Turning Diesel Into ‍‍

MAGIC

It takes one brand to reach this point, and clearly Mazda has proven it right with the latest Mazda6 Skyactiv-D. Being equipped with all of the necessary bells and whistles, we've decided to take it out for a nice long drive to experience what one of the best saloon in its class has to offer.

words by KEEGAN DORAI

...the unmistakable hum of a diesel-powered vehicle that somehow pulls right in front of you while you’re having your 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 close to you.

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 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.

However, Mazda is here to challenge the rest by doing what other manufacturers aren’t doing yet — l‍‍‍ike selling you a diesel. Well, not all of them though cause you can buy your next BMW with a diesel engine, or even a Peugeot in 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 trapped on the Federal Highway and seeing your fuel ticking to empty.‍‍‍

Clatter

This fast-forwarded me to the new Mazda6 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.

Exteriorly, the 6 looks absolutely brilliant. Given that cars with a sleek and swooping-line laden exterior, the perception is often pointed at it will age quickly than normal evergreen designs. However, this won’t be the case — it still looks the part and feels like new despite being on the market for a couple of years now.

Having driven its petrol-powered sibling, I am sure the diesel will perform much better. As we leave Taman Desa for a nice long road trip up north — and long meaning crossing the border to Thailand, the 6 was thrusty and simply effortless at lower speeds. Driving pass the infamous curvy roads on Penchala, and soon out the open highway passing Jalan Duta, the 6 is already creating positive views 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. Upon reaching Juru for a refuel, I was left rather confused at the wheel for a brief moment on whether it needed petrol or diesel going into the tank.

It was simply astonishingly quiet, and it will serve you well in your daily typical home-to-office commute drive, let alone on this epic journey. This is the type of refinement you’ll get with the world’s lowest compression diesel engine.

Taking some history into consideration, the 6 has always been a 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 173bhp diesel variant as we reviewed over here? Then do start your purchase by glancing at the potent 153bhp ‍‍‍2.0-litre, 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, a great proposition that will put a smile on your face upon driving off the showroom floor. Be it from its graceful looks, appealing interior, or even its packaging as a whole.

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 bypassing Perlis and later in Sadao. Body roll is minimal but the suspensions are pliant enough to cope with uneven surfaces.

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, despite being one of the biggest cars in its class (yes, it comes with a 483-litre boot space), and a substantial wheelbase count.

Unlike lower-end models in the line-up, 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.

Likewise, the 6 will always appeal to keen drivers. Given its sporting yet balanced nature in ride and comfort, it somehow leads the class when it comes to driving dynamics. Don’t expect it to outgun the Passat however, cause the latter is still the best so far ‍‍‍— even beating the Ford Mondeo.

The sole issue however, will be its pricing where the BMW 318i 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, if you can bypass its rather hefty price tag. 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.

Known for its Rotary engines in the not-so distant past, but however — this time Mazda has decided to build the most advanced diesel engine to date on its own. Proving others that you don’t need excess compression to combust diesel fuel, which saves you more on wear and tear in long run without expelling harmful emissions.

Besides that, it’s also known as the world’s first diesel engine with the lowest compression ratio, the Skyactiv-D complies with any modern-day exhaust gas regulations. It even lacks a NOx after treatment system, all thanks to its 20-percent better efficiency that is combined with a remarkably low firing rate of 14.0:1.

Unlike high-compression diesel engines that suffers from extreme pressure at the piston’s top dead centre (TDC), Mazda has decided to reduce compression in order to reduce TDC stress — and consequently — enabling better air and fuel mixture. During progress, it assuages all formation of soot and NOx build up through its uniformed combustion technique.

Momentum-wise, the Skyactiv-D sprays fuel during the piston’s upward movement that is close to the TDC. Due to this, it results in a more efficient burning process that not only boasts leaner combustions, but reduces excess exhaust gases upon exiting the chamber. It beats the traditional combustion method of a conventional diesel engine, which burns fuel in between the gap, forming NOx due to insufficient oxygen.

Lower compression has also given Mazda the upper hand of incorporating more lightweight materials during the Skyactiv-D’s manufacturing process. The structure of the engine has been optimised to aluminium as opposed to metal, and with that alone, the Skyactiv-D motor is 25kgs lighter than any conventional diesel engines on the market.

The use of Piezo injectors also enables the mill to produce nine injections in one combustion cycle, and it comes with three types of basic injections; starting from pre-injection, main and post injection. It changes according to driving patterns. It doesn’t only function as an injector, but also sprays the right amount of fuel into the chamber during a cold start, which is partly-helped by the use of ceramic glow plugs.

A Story About Skyactiv-D

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

Price RM208,739

Evo Rating ★★★★