Cars

Published on July 27th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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It makes no excuses: Mazda 6 SKYACTIV-G 2.5 facelift Review

Cover Photo by Ryan Ng of RN Studios/RN Photography.

At launch, the Mazda 6 was perhaps a little underwhelming. It was an apprehensive first step for Mazda with a completely revised design language and approach. It was a car for a highly competitive market segment- a segment which arguably defines a brand that caters to the mass market. New engine, new chassis, new styling- it was a chance for Mazda to make a mark, but they fell just a little bit short.

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Two years on, and Mazda is ready with a facelift for their D-Segment contender. Most, if not all of the work, is done on the interior: an entirely redesigned dashboard and the MZD Connect entertainment system from the Mazda 2 and Mazda 3 are the main constituents of this facelift. There’s also a heads-up display system similar to that of the Mazda 2, although this one works in tandem with the navigation features of the MZD Connect.

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To some, a dashboard change and a few extra features in the cabin may seem like a pretty weak attempt to improve the Mazda 6. And while the cynics in us are inclined to feel the same, this facelift model is a perfect counterpoint to this mindset. It feels like an entirely different car, despite being near identical on the outside. Sure, the 2.5-litre variant gets some swankier lights and gunmetal grey wheels, but the Mazda 6 instantly feels far more premium the moment you hop in. It’s clear that plenty of inspiration has been taken from the Germans, but Mazda has managed to emulate their design without making it feel like a poor imitation.

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Material choice and usage has come a long way since the early 2000s, and Mazda may be the first of the Japanese to truly acknowledge this. Their designers have realised that sombre tones alone do not make a serious car, and that form is a large (if not instantly appreciated) part of it. Faux wood panels are dead, and have been dead for a very long time; Mazda has removed it from the cabin in it’s entirety. In it’s place is plenty of leather, molded to be skin tight over a much sleeker design. Brushed metal is used for the accents, such as the vent surrounds and a contrasting strip across the dashboard.

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The gear lever housing gets a change as well, with the introduction of an electronic handbrake and a sport toggle switch. In general, the fit and finish of the Mazda 6 feels far better than the pre-facelift variant, and the overall design theme adheres nicely with the style set by the Mazda 2. There’s a mild risk that Mazda may fall into the same trap that Audi did, with having a near identical interior across the range, but when dealing with the budget-conscious it usually works quite favourably.

Mazda 6 Facelift 1

As for the driving experience: the Mazda 6 is incredibly competent, and as an entire package it feels quite well-rounded. There are some things that the competition does better: the Camry Hybrid has the most elegant powertrain of the lot, the Accord has an agility to it that feels somewhat unreal, and the Teana has a ride that is unnaturally smooth. But while these cars all have very specific attributes that quite-nearly defines them, they also tend to have shortcomings in various other areas.

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The induction noise of the 2.5-litre SKYACTIV-G motor is far from the characterless whine of your average 4-pot motor, and the throttle response when in Sport mode is impressively sharp for a modern car. The steering is designed to be quick, but not twitchy or difficult to dial in accurately, and tracks easily in a straight line- most likely a result of the high caster in the front geometry. The Mazda 6 dispatches with directional changes in an effortlessly efficient manner, while maintaining excellent body control; the suspension errs on the side of firmness without being all too crashy. It’s a fun car to drive, and it almost makes you forget that it’s aimed at your average uncle.

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So perhaps it’s a little unfortunate that the price of the Mazda 6 has gone up as a result of this facelift. The increase is roughly RM 10,000 over the pre-facelift model, meaning the top-spec 2.5-litre model climbs to a price of RM 194,647. It’s a pretty hefty premium to pay over even the Volkswagen Passat, which manages to sit at just over RM 170,000, let alone other Japanese D-Segment models. The only rival that tops the Mazda 6 in this regard is the Ford Mondeo, and by a paltry sum as well.

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Naturally there will be those who are quick to point out that the BMW 316i is just over RM 10,000 more, making the Mazda an even more difficult proposition. But price comparisons aside, the Mazda 6 is definitely a car worth seeing in the metal and leather, and it may just sway your decision away from a more conventional option. Mazda has also hardly had any issues with service and after sales, which is a big plus point for those who want a fuss-free car ownership experience.

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For a company that puts the driving experience first, Mazda has come a long way and finally understood that the market does not consist entirely of driving enthusiasts. They have become flexible and accepted that all facets of a car need to be considered when developing it- and it’s not that handling and dynamics have taken a back seat, but rather that they have put more effort into other areas of a car’s design.

Mazda 6 Facelift 13 (1)

Photo credit to Ryan Ng of RN Studios/RN Photography.

And while the impeccable dynamics of the Mazda 6 may be the best feature to us, it is this redesigned interior that truly sets it apart from the competition and makes it a very relevant product for it’s market segment. If we take the price out of the equation, there isn’t a part of the Mazda 6 that falls short- and there are no excuses to be made.

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