- FIRST DRIVE
MAZDA believes the sky’s the limit for its new generation Mazda6 line-up – and emphasised the point aboard no less an icon than Concorde.
The first and only supersonic passenger airliner was launched in 1967, the same year Mazda arrived as a car brand in Britain.
One of the 14 Concorde models constructed before all were removed from service in 2003, Alpha Alpha – or to give its correct name G-BOAA – now takes pride of place at Scotland’s National Museum of Flight in East Lothian.
It was here, in seats so often occupied by the rich and famous, that Mazda underlined its well-founded confidence in the new ‘six’.
If the previous generation was an attractive looker then the newcomer is light years beyond, possessing an elegance born from the Japanese company’s ‘Kodo – soul of motion’ design language.
It stems from the shape of a satin-covered stainless steel paper knife given to design chief Ikuo Maeda, who was fascinated by the way a subtle twist in the metal turned a basic blade into a work of art.
And whether in saloon or Tourer estate form, the new ‘six’ has a sharp, low-slung style that gives it terrific presence on the road.
In what some may view as a risky move, Mazda has ditched the hatchback body style that was responsible for 75 per cent of the previous model’s sales.
The reason is down to a shift in customer taste that has seen several other auto makers follow the same route.
Key to the saloon model’s practicality is a 60/40 seating arrangement whereby the rear seats flip down at the tug of a pair of organ stop-type pulls to open up a long, if a touch shallow, load space.
So the needs of those requiring more than ‘just a boot’ are adequately addressed, while people needing a cavernous carrying expanse are guaranteed as much with the Tourer models.
Mazda is also promising to set new benchmarks for fuel economy and CO2 emissions in its area of the marketplace through the use of the SKYACTIV technology which made its debut last year on the CX-5 crossover model.
It is seen as a credible alternative to hybrid or electric vehicles, a route Mazda will not be following, and is a fresh take on everything from engines and gearboxes to dynamics and fittings.
Among the suite of advances is something called i-ELOOP – short for Intelligent Energy Loop – a brake energy regeneration system that can boost economy by up to 10 per cent.
It works by turning the kinetic energy created by decelerating into reusable electricity for powering electrical systems like air-conditioning.
The result is the engine is freed from generating electrical power through the alternator, enabling all of its power to drive the car.
With a top quality, user-friendly cabin, it claimed fuel economy as high as 67.3mpg and emissions as low as 108g/km – without any sacrifice in performance – Mazda believes it can not only give premium players like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series a run for their money, but is actually the new class leader.
Powered by the SKYACTIV 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel engines and six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, the new Mazda6 costs from £19,595 for the 2.0-litre 145PS SE saloon petrol model.