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As it is, both the Mazda6 and the CX-5 are already impressive in its own right, but would it fare better now with a diesel engine at helm? Keegan Dorai takes them both for a spin to experience the full-on, full-bore Skyactiv-D magic.

by KEEGAN DORAI

latter, clatter, and clatter — the unmistakable hum of a diesel engine that somehow pulls right in front of you while you’re having your cigarette break after lunch, emitting that metallic-like smell that gets you annoyed, and somehow spewing a little puff of black smoke as it chugs off after backing away.

I mean, that’s diesel motoring for you, and it’s equally as dreadful as the way your parents describe a particular test car you brought back which sounds like a boisterous locomotive. Apart from resonating like one, you neighbour might think you’re a downright maniac for trading in your old but refined petrol-powered car in for something sounding so awful during coldstart. Unfortunately, this is one mentality that will foresee a long road of endless convincing for acceptance in our society.

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However, Mazda is here to challenge the rest by doing what other manufacturers aren’t doing yet. Well, not all of them though cause you can buy your next BMW 3-series with a diesel engine, or even a Peugeot 508 in a similar fashion. Still, the petrol derivates are proving better sales results that their very own oil-burning cousins can’t even dream of achieving. Could this be a waste of exercise? I don’t think so, but I would like to congratulate Mazda for being bold by doing so to spur up our automotive market.

More choices are warm-heartedly welcomed, and in our current economy climate, it makes extremely good sense to buy a diesel. I mean, do you really want to blow a quarter of your pay check by driving a guzzler which returns you a pathetic 300km in range with one full-tank of petrol? This is why automakers are tapping into this sector by being gallant to fulfil the needs of those in search for something a little bit wallet-friendly.

A sensible man would buy a diesel if he loves munching up miles on the highway. Well you can’t exactly blame him because like me, buying a house in a strategic location these days might cause you more than a liver and a limb, leaving most of us average blokes resorting to the outskirts, which is easily 50km away from your office. The worst bit however, is to face that seriously terrible morning rush — where you get stuck behind another car with a chap smoking profusely at the wheel fretting about how terrible life is.

This fast-forwarded us to Mazda’s new 6 and CX-5 Skyactiv-D. The sole engine that has been garnering them lots of market response in Europe, and the boffins locally at Mazda would like to know whether we Malaysians would appreciate something that sips a little less fuel than your old petrol-powered workhorse.

Let’s start off with the impressive-looking Mazda6. Unlike its staid-looking predecessor, the new 6 is so well-designed that it even won the prestigious RedDot design of the year during its global introduction. Yes, it comes with an exquisite bodyshell that would simply drive a Jaguar owner into a rage of jealousy.

Having driven its petrol-powered sibling, I am sure the diesel will fare even better. Flagging off from the exquisite Saujana Hotel at Ara Damansara, the 6 was eager, thrusty and simply effortless at lower speeds. Creeping pass the infamous roundabout entrance hogged by club members rushing for their golfing session and out to the open road, the 6 is already impressive at first impression.

On the highway in civilised cruising speeds, there is nothing much to fault about the 6’s refinement. Im guessing you might think it will be clattery? If you do, then you’re definitely wrong. At first glance, I was confused on whether have I driven off the petrol variant from the start by mistake. It was simply astonishingly quiet, and it will serve you well in your daily typical home-to-office commute drive. This is the type of refinement you’ll get with the world’s lowest compression diesel engine.

‘...the new 6 is so well-designed that it even won the prestigious RedDot design of the year during its global introduction.’

Taking some history into consideration, the 6 has always been an avid competitor that rumbles alongside the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. However, Mazda is also keen on taking the Europeans at one go at this very moment. With this, the new 6 is technically larger, lighter and more economical at every edge — echoing lots of aesthetic touches from the famed Takeri concept that totes the company’s new design direction.

As a result, the 6 is the most outstanding prospect in a crowd of commoners that is gifted with a superb chassis that shares the marque’s latest Skyactiv tech. Not in favour of this 175bhp diesel variant as tested here? Then do start your purchase by glancing at the potent 2.0-litre 153bhp, or step up to the raspy 2.5-litre motor, which puts out an impressive 185bhp. No matter which one you choose — the 6 is — as a whole, is already a great proposition that will put a smile on your face upon driving off the showroom floor.

Doubtless of any motor you choose from, the 6 strikes a fine balance in both pace and power delivery. In this guise, the throttle response is excellent, and it works reasonably well alongside the slightly lengthy six-speed automatic transmission on a spirited drive at the back roads of the ninth state. Inevitably, there is an apparent hint of sluggishness at higher revs, but as you gain pace through the low-range powerband — the 6 quickly evolves into a brisk machine that simply purrs its way through on a twisty coastal road.

Shortly after reaching our destination in Port Dickson, and then off to some lunch where a zoo-like birdcage is out of window’s view, we then soon exchanged our lovely 6 for a CX-5 Skyactiv-D with other fellow journalists in the fraternity. Apart from it being a little nose-heavier at the twisties, the CX-5 feels no different in handling characteristics from its petrol-powered sibling.

Yes, it is regarded as one of the smallest crossovers dimensionally its class, but taking things into consideration, the CX-5 does excel in the practicality department for a typical family of four. There are ISOFIX points for you to anchor a child seat on, a cavernous and class-leading 503-litre boot, and six airbags for those in pursuit for some assurance on safety.

Unlike lower-end models in the chain, Mazda’s I-Activ Sense is now a standard feature for this range-topping diesel, which brings you city safety features, blind-spot indicators and lane assist. Yes, it is a welcoming feature again, and there is nothing much to fault about its specification. Power? You’re looking at a chunky 173bhp with a whooping 420Nm combo.

Conceiving as it sounds, the CX-5 however takes a comfy 9.2 seconds in a century sprint. It sounds slow, but trust me, it’s no slouch as the CX-5 is an effortless motorway cruiser that will both reward you through its succulent efficiency and power delivery. This thing is honestly fast, and it drives amazingly well for its bulk. Likewise, the CX-5 will be an appeasing choice for those needing to ferry occupants with added luggage in a long journey.

As we’re nearing our destination, the CX-5 has left most of us fascinated. Let’s not forget that it is the only crossover in its class to be conveyed with a diesel motor, and it looks like it will secure that title for a very long time. Would you still go for the peppy, RM162,000 2.5-litre petrol variant, or shed out another RM5,000 for this oil-burning victor? That is up to those who are in the market for one. But if I'm in those shoes, I would go straight for this and enjoy its frugality that is thrown in with a touch of effortless performance that is combined with a complete package of niceties. This is a complete all-rounder.

The 6 Skyactiv-D on the other hand barges into a price bracket where the BMW 316 sits in comfortably. At a handsome RM208,739, this is where time will prove whether it will succeed in a hotly-contested market segment where everyone is out to get the best of every dime they’ve spent. Nonetheless, the 6 is undeniably one of the best D-segment saloons that you can attain now for the driveway. It perseveres on by offering a superb driving experience, which is undeniably engaging and economical in return — seemingly setting an example within a class that is now deviating themselves away towards an even more greyer path.

‘ ...the CX-5 is an effortless motorway cruiser that will both reward you through its succulent efficiency and power delivery.’

Mazda6
Skyactiv-D

Engine Inline-four, 2191cc, turbodiesel
Power 173bhp at 4500rpm
Torque 420Nm at 2500rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
Weight 1525kg
Power-to-weight N/A
Price RM208,739

Mazda
CX-5 Skyactiv-D

Engine Inline-four, 2191cc, turbodiesel
Power 173bhp at 4500rpm
Torque 420Nm at 2500rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
Weight 1605kg
Power-to-weight N/A
Price RM166,335

'It perseveres on by offering a superb driving experience, which is undeniably engaging and economical in return'