Mazda6 has been launched in South Africa with a fair bit of pizzazz and “zoom-zoom” - but the PR guys could merely have pointed to its very favourable reception by the overseas press and said: “See for yourselves!”

Mazda6 has been launched in South Africa with a fair bit of pizzazz and “zoom-zoom” - but the PR guys could merely have pointed to its very favourable reception by the overseas press and said: “See for yourselves!”

It has won 40 awards in 23 countries since its international debut last year, including 10 national Car of the Year awards - so comes with a reputation that will be put to the test here, and slaps it straight up against competition including the Toyota Camry, Renault Laguna, Volkswagen Passat, Citroen C5, Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord, and - lower priced - BMW 3, Mercedes C and Audi A4. Indeed, Mazda says its research and benchmarking process involved detailed examinations of many competitive vehicles, especially the 3-series, A4, Volvo S40 and Mercedes Benz C-Class.

Mazda has gone to great lengths to point out that the company aims to put “fun to drive” at the top of its attributes, and that the 6 "has been developed to compete as a true 'driver's car with the best brands from Germany". It would appear Mazda has succeeded in that aim, as there's no doubt that it's a car you can enjoy driving. It also marks a determined aim to firmly separate the Mazda and Ford brands - no more badge engineering here, this one is a Mazda through and through. And that is the way things are going to be from now, Mazda has stated clearly, with a series of new-model launches promised throughout the year.

Design-wise, the Mazda6 is arguably it is one of the most elegant cars, with smooth lines, a hint of aggression around the front end to make you look carefully (there’s nothing tentative about the styling cues here, with the bonnet line protruding quite a way above the front wings), and a ready-to-pounce stance. And, of course, those striking, off-beat rear lights of clear glass tail lights that were designed to match the front headlights.

The 6 is a fairly large car, with plenty of luggage space thanks to rear suspension design that reduces the space taken up by the wheel arch intrusions. However, it feels smaller than it really is when you're driving it.

Steering is light but positive, and the ride quality is pretty good too. At the front, the Mazda6 features a high-mounted, double wishbone with MacPherson strut suspension and friction-optimised rack-and-pinion steering system mounted on a rigid perimeter frame for extreme rigidity and isolation of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). At the rear is an all-new E-type multi-link suspension.

Down to the nitty-gritty: the 2,0-litre, DOHC motor puts out 99 kW at 6 000 r/min, with 177 N.m of torque at 4 500 r/min. The 2,3-litre gives 122 kW at 6 500 r/min and pushes torque up to 207Nm at 4 000 r/min, and features sequential valve timing and balancing shafts.

Engines are aluminium (both blocks and cylinder heads) with iron cylinder sleeves cast directly into the block.

An interesting item on the 2,3 models are the two tailpipes, one at each side, which you’d think would indicate a V6 lurking under the bonnet. Questioned about this, Rob Crouse, marketing manager for Mazda in South Africa, said the motor had been designed to give V6 performance and low-down grunt, but deliver four-cylinder economy.

The range of new engines, transmissions and drive systems were especially designed for the Mazda6. The four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve petrol engine is 2.0-litre (99 kW) and 2.3-litre (122 kW) with Mazda's Sequential Valve Timing. The range consists of four models: 2,0 Elegant five-speed manual, the 2,3 Sporty five-speed manual, 2.3 Sporty Lux five-speed manual and 2,3 Sporty Lux four-speed Activematic (automatic).

Air conditioning, power steering, electrically operated windows and mirrors, remote central locking with a super lock feature, Radio/CD are standard across the range with the Sporty and Sporty Lux models also including an in-dash six-CD front-loading player and cruise control, both with satellite controls operated from the steering wheel - as well as automatic air conditioning with climate control.

The Mazda Sporty Lux models (manual and Activematic) also have leather trim with electric multi-adjustable driver and passenger seats and a sunroof.

Where wheels and tyres are concerned, the 2,0-litre models have 205/55 R16 tyres on five-spoke alloys, while the 2,3 Sporty and Sporty Lux models are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels with low profile 215/45 R17 tyres.

Service intervals are 20 000 km, with a three-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as Mazda's new five-year, 60 000 km maintenance plan, which is standard on every Mazda6 bought.

Prices (including VAT):

2,0 Elegant R197 700

2,3 Sporty R224 000

2,3 Sporty Lux five-speed R236 400

2,3 Sporty Lux automatic R245 474.

Original article from Car