As far as Asian brands go, the Mazda 6 is ahead of its competitors

SINGAPORE (Sept 23): Mazda is the perfect example of how Asian car brands are narrowing the gap with their Western counterparts, particularly when it comes to luxury in the mid-market range. This is a hugely competitive market where Mazda has to fight with the likes of Honda, Toyota and Hyundai for the hearts and minds of motorists who choose Asian brands over pricier European ones. They have all been upping their game and, in some cases, poaching talent from European rivals or joining forces with them, such as the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

While it may be hard to persuade a hardcore BMW or Mercedes-Benz owner to consider a Mazda, the arrival of the new Mazda 6 could change their minds because of its looks, comfort and much lower price point. When I say “new” to describe the Mazda 6, I use the term loosely as this model has been around since 2012. Car brands have blurred the lines when it comes to new models and facelifts and it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between a current-generation model and a new one.

But the flagship Mazda 6 has undergone a heavy facelift that classifies it as new in many people’s eyes. The front of the car is radically different from its predecessor’s, with an abundance of chrome and an impressive-looking new grille. While there is less you can do to revamp the rear of a car, the Mazda 6 does have a more sculpted boot, helping it keep a lean and athletic body shape. Overall, you are looking at a very stylish and good-looking car that belies its value-for-money price tag. It looks a lot more expensive than it actually is, so kudos to the Mazda designers.

Cheap-looking plastics and finishes have been replaced by more upmarket, suede-like materials with wood, acrylic and aluminium trimmings across the dashboard and doors

But the Mazda 6 is more than just a one-trick pony. The cabin has also undergone a major revamp and very little of the old edition remains. It all looks pretty premium inside, which is a big selling point for a car that costs just under $150,000.

I was test driving the Luxury model, which sits at the top of the range when it comes to interior materials, and it definitely looks and feels posh. Cheap-looking plastics and finishes have been replaced by more upmarket, suede-like materials. There is additional wood, acrylic and aluminium trimmings across the dashboard and doors. And it has a nice big sunroof that creates an airy and spacious cabin.

The infotainment system has grown from 7in to 8in, and you can access a new 360-degree parking camera from it. In this model, you also get a digital central instrument cluster. You might even forget you are in a mid-market Asian brand as the front seats are ventilated.

This top-of-the-line model also has satnav, an 11-speaker Bose sound system and a head-up display, which you normally only see in premium German brands such as Audi and BMW. There is also a good number of electronic safety features such as blind spot monitors and a collision warning system. That is a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to electronics. The more time I spent in the Mazda 6, the more impressed I was, and I had not even left the showroom parking lot. Even though it was the “Luxury” model, I was not expecting this level of luxury in the car.

The engine is a decent 2.5-litre, 16-valve, which helps the Mazda 6 glide along the tarmac. The power plant may not sound remarkable but it has a very cool function — it can deactivate two of its four cylinders when not needed to save fuel. That is some smart technology.

While much of the facelift is aesthetic, which definitely makes the Mazda 6 look better, there are also some engineering changes that lead to a much smoother ride than with the previous model. The suspension has been tweaked and is now springier. So for a big car, it is pretty agile around corners and turns.

Obviously, it is no sports car, but you can still feel a rush of adrenaline when you put your foot down. There is a lot to like about the Mazda 6 and it definitely made me rethink how I see the brand. Mazda has a few new models in the pipeline, including the CX-30, a cool-looking compact sport-utility vehicle. It is a carmaker to keep an eye on. I would expect the Mazda 6 to be a bestseller for the Japanese brand, given its high level of comfort and luxury for its price point.

MAZDA 6
$148,888 with COE
Engine: 2,488cc, 16V, inline 4
Power/torque: 194ps/258Nm
Fuel efficiency: 7.1L/100km
0-100kph: 8.4 seconds
Top speed: 223kph


Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast