This is the all-new Mazda 6, which goes on sale in the UK early next year. It features Mazda’s new weight-saving and fuel-saving SkyActiv technology and aims to make serious sales headway in a global market dominated by rivals such as the Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat. It has been shown for the first time at the Moscow motor show this week.
In Europe, most attention will focus on the 148bhp version of the all-new 2.2-litre diesel engine, which could deliver CO2 levels as low as 105g/km.
Launched as a 4.8m-long saloon at this today's Moscow motor show and set to be followed by an estate at next month’s Paris motor show, the Mazda 6 is built around the company’s all-new scalable steel platform.
The floor structure is built from continuous steel box sections for greater strength and rigidity and the upper body is attached directly to the floor, creating a single structure. Compared with the current car, the platform is eight per cent lighter and 30 per cent more rigid, in line with Mazda’s Sky Activ technology goals.
Hiroshi Kajiyama, program manager for the Mazda 6, revealed that his engineers initially managed to save 100kg on average before putting more weight back in to improve other areas of the car. "The initial concept showed a greater weight saving, but after that we added some safety technology, lengthened the wheelbase and bit and added some other improvements. That added 50kg, but the weight saving and overall efficiency package is still best in class."
The new 6’s 2830mm wheelbase is 105mm longer than the current car, allowing 43mm more knee room. The windscreen and A-pillars have been moved forward by 100mm; Mazda says this helps to give the 20mm wider cabin a much airier feel.
The suspension mounting points are part of the structure’s most rigid section, which should improve ride and handling and the accuracy of the new electric steering set-up. The next 6 gets MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link design at the rear. Mazda says it has aimed to make all aspects of the car’s handling and driver feedback smooth and linear.
To that end, Mazda engineers say they have worked hard on making all the controls, including the brakes and manual gearshift, operate with a fluid efficiency. Refinement characteristics have been specially tuned to please Western ears.
Kajiyama confirmed to Autocar the car had been tuned on UK roads for a month during its development to ensure that its ride and handling was uncompromised.
"UK roads are unique. The focus throughout development of the Mazda 6 was to achieve best in class driving performance, so it was important that we made sure our solutions worked on every type of road. It was very challenging, because the UK roads present new difficulties, but we found solutions."
The new SkyActiv diesel engine has an unusually low 14:1 compression ratio, already meets 2013 Euro 6 emissions regulations without expensive NOx traps and is said to be cheaper to build than today’s Euro 5 diesels.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine’s compression ratio is also 14:1, which is unusually high for a petrol car but produces more low-end torque than is typical of the normally aspirated breed. One of the key design features is a lengthy 4-2-1 exhaust manifold, space for which was created by moving the front wheels forward.
The transmission choice consists of a six-speed manual or a particularly efficient six-speed torque-converter automatic. A four-wheel drive version will be offered, but Mazda is targeting the US snow belt and eastern European markets. As such, it is unlikely to be sold in the UK.
Kajiyama conceded that Mazda did not try and chase down the best refinement benchmarks set by his rivals. "Of course we wanted to hit a suitable level – one that is an improvement on the current car – but to be the best was not the goal. Quietness adds weight, and that would have compromised us elsewhere."
Although full performance figures will not be revealed until the Paris motor show in September, Kajiyama confirmed the firm was on track to hit its stated target of 105g/km of CO2 from the most frugal Mazda 6, which should equate to more than 72mpg. That eclipses the current class-leading saloon in the segment, the BMW 320d ED, which emits 109g/km of CO2.
The car’s styling draws heavily on the Mazda Takeri concept, the short front overhang, long wheelbase and short rear deck lending an elegant stance. Heavy sculpting over the front wheels hints at the ‘separate’ wings seen on the RX-8. The slipperiest versions have a drag coefficient of just 0.26.
For the cabin, Mazda says it has paid particular attention to material quality and "design craftsmanship". A five-inch navigation screen is fitted alongside a 3.5in instrument display.
Prices are expected to start at around £20,000 for the 165bhp 2.0-litre petrol version. The 2.2 diesel version should start at around £21,000 for the 148bhp version and close to £26,000 in 173bhp guise. Mazda points to more standard equipment – likely including the firm's city braking function – as justification for an increase of around £2000. It is expected to go on sale in the UK in early 2013 in both saloon and estate forms.
Hilton Holloway, Jim Holder