This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the stories.
When I drove the 2,5 litre Dynamic Activematic (5-speed auto) version of the Mazda6 just over a year ago (see Mazda6 2.5 Dynamic Activematic in the drop-down menu, left), I wondered why only those who picked the range-topping manual transmission car were considered good enough to enjoy DSC (dynamic stability control) and TCS (traction control system) with their rides.
Mazda partly overcame this objection by dropping the full house manual and transferring DSC and TCS to its new flagship, the Individual Activematic that I drove recently. This was probably in response to market demand, because I can’t see many choosing a six-speed manual version of this particular vehicle. Despite the company’s efforts to play up “Zoom-zoom” philosophy and sporty features in its literature, this Mazda6 isn’t really that kind of car.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good, solid machine with good, solid performance for its engine size and type. There is enough room for your average family and it has 519 litres of boot to swallow their entire luggage. All the safety kit is there, along with some nice toys, but it’s the kind of car you might buy when looming family responsibilities force a reluctant farewell to your beloved Fireblade, for instance.
The Mazda6 range has been facelifted and rationalised for 2010. The four model lineup now consists of two 2,0 litre six-speed manual versions in Original and Active trim, and a pair of 2,5 litre five-speed automatics in Active and Individual guises.
Visible changes include new grille, bumper, fog lamps, side sills and headlamps in front, new bumper and combination lamps at the rear, new wheels, and cosmetic changes to the dash and instruments inside. Underneath, changes to front and rear suspension systems and steering gear have optimised stability, response and ride quality.
Standard equipment on the Individual includes heated outside mirrors with indicator repeaters, cruise control, trip computer, dual zone filtered climate control, leather upholstery, a five-speed torque converter auto 'box with manual override and two sets of paddles on the steering wheel, map reading lamps, illuminated vanity mirrors, a six-disc, six-speaker 240 Watt Bose sound system with auxiliary input, remote central locking with smart start, adaptive front lighting, auto-levelling Bi Xenon headlamps, eight-way electric adjustment of the driver's seat plus three memory positions and manual lumbar adjustment, a four-way electrically adjustable front passenger chair, front and rear parking sensors, eight airbags, ABS, EBA, EBD, DSC, TCS, power windows all around and pretty much everything else you can reasonably expect.
Seen from the driver's seat, the dash area is conservative with lots of matt black broken by piano black highlights. Instruments are easy to read and the trip computer is simple to operate. Controls fall readily to hand and driving is easy with quick response to throttle and steering inputs.
The transmission shifts smoothly in full automatic mode although, being a normal torque converter device, it isn't as instantly responsive as some of the more modern units on the road.
In manual override mode, responses are quicker and I especially liked the two pairs of paddles either side of the steering wheel. Down changes are made using a thumb on one of the front pads, while you pull on a conventionally shaped wing behind the wheel with a fingertip, to shift upward. Thumbs down, fingers up, right? Something unusual compared with other systems is that you cannot use the paddles at all, unless you select "manual" with the main selector stick first.
Rear seat knee room is OK and headspace is just enough but not great, owing to the semi-coupé styling of the car. Getting in is easy enough, but exiting can be a bit cumbersome for those with big feet because the doorsills are quite deep. A fold-down armrest reveals a pair of cup holders to supplement those between the front seats.
The boot, big enough for a family's luggage, is long, wide, almost square and fairly deep, with a reasonably low lip. The spare, resting in the usual place under the carpet, is a full-sized alloy unit.
Overall, I rate this Mazda as a good, solid and comfortable family cruiser, but I believe the firm should add DSC and TCS to its other 6-series cars. It’s vital safety kit after all.
Price: R330 440
Engine: 2 488 cc DOHC 16-valve inline four cylinder
Power: 125 kW at 6 000 rpm
Torque: 226 Nm at 4 000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h (claimed): 9,5 seconds
Maximum speed (claimed): 205 km/h
Real life average fuel consumption: about 9,8 l/100 km
Tank: 64 litres
Warranty: 4 years/120 000 km
Roadside assistance: 3 years
Service plan: 5 years/90 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously. Contact me here
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