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Long-term road test: Living with a Mazda6 in SA

2016-07-18 08:55

IS IT A GOOD BUY? 'As a year-long test confirmed, it will make a great second-hand buy,' writes Peter Frost who bids farewell to the Mazda6 sedan. Image: TopCar

Peter Frost

  • Ups: A year of near flawless service
  • Downs: Largely unappreciated and now defunct 

Cape Town - There is something essentially futile about spending a year with a car that ultimately doesn’t make it to the finish line. Finish line?

Yes, because Mazda has confirmed that the 6 will not be offered in South Africa going forward. Frustrating indeed, especially when it has proved so competent as both a tourer and everyday commuter.

Globally, the Mazda 6’s natural enemies are the Honda Accord, VW Passat and Ford Fusion (Mondeo in other markets).

READ: New Mazda 6 tunes up the bland

With the possible exception of Passat, they all battle in South Africa, largely because they are caught halfway between executive sedan and budget family car.

And as they endeavour to move upmarket and offer more features, the problem is exacerbated; their key selling point is their relative value, and if they get expensive, then they essentially lose their reason for being.

Image: QuickPic

Mazda vs. BMW

In the final reckoning, few South Africans are going to choose a Mazda 6 over a BMW 3-Series if the cost difference is negligible.  

So that’s it, spilt milk, gnashing of teeth, but get over it. What it does mean is that the 6 becomes a very attractive nearly-new car and the canny buyer should keep their eyes open for a late model. And judging from our experience, the 400Nm diesel-engined 2.2DE is the one to go for, in either Dynamic or Atenza spec.

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A run-down of our test year goes something like this - fast trips into the city from the commuter belt, a fair amount of stop/start work and three cross-country trips. The heavy lifting happened across the back roads of the Great Karoo, through the driest, hottest summer in years, on appalling roads.

Whatever was thrown at it, the Mazda came up trumps. Outstanding attributes include the car’s overtaking abilities at pretty much any speed (all that torque), its handling prowess, useful economy and the comfort of the rear compartment.

These positives make it an ideal long distance tourer, as I noted throughout the year. Its copy book was blotted by a few irritating niggles (a rattling dashboard that was never fully fixed) and a few more serious issues, most notably the ride quality, which was harsh on rutted surfaces.

That’s largely due to the 45 profile of the 19" tyres, great for road holding but less impressive for comfort. The other issues were road noise at speed and wet weather traction, again due largely to those sizeable tyres.

A photo posted by MazdaSA (@mazda_sa) on

Shelving the product

The front-wheel-drive car was prone to aquaplane at speed which was, in at least one situation, very unnerving. Other minor niggles were the lack of sat-nav and the limited specification level in general - it certainly lacked the bells and whistles currently offered by most of its competitors.

This was going to be partially addressed with the facelift, initially due mid-year, but Mazda’s decision to shelve the model put paid to the infotainment touchscreen upgrade.

Ultimately though the car’s basic integrity means the absence of toys is less irksome than it might otherwise be.

Rarely did I feel the need for what I - rightly or wrongly - regard as nannying safety aids, or the absence of sat-nav (Google maps on a smartphone is my go-to in any case).

The traditional cruise control doesn’t think for you, as an example, meaning long distance trips are not punctuated with impromptu emergency braking situations as your car suspects you may be overtaking too fast or haven’t seen the car in front. 

All of this - the technical simplicity, the commendable build quality, the long distance ability and the everyday economy - all recommend it as an ideal nearly-new purchase.

And great deals will be available as dealers try to shift run-out stock. The book value on a 2016 Mazda 6 2.2DE Dynamic with 10 000km is around R379 000 but expect to knock at least R40k off that. Sounds like a lot of car for the money. And I’m pretty sure it will give years of fuss-free service.

And more importantly, be a hoot to drive. Adios good looking, back to Transylvania.

Count the cost

Cost then: R404 000
Cost now: R404 000 (discontinued May 2016)
Resale value: R379 000
Cost per kilometre, including depreciation: R2.22

Logbook Mazda6 2.2DE Dynamic

Odo reading start/now: 60km/19 230km
Distance covered: 19 170km
Fuel consumed: 1 541 litres
Average consumption: 8.04 L/100km
Service interval: 15 000km
Service cost: Covered by three-year or unlimited km service plan
Total fuel cost: R17 464.22  
Running cost: 98c/km

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Read more on:    mazda  |  south africa  |  new models  |  road tests  |  mazda6  |  columns

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