When Hiroshi Kajiyama, program manager for the all-new Mazda 6, began work on the new car one of the first things he did was forbid his engineers from driving anything other than the BMW 3-series (old and new), Audi A4 and VW Passat. In different ways they represented the benchmarks he wanted his new car to hit, and he didn’t want his engineers’ senses dulled by driving anything else.
"If you evaluate too many cars, you aim at too many targets and get a dilution of what you are trying to achieve," says Kajiyama. "And I am looking to my test engineers to achieve the absolute best results."
Kajiyama, you see, is mildly obsessed by making sure his cars are the best in the areas he wants them to be, which in the case of the 6 most notably means leading the way on dynamics and efficiency. If that means sacrificing a smidgen of refinement, for instance, so be it. Good can be good enough, so long as there is excellence where he wants it.
What’s key, though, is that when Kajiyama says "best in class" he doesn’t mean looking at a spreadsheet and seeing what numbers come out of a computer, but by feeling and experiencing what the results are for himself.
"We want a linearity of steering weight," he says by way of example. "So as speed builds you want to feel that build through the steering in a consistent way. Now, a computer will draw you a graph with a straight line on showing, the weight building in exact reference to the speed. But that is not how a human experiences it. A human experience is more of a curve. I don’t know that all our competitors understand that."
He has also refused to compromise his main priority - dynamics - for trade-offs elsewhere. "You get the feeling many of our competitors say, 'we must hit 99g/km' and then arrange the gearing to manage that figure," says Kajiyama. "It’s pretty easy to stick in a high top gear and making emissions savings, but it comes at the cost of the driving performance. That is something we will never do at Mazda."
Likewise, he insists that Mazda’s i-Eloop brake energy regeneration system, which unusually stores generated energy in a capacitor rather than a battery, is far more efficient than alternative systems in the real world, improving real-world fuel economy by up to 10 per cent. Given that the most frugal Mazda 6 is still expected to hit a mooted 105g/km target, which equates to more than 72mpg efficiency on the official test cycle, that bodes extremely well for the real world figures.
The new Mazda 6, then, is in Kajiyama’s eyes, a car designed by real people for real people. I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping that the driving experience delivers with the same clarity with which he goes about his business.