There was nothing wrong with my Accura TSX (2005, diesel, 140HP) other than the inevitable itch I get every 8 years or so, an itch in the part of the brain responsible for changing cars. Since it's hard to scratch, I had no choice but to visit my local Honda dealer. Alas - in Europe the only thing available is the previous generation of Accura, with a technology 10 years old (meaning: disastrous acceleration of almost 10 seconds for a 200HP engine with an automatic gearbox and even more disastrous fuel economy). The new TSX is out, but not in this corner of the woods. When will it be available? Nobody knows. Perhaps in 2014, perhaps as late as 2015.
That started me reading up on other brands. And a return to Mazda, the last of which I've owned over 10 years ago - a beaten up but much loved MX-3. It took me exactly 16 seconds to fall in love with the new Mazda 6. Only my wife has beaten this record of love at first sight (in Japan, in 1993).
I went for the 2.5i engine - no more diesel, because I was sick and tired of shivering in winter, waiting for the engine to warm up. After checking the pricelist I also chose the top trim, because it was still cheaper than my current Accura. My model is known in Europe as Mazda 6 2.5 Skyactiv-G 192KM 6AT i-ELOOP SkyPASSION. Options: off-white leather seats, sat-nav and the sky roof.
Then was the wait, then the marriage, then one week of waiting for the Ceramic PRO 9H paint protection to harden and finally - hit the road, Martin. So here are my notes after the first 1000km. Each category gets a grade from 1 (disaster) to 6 (sheer perfection), in accordance with my country's school grading system.
* Engine: 6.
+ Better than most I've driven. Including the Cadillacs I've managed to get upgraded to for free by being exceptionally nice to the lady at Phoenix airport rental car counter. The Mazda reacts immediately, has a strong pull from low RPMs and gives a feeling of a solid, steady acceleration. So much so that I don't miss the Accura's turbo-diesel that does push you into your seat, but for a short time.
+ Economy: fantastic for a 2.5 liter, 192HP engine. In a varied cross-country route, including cities and some traffic jams I've ageraged 36.75mpg. My wife's little Suzuki Swift doesn't do any better! My old Accura TSX diesel didn't do much better, and it was a DIESEL, 140HP, with a manual gear box! I've even driven my friend's Accura TSX with a comparable engine: 2.4i, 192HP, automatic. It averaged 25MPG. A whopping 50% worse. AND, worse 0-60 acceleration by over a second.
* Gearbox: 6-.
+ The best I've ever had (not counting the dual-clutch DSD gearboxes from Volkswagen stable - super fast and... super unreliable. It's fast, instinctive, smooth and wants me to never go back to manual.
- Unclear issue of the adaptive gearbox. The salesman assured me that this gearbox "learns" the driver's habits and adopts to them. There's NOTHING on the internet that substantiates that claim... Failing that, I would love to see "Sport", "Standard" and "Economy" modes. Alas.
* Suspension: 5.
+ Great traction in turns, while preserving good comfort of the ride, a little like Mercedes C-class, not much worse than the current generation of Accura TSX (and that's saying a lot). However, things wouldn't be so rosy if I hadn't downgraded to 17" rims. The test drive at the dealer's with the 19" made me concerned about my backbone hitting the base of my skull... I live in a pothole land. Another thing I did was to sell back to the dealer the original tyres and for the same money buy a set of very soft, very quite Goodyear Efficientgrips. They are 3db quieter than the original tires (like a difference between a 50W and a 100W amp).
* Steering: 5-.
+ I had driven better (BMW), but rarely. At first I thought the power steering is too... power. But I was used to Accura which was a bit under-powered, hard to manouver in the garage. After hitting the road for the first time I can say this is the best electric power steering ever. It even transmits the information from the road to a surprising degree (for an electric system).
+ Great steereing wheel shape, I think it was designed especially for my hands
- If this is real leather, then the animal it was made of is not from this planet. Very smooth and too perfect. Almost slippery. My Accura had leather that felt like leather and was nicely perforated in the areas where the hands rest. I miss that a bit. But it's still a nice wheel.
