Mazda6 2.2D: The Richard Gere of Japanese D-sedans

No matter how sensible or practical a car may be, car-buying deliberations are rarely predicated on prudency alone. Emotions ultimately play a key part in consummating the purchasing decision. Of course, it’s a different story when budget is restricted and no other viable alternative is available, but this isn’t the case here.

Seeing is believing, and there’s 450Nm of torque too.

At RM213,426, the Mazda6 2.2D is pricey for a Japanese D-sedan, fully-kitted with a host of active safety features and Japan CBU notwithstanding. So even if it did achieve an astonishing 21km/l from KL to Penang (toll to toll) over mixed traffic with speeds adhering to or sometimes slightly above the national limit (must be a tailwind), the recently facelifted (for the second time) Mazda6 sedan, now in its last leg of service, would have to offer more than just frugality.

The diesel-powered Mazda6 is capable of over 20km/l on the highway.
Kodo and Richard Gere

Good design is a bit like Richard Gere, it ages well, even after a few facelifts. For a silhouette that’s technically seven years old, the Mazda6 has staying power and looks enduringly handsome after the latest round of nip and tuck. There’s a new grille with reprofiled chrome surround and jewellery-effect mesh, new bumpers, reconstituted LED illumination fore and aft, and a distinctive rear chrome strip that reaches into the revised tail-lamps. Those 19-inch alloys with ‘dark chrome’ wheel spokes help to no end too.

Still pretty, now into its seventh year of service.

Mazda doesn’t apologise for putting aesthetics first, the 6’s high beltline and narrow glass areas makes the cabin feel snug against other D-sedans even though rear legroom is good, centre occupant excluded. The adoption of parts from newer models; new steering wheel, heads up display along with softer materials at various touch points does spruce up the interior but you can only do so much to an interior that’s fundamentally dated, even if most things feel as premium as the premium sticker price implies.

Double exhaust tips, tight wheel clearances and sexy haunches never gets old.
Diesel as flagship, why not

Diesel engines have had to cope with a bad rep ever since some manufacturers decided to game regulations, so despite yielding class-leading fuel efficiency and low CO2 emissions (though not necessarily nitrogen oxide), Mazda’s 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D four-cylinder won’t be getting the recognition it deserves as one of the best diesel engines ever to run on Malaysian roads, even taking into account those from Europe, past and present.

It may be unusual for Mazda to position the SkyActiv-D as the top variant for both the Mazda6 and CX-5 line-ups. In terms of output, the 188hp/450Nm diesel offers almost twice the amount of torque (and only a few hp shy) of the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre, which means it has the kind of effortless performance befitting a flagship saloon but surprisingly absent of the foibles associated with diesel power.

For starters, the 2.2-litre four-cylinder is muted on cold starts, uncommonly smooth on idle and never sounding gruff when fed with revs. The refined performance has as much to do with Mazda’s efforts to update this Euro 6-rated diesel engine as the NVH improvements on the 6 itself. Even though the trusty 6-speed automatic isn’t the fastest in the business, the linear delivery of the engine (a small and a larger turbo ensure that) easily makes up for any slack in the transmission.

Latest iteration of the Mazda6 cabin is as tactile and tasteful as you can expect from something of its age.

The only thing typical about the 6 is how it drives, which is to say it’s untypical of many other Japanese cars with light controls and comfort-biased handling. The more weighted feel of the steering and brake pedal on the Mazda are entirely in tune with the firm damping of the suspension, all of which convey a sense of sportiness and solidity without it ever being uncomfortable or harsh riding on those lovely 19-inch alloys.

High centre tunnel impinges leg room of those sitting in the middle.
Form is temporary, class is permanent

At a time when three-box saloons are under siege from SUVs, the 6 is almost a forgotten child. But some seven years after it stole everyone’s hearts as Mazda’s new style icon, it only takes a cursory glance for its enduring beauty to shine through once again. With the 2.2-litre diesel, this is probably the most frugal D-sedan money can buy, but it’s the Mazda6’s intangible qualities that makes it a little bit special each time you set off on a journey. And that’s what paying a premium is all about.

Mazda6 SkyActiv-D 2.2D
: RM213,426.47  Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, common-rail diesel, FWD  Output: 188hp / 450Nm  Transmission: 6-speed automatic  Performance: 0-100km/h in 8.5 seconds; top speed 220km/h (estimated)  Wheels/tyres: 225/45 R19  Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control  Warranty: 5-year/100,000km mileage (with 5-year/100,000km maintenance included)