I have confession to make, I like diesel-powered cars and never ashamed to drive one. Engines made post year 2000 don’t pollute, make as much noise as before and plenty more fun to drive. Most new cars sold in Europe these days are fuelled by diesel, which are driven on long distant trips and over borders frequently. Being engines that can get more work done at lower revs, these robust mills can go the distance with longer service intervals.
Thanks to the advancement in engineering knowhow and motorsport serving as a test bed for these new developments to perfect, the heat combustion engines are either purpose built or modified from series production units. Audi Sport, the racing arm of Audi, had developed six different LMP1 endurance prototype racecars winning a total of 57 race wins in its 10 years of competition, even Peugeot campaigned their own diesel powered race car in the form of the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.
Besides the German and French automakers, the Japanese – on American side to be exact – had their own take on racing with diesels. Mazda Motorsports started its descent into lovable wackiness in 2013 by entering two race-modified Mazda6 sedans each powered by a Skyactiv diesel engine for Grand-Am’s GX class, albeit with rear driven wheels. For 2014 when Grand-Am merged to become the United Sports Car series (later renamed for sponsor WeatherTech) they stuffed the engine into a Lola prototype with the diesel engine which is slightly modified for the needs of racing and the team worked closely with the road car side so that their development work could benefit the road-going Mazda diesels, especially in the Mazda6 Skyactiv-D GVC.
The sleek and sexy D-Segment saloon boasts Mazda’s KODO design philosophy with great effect, which this facelifted version has been subtly revised over the previous version. The Mazda 6’s updated facia features a new chrome garnish that is now integrated into the adaptive xenon headlamp cluster with integrated daytime running lamps, a new grille, updated front signal repeaters and a slightly bigger lower intake, with more chrome above the front fog lamps. These changes may be minor, but are enough to give the large saloon a much neater and assertive face. Completing the saloon’s aggressive-expressive stance are large 19-inch alloy wheels finished in glossy gunmetal hue.
The interior of the Mazda6 has been revised significantly; the centre console, the Mazda Connect touchscreen, steering wheel, instrument cluster and the heads up display received the most attention. The biggest change here is the lower centre console now featuring cubbyhole with a retractable cover, a new Command controller and volume dial, and an electronic parking brake button replacing the good ol’ handbrake.
Also new is the three-spoke steering wheel, which looks and feels a lot less bulky, housing more buttons for cruise control, audio and telephony. They feel good to the touch and hold providing tactile feedback. If you need to shift through the ratios, you can do so via the gear selector – pull down to go up a gear and push up to go down a gear, which is the default sequential gearshift sequence in most racecars. Likewise, you can also shift gears via the paddle shifters placed conveniently behind the steering wheel.
Build wise, the interior is well assembled with good fit and finish with an impressively upmarket aura. The switches and dials offer solid tactile feedback and located within both the driver and passenger’s reach. The glove box compartment is deep and wide, which allowing storage large items. Likewise, the door bins are wide and deep, which easily store drink bottles and other loose items aside.
Again, like in all current Mazda cars, the Mazda6 Diesel GVC’s driver-centric cockpit provides essential driving information right at your fingertips allowing access to many multimedia functions that meet the needs of the modern individual. It comes equipped with MZD CONNECT with a 7” LCD touchscreen display is intuitive and easy to use where quick learners can easily master its controls instantly. Another new feature is the updated Mazda Active Display heads-up-display positioned on the dashboard within driver’s line of sight, which displays current travelling speed and visual instructions from the navigation system in high resolution with improved legibility.
Sound reproduction comes from the Bose Surround audio system with a total of 11 speakers and dynamic noise compensation using a microphone hidden in the cabin. Although they not are the Performance Series featured in cars of higher segments, the system fitted does the job just right. The bass is great, but can get overwhelming at times, so it is best to put it down a notch. With Hidden Orchestra’s Alyth on play, the speakers offer sound that is faithful to the track’s expressive orchestral textures with field recordings, bass, and layers of drums and percussion impressively well.