* Car shape / design: 6-.
+ This car should be displayed in ever museum of modern art. With my rims, please (OZ Superturismo).
Every angle delights and often brings to mind... Jaguar.
+ I quickly got used to the oversize side mirriors and don't want to have smaller ones any more. Great back and... down visibility.
- There should be more colors available, especially bottle green like in old Jags. At first I wanted to buy the blue version, but it only looks good in the sun. In the shade it goes grayish. I ended up with silver which most "Jaguarish".
- A minus point for the thin and weak paint. But then every manufacturer does that these days. I'm a bit pissed at having to spend another $1000 to have that paint covered with a ceramic coat, but no choice, I guess.
* Noise: 3+.
- This is NOT the quietests car in its class. All's fine until you reach ca. 60MPH. Then it gets WORSE. The wind noise is much worse than in my old Accura. Especially on a highway. At 96mph (which is still a legal speed in my country) it is really too noisy. I admit that after a few hours I stopped being bothered by that, but they should still find the source of that noise and do something about it.
+ Other than that the cabin is well insulated from outside noise. It helps that the car is significantly wider than the Accura and so the driver's ear is farer from the side window.
* Cockpit: 5-.
+ One of the best designed ones I've sat in. Great ergonomics, and having taken ergonomics as a subject at a university I don't say it lightly
+ Great lighting, much better than in the Accura. The overall impression is of a car of a higher class than this one. In Europe Mazda 6 belongs to Class D (same as Ford Mondeo, BMW 3, Mercedes C-class, Toyota Avensis, Honda Accord, etc.) But it FEELS like Class E (BMW 5, Mercedes E, Toyota Camry, etc.)
+ Excellent rear seats comfort.
+ More than excellent front seats. AS LONG AS you take them to your friendly mechanic and have then bent back the headrests (more on that later).
+ Trivia corner: the rear view mirror can be positioned not only up-down, and left right, but also can be pulled closer to the roof if required (just pull hard on the bar that supports it).
+ A plus for the large bottle holder in the doors.
- The central tunnel is wobbly. Not a bit problem, but takes away from the feeling of quality, comfor and luxury.
- Minus for no space in the doors to put your road map or other things. The space is there, but covered - no idea why. If you knock on that cover it resonates, which can't be good. I wonder if the horrible bass of the audio system isn't partially caused by this cavity. I'm itching to open it up and stuff with acoustic mineral wool.
- Not to sure about the esthetic qualities about the colors - too many, if you ask me. Black, white (leather seats) and red (the seats thread and the pseudo-wooden bar in the dashboard). That bar would look much nicer covered in the same white leather. A thought for the tuners?
- The space around the gear shaft are covered in a kind of black acrylic that gets scratched just by looking at it. I must ask the garage that covered my paint with Ceramic PRO 9H to apply a little of that to this area. Shouldn't cost much as this is a small space.
- The multi-function controller is not protected from drink spills. See a thread somewhere here written by a guy who has already splashed it with some sticky drink...
- It's too bad that the practical little space to the left of the steering wheel where I would normally keep my garage door remote is becoming unusuable if you install the factory sat-nav system. Which brings me to:
- Too few lockable storage spaces! Accura had 5, this one has only 2 (glove compartment and the one under elbow rest).
- And none of those space can be locked with a key! Which is very useful when leaving a car to the parking valet.
- The hard plastic of the whole between the cabin and the trunk is limiting the size of that hole making it impossible to put larger objects into the trunk (I mean my guitarist's amp or my floor tom).
- No trunk net holders. I mean the metal bits to which you attach the flat net that covers the floor of the trunk.
+ Plastic trays for little items in the trunk. Also the spaces under the trunk floor, where I managed to stow away quite a few things like a bottle of spray for removing dead insects from the whindshield, an emergency triangle and a fire extinguisher.
