Splendid car with quirky characteristics

They are a funny crowd, those guys at Mazda. 

They don’t tend to adhere to industry norms much and like to do thing their own way. 

They also like their engineering — a lot — and they really like design too, which is probably why a one-eyed wonky donkey could pick one out of an identity parade.

But they are an unconventional company simply because they eschew convention in almost everything they do — Wankel engines for example — and while Mazda is not a company which really tops any sales charts anywhere, they nevertheless make cars which are popularly perceived to be bomb-proof on the reliability front, good looking in the main, and packed with engineering innovation.

Yet, Mazda does not enjoy the sort of widespread public support here that is accorded to Japanese rivals such as Toyota or Nissan or even relatively new Asian interlopers like the South Korean siblings, Kia and Hyundai.

Sure it beats Japanese rivals such as Honda, Suzuki, or Mitsubishi, but it is truly confounding — given the quality of the products it makes — why it is not more popular.

The figures indicate that — to the end of October — the Mazda CX-5 is the company’s best-selling model here with some 675 sales, followed by the Mazda 3 (595) and the Mazda 6 (470).

The cars are, respectively, the 57th, 60th and 68th best-selling cars in Ireland. 

Go further through the line-up and you will see that the Mazda 2 is 113th in the sales charts, while the CX-3 is 120th and the MX-5 the 209th.

Total sales to October 31 were 2,203 units, making Mazda the 16th best-selling brand on the Irish market — one place behind Dacia (3,607 units) and one place ahead of Volvo (1,716 units).

It really shouldn’t be this way. 

And one good reason why not is simply the quality of the cars Mazda makes — and the price it sells them at.

This week, we are looking at the newly face-lifted Mazda 6 which is fitted with a two-litre petrol engine and is another example of why Mazda likes doing things its own way. 

Most other manufacturers are down-sizing their petrol engines, but not this mob.

The Mazda 6, of course, is a traditional, four-door saloon and its two main market rivals are the Ford Mondeo and the Volkswagen Passat. 

In fact you could probably throw the Skoda Superb into the mix here too.

The previously mighty family saloon segment has been swallowed whole by the SUV revolution and sales have plummeted quicker than a base jumper on amphetamines. 

The Passat leads in the field at 19th on the Irish sales charts this year (1,719 units sold); with the Mondeo second (1,173). 

The 470 units clocked up by the Mazda 6 looks rather puny by comparison.

OK, so the car might have been hamstrung a little this year by unfortunate timing. 

This newest model — it had had more face-lifts than Cher — only arrived in October and that will have stymied sales somewhat. 

It will be interesting to see how it does next year.

But this latest version is still a contender on price by comparison with both the Passat and the Mondeo and, as far as I can see via the Society of the Irish Motor Industry’s latest price list, there is no petrol option in the Volkswagen and one option only in the Ford.

The Superb does have a number of petrol options, the closest to the Mazda being the 1.8TSI version with a 160 bhp output and it is considerably cheaper, depending on specification, than any of the Ford, Volkswagen or Mazda models.

So Mazda then, while appearing to be adhering to the norms of the industry is actually ploughing a pretty lonely furrow with this, the Mazda 6 SKYACTIV-G two-litre petrol model. 

Of course, we drove and positively reviewed the 2.2 diesel version in these columns not so long ago and found it to be a robust, attractive and appealing car which was also very nice to drive and live with.

The same applies here with the 2.0 petrol which actually sells in two iterations — one with an output of 143 bhp and the other (the one we tried) with an output of 163 bhp. 

The latter is only available in the upper echelon Platinum model, while the former comes with the lesser Executive version.

This is a non-turbocharged direct injection four cylinder engine and, given Mazda’s passion for innovative solutions to old problems, a lot of work has been done to make it a viable selling proposition. 

It is relatively clean (146 g/km for an annual tax bill of €390) and relatively economic (expect a return in the region of 6.3 l/100 km or 44mpg in old money).

It is also allied to a terribly slick six speed manual ’box and peak power output is hit at 6,000 rpm which means that to keep the pot boiling, you are going to have to work the gears quite a bit. 

Nevertheless it is really smooth, has a very slightly edgy engine note which is really rather nice and doesn’t appear to have been invented by sonic treatment.

Good too is the car’s on road demeanour — characterised by precise and direct steering, a compelling willingness to change direction quickly (especially considering the size of the car) which makes for excellent handling, largely thanks to a lot of unheralded work on the suspension front.

The ride too is very impressive in terms of its ability to absorb minor road intrusions and sometimes very large ones too. 

This is Ireland, after all and not Western Kazakhstan, although sometimes you wonder.

Comfort levels are also a strong point and indeed the build quality is almost startling. 

Mazda has done a truly fine job mimicking the best of what dearer executive options offer and I doubt very much that anyone coming to the ‘6’ for the first time will be anything other than hugely impressed. Spaciousness too is a notable feature here — both in terms of interior and boot space.

Specification levels on this Platinum model are also of a very high order and I certainly could pick no holes in what was on offer in terms of infotainment or communication abilities and your capacity to access them.

This really is a pretty splendid car and one which oozes many of Mazda’s quirky character traits, while maintaining a genuinely appealing nature and a list of real talents which is as impressive as it is long.

If you’re in the market for a petrol-powered saloon, you’d be mad to overlook it.

Colley's verdict

The Cost: from €31,945 - €38,959 as tested

The Engine: Four cylinder petrol – non turbocharged! Imagine

The Specification: Pretty spectacular in Platinum trim

The Overall Verdict: Terribly underestimated


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