating driving experience, and even in the rather tame sedan segment, it manages to inject some personality into the mix. How much fun you will have behind the wheel of the Mazda 6 largely depends on which engine you pick. The base four-cylinder is just fine for the daily commute, but the lively V6 certainly increases the grins per kilometre.
Handling is admirable for every Mazda 6, and anyone can appreciate this car’s spacious interior and large trunk. There is not much to complain about, with subpar fuel economy and the use of some chintzy plastics in the cabin being the car’s only notable drawbacks.
That said, competition in the family sedan class has gotten more formidable with the introduction of the Hyundai Sonata and the Ford Focus. Both trump the Mazda 6 in terms of price and features and are competitive in regard to performance, though they lack the interior space of the Mazda.
Other top choices include the sporty Nissan Altima, the very impressive Ford Fusion and the stalwart Honda Accord. At the end of the day, there is not a bad pick among these choices, and the Mazda 6 is certainly worth a look.
The i Touring model steps up the feature content with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a trip computer, a power driver seat, an in-dash six-CD changer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, upgraded interior trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Opting for the i Touring Plus will get you a sunroof, a blind-spot monitoring system, electroluminescent instrument gauges and outside mirrors with integrated turn signals.
The i Grand Touring model adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a multi-information display and a 10-speaker Bose sound system. The s Touring Plus model is outfitted identically to the i Touring Plus, except for the engine, transmission and some exterior trim. The s Grand Touring adds 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels.
One of the more popular options is the Technology package, which is available for Grand Touring models. It includes automatic xenon headlights, automatic wipers, heated outside mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, an auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirror, satellite radio, driver memory settings and a power passenger seat.
A voice-activated navigation system is available only for Grand Touring models and comes with a seven-inch touchscreen display and real-time traffic. Stand-alone options vary in availability with trim levels and include many of the above-listed features as well as a rear spoiler, a chrome fuel-filler door and remote engine start.
The Mazda 6 i versions are powered by a 2,5-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the i Sport. A five-speed automatic with manual shift control is offered on the i Sport and is the only choice available on i Touring, i Touring Plus and i Grand Touring models. Fuel economy is at 9km/litre city/12km/litre highway.
The Mazda 6 features an interior that is attractive and modern in design. A gracefully arching centre stack sweeps from the top of the dash down to the centre console. Some of the controls, however, are a bit more complicated than those of its competitors.
Red electroluminescent gauges further enhance the visual appeal, and the roomy backseat (even for six-footers) is a definite plus. Legroom and headroom are plentiful in all seats, but the wide front seats might lack lateral support for narrower occupants. Despite the Mazda 6’s attractive design, some cheaper plastic materials are scattered throughout the cabin
While the base 2,5-litre four-cylinder will likely satisfy most drivers, its leisurely acceleration and wheezy engine note may be a bit of a turnoff. Opting for the higher Mazda 6 s trim levels will get you a significant increase in power, as well as improved handling with wider tires. Unfortunately, this added performance is tempered by a transmission that is slow to react in both automatic and manual modes.