* Seats: 2 -> 5.
Yes, they get only 2 as-is, and 5 once you get your friendly mechanic to beng the headrests back. As-is it is a ticket to bad posture and back pains. I realize car manufacturers started designing the seats for people who slouch, so that in case of an accident the headrest is close to the head. Well', it's NOT GOOD for you to slouch. Rather than design the seats for our bad habits how about we try to improve our posture
+ Good side support. Not as tight as in the Accura, which was really sport-like, but I'm not getting any younger or thinner, so I appreciate a little comfort even if I'm not held tight like in a bucket seat.
* Electronics: 4+.
+ I love the optiosn and the settings, all them 3 and 4-letter acronyms and their programming options. A dream for me - the gadget lover.
+ The start-stop system and i-ELOOP works great. Within the first week of the car use it saved me ONE HOUR of the engine running idle, which does translate to real savings.
+ Plus for ergonomics. I'm glad Mazda resisted the current trend of "one button" operation. Which inevitably means limited options, or going through 3 levels of sub-menus. A large number of buttons may be intimidating AT FIRST, but an average driver does not own a car for one hour, but a frew years. And after learning the functions, it's faster and easier to press one button than to go thorugh menus and modes.
+ Quiet ventillation fans. Only at max setting it really gets noisy. It also has more speed levels than the Accura, which is quite useful.
- I wish it had a better sat-nav system. The Tom-Tom has very few options and is quite primitive compared to the AutoMapa I use on an external unit (and which I still have to carry with me).
- The screen gets very dirty from fingers, which is very visible in direct light. I'm learning now to use the mulit-function controller so that I don't have to touch the screen.
- The system that automatically lowers the headlights when another car is approaching is too sensitive and its sensitivity cannot be programmed. On the road it often lowered the lights based on a reflection from a nearby tree or house.
- I'd like to see a HUD. The new Mazda 3 has it, so why doesn't the higher-speced Mazda 6 get one? It's a pseudo-HUD in Mazda 3, a panel of glass you look through rather than a true HUD in the windshield, but it would still be nice.
- The seat heating buttons are in a wrong place - it's easy to accidentally activate them when putting something in the only storage space for a cellphone or a wallet. Happened to me twice already. Not nice in the heat wave we are experiencing now in Europe.
- The side mirrors should be folded by a separate switch. I've folded them more than once when driving, simply trying to turn the knob and switch from the left mirror to the right mirror adjustment.
- The mirrors should be folded, the windows closed and the sun roof closed with the remote.
* Audio: 3.
+ Plus for working well with the iPhone.
- HORRIBLE bass. OK, so I'm a musician and an ex- recording studio engineer, so I may have higher expectations than an average driver, but sorry - this is terrible. The Bose system does not play back the bass content - it generates it. A monotonious, one-note, booming bass that has nothing to do with what's on the CD. There's no real low bass (there can't be without a subwoofer), so they make up for it with the most booming frequency of about 100Hz by my ear. Middle frequencies are a little better, and high frequencies are quite OK, it's just this bass which spoils the listening experience. I keep it at -3 in the qualizer and manage to listen to the news - fortunately I've never used the car to listen to the music, I have a better system a home.
- Too few FM memory channels and a weird approach to the RDS system: it "remembers" the currently displayed part of the station's name when you press the memory button, so that your station may forever be programmed as... "Radio"
- In the "premium" system one could expect more adjustment options. Something like a 9-band equalizer that I could use to tame that horrible, booming bass.
That's that. I LOVE this car. If you think I hate it after reading some many complaints, you are wrong
I was just trying to write a mini-review and what's good in a review if the author loves every angle and every feature? Nothing is perfect but the source of the shadows on the cave's wall, as old Plato taught us
I hope those note may come useful to someone thinging of buying a Mazda 6. It's a WONDERFUL car and if it has a list of things that could be improved - heck, that list is tiny compared to the vast manority of the vehicles that move on the roads around us!