Friday, February 15, 2013

I Feel For the Mazda 6

Being the owner of a 2004 Mazda 6, I always await the next generation release for the car hoping that they'll improve on the the formula that I believe they got so right for the first generation.  Sadly for the last generation, they fixed the one thing that was wrong with the car and added a whole bunch of other wrong things to the car.  Don't get me wrong, I still liked the fat 6.  It was a bruiser as the testbed for the Duratec 37 that would later go into the Mustang.  But they took away the manual and mostly all of the car's agility.  So I wasn't a buyer.

However, when the Kodo Mazda 6 started showing it's face, I was again intrigued.  The car definitely appeared to be regaining it's agility, but again Mazda can't fix the problems of the last generation without creating a bunch of new problems.  Notably, Mazda doesn't have a premium engine to put in the 6 due to their split with Ford.  I'm not unlike Mazda in that way, every time I fix something that is going wrong in my life I seem to create a bunch of new problems.  So sometimes, you just have to do what makes you able to move forward in your life even if it creates problems.  So that's what Mazda has done with the new 6.

Obviously the sheet metal is absolutely gorgeous.  While Nagare was universally stupid looking on every car that wore it, Kodo is the polar opposite.  Every vehicle that wears it has class leading looks.  Another issue that Mazda has addressed is the universal criticism of the fuel economy of Mazdas.  Skyactiv has changed the rules, the engine seems to get class leading MPG in every vehicle it goes into.  For example, the Skyactiv 2.5 in the Mazda 6 returns 26/38 (one less with a manual) with 185 horsepower.  No hybrid, no turbo.  For comparison, the Fusion returns 23/36 with it's 1.6 liter turbo engine that makes 12 less horsepower.  Problem Fusion?  The Accord that makes the same power but has a motorboat transmission only returns a single MPG higher in the city.  This is great for Mazda's mainstream appeal but for those of us that buy Mazdas, we don't care about MPGs.  So basically, Mazda has a great base engine here and has built a car that should easily compete with everything else in class and these cars are being sold as "i" models which would indicate that Mazda plans a higher end model.  But at this point, that higher end model is probably going to be a diesel with even less horsepower.

While being underpowered is not a sin for a Mazda, in this case it's just too underpowered.  The 6 needs a premium engine.  In the days of the Ford partnership they could leverage Ford equipment to fill the holes in their lineup, but these days that option isn't available.  So at this point all Mazda has is a four cylinder that may not even drag the car to 60 in under 8 seconds and a diesel that will probably be even slower.  It isn't a good position to be in, especially with Honda and Toyota's V6 engines being stronger than ever.

But Mazda is going in the right direction.  We have a great looking car with great handling and superior fuel economy and you can even still get a manual in the most base car.  Maybe a Skyactiv V6 is in the works, but probably not.  Some of us even dream that they might pick up an Alfa V6 from their co-op with Fiat but that's probably a longer shot than licencing another V6 from Ford.  The lack of a decent engine puts the Mazda 6 on the list of disappointing "almost there" releases in the past couple of years, and that's a shame.

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