Mazda’s future is based around just a single scalable steel spaceframe platform, two basic (but completely re-thought) petrol and diesel engine designs, and manual and auto transmissions.
The programme kicks off with a 2.2-litre diesel engine that not only has an low 14:1 compression ratio, but can also meet super-strict Euro 6 pollution regulations without a NOx trap and is even cheaper to build than today’s Euro 5 diesel engines. Hooked up to a six-speed manual ‘box, this engine - when fitted in the next-gen Mazda 6 - promises a CO2 output of just 105g/km. And that’s without any of the clever fuel saving devices fitted to, say, an Efficient Dynamics BMW 3-series.
The new 2.0-litre petrol engine is (unusually in these days of forced induction) normally aspirated and runs an unusually high 14:1 compression ratio. Mazda has been aiming for a beefy torque curve, smooth manners and impressively low consumption.
It has also thought outside the box with the new platform, which makes use of simple box-section pressings under the floor and super-strong ‘ring’ structures for the upper part of the platform. This relatively simple construction will be able to be scaled down to the Mazda 3 and up to the US-market CX-9.
Mazda engineers are also working hard to make the chassis much more in tune with European tastes, tuning out the high-pitch road noise and resonance that the Japanese ear doesn’t find a problem with, and giving the chassis a much firmer and more stable feel at motorway speeds.
Having sampled both engines and both transmissions in the new platform I’d say - even 20 months out from production - that Mazda is a long way towards achieving its goal.
Of course, all this superb effort needs to be clad in an eye-catching skin. Typical contemporary Japanese styling won’t do.
Which is why Mazda showed us the Shinari concept, a very strong hint towards the form of the new Mazda 6. In the late summer light of Milan, this car was a genuine stunner. The interior (led by an ex-Audi designer) is exceptional, especially the cockpit and switchgear design.
Of course, a production version of this car would have to have at least a taller glass house and real bumpers. But if Mazda can get near turning this 6 mule into something approaching the Shinari, it will have pulled off an engineering and visual coup.