The front driver and passenger power adjustable seats provide easy and instant adjustability to suit the occupants’ preference. Both front seats provide good amount of comfort on long distances and are laterally supportive when the driving gets spirited.
Being a D-Segment saloon, the Mazda6 sits four adults comfortably with the possibility of fitting a fifth for short distances. Despite the low roof, tall passengers can still bask comfortably the rear.
The rear seats fold 60:40 and come with a retractable armrest with cupholders. Entry and exit at the rear is tall and wide and doesn’t obstruct occupants from getting in and out. Opening the rear trunk enables access into its 483-litre boot with the rear seats up, fold them flat down and the Mazda6 carry a very useful 1,632 litres of luggage – a figure that’s much more competitive with the best in class.
Hiding under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine making 173hp at 4,2000 rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm. The Skyactiv-D mill gives a linear response up to high engine speeds. It drive like a petrol engine and sounds angrier than the Skyactiv-G engine. To eliminate the need of NOx and particulate exhaust after treatment, the cylinder compression ratio is reduced to 14.0:1. Having a low compression ratio enables Mazda engineers to optimise ignition timing for uniform and clean combustion to not only reduce harmful emissions, but to achieve higher workload from each combustion cycle.
Interestingly, the six-speed Skyactiv-Drive box fitted is an interesting bit of kit. Designed from scratch and unlike most conventional autos, the torque converter in the Skyactiv-Drive is much smaller and fitted with full-range lock-up multiple-disc clutch and a vibration damper that extends the time of directly linking the engine rotation to transmission rotation, while reducing harshness. The results are smooth and swift up- and downshift response with softer starts than a dual-clutch transmission and sustaining drive better than a CVT or conventional automatic at higher speeds.
What does this all mean in the real world? The 2.2-litre diesel lump provides linear output all the way to up, while the massive 420Nm pulls the Mazda6 from 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds without any feeling of slippage and up to its 220km/h top speed without breaking a sweat.
Designed to use every single drop of fuel, the powerful mill is just as frugal as well; as tested on the highway, the Mazda6 diesel GVC is able to achieve a frugal 4.9l/100km while driving conservatively within the legal speed limit.
Besides the fuel-efficient diesel engine, the midlife refreshed Mazda6 Skyactiv-D GVC now comes with the new G-Vectoring Control or GVC for short. How it works is actually rather simple; it is an electronic system that momentarily pauses ignition when the sensors determine steering angle and traveling speed. This brief interruption of power literally takes less time than the blink of an eye and unnoticeable, which dips the front end of the vehicle at causes the mass to move forward, which improves grip, stability and response, and helps the driver to make far lesser steering adjustments when turning in bends and on uneven roads, too.
That said, the Mazda6 Skyactiv-D GVC is a step above the pre-updated model; with the help of the fine adjustments in engine output when turning into corners, the car drives more sure footedly through fast and tight bends, which gives the driver a lot of confidence and help them to drive a lot more smoother. Understeer isn’t much of an issue, too. As mentioned, the driver is able to hold the steering straight without having to make slight adjustments to correct to compensate uneven and undulating road surfaces. Cutting to the chase, the big saloon is an enjoyable car to drive.
The Mazda6 Skyactiv-D GVC not only looks good, but also handles way better than most of its rivals; better yet it is able to keep the occupants from feeling carsick. The interior is roomy and well put together with plenty of useful storage spaces. The engine is able to provide frugal fuel consumption and it is able to provide a good amount of performance for the daily commute and the weekend drive. If you do opt for one, the Mazda6 Skyactiv-D GVC comes with 5 Years Manufacturer Warranty or 100,000KM whichever comes first and 3 Years Free Maintenance or 60,000KM whichever comes first.
+ Dynamic design
+ Easy and intuitive controls
+ Frugal fuel consumption
+ Fun to drive
+ Massive low-end torque
Mazda6 Skyactiv-D GVC (CKD)
Price Msia: RM209,190.30 (OTR W/ Insurance)
Engine: 2.2-litre in-line four-cylinder turbodiesel
Top Speed: 220km/h (Tested)
Fuel consumption: 4.9 litres/100km (Tested)