The all-new Mazda6, making its world debut this week at the Moscow motor show, is the second of a new generation of Mazdas (following the new CX-5) using SkyActiv fuel-saving technology and the 'Kodo' (Soul of Motion) design language.
The two-pronged SkyActiv approach calls for more efficient combustion engines, linked to electronic gizmos to reduce the load on those engines. The first was idle stop, introduced in 2009 on the Mazda3; now the Mazda6 premieres an energy-saving system called i-Eloop, a new brake energy regeneration system that starts charging a capacitor the moment the driver takes his foot off the accelerator.
Electricity stored in the capacitor can then be used to power electric components throughout the car, saving fuel that would otherwise be burned to drive the alternator.
Bonnet creases flow from the tips of the 'signature wing' front treatment into three body character lines - an elegant line extending forward from the rear wheel, a rear fender line and a strong front fender line, a traditional Mazda keynote.
LED luminescence and halo ring light guides are seen for the first time in a Mazda production car.
The cockpit is symmetrically laid out with soft-touch materials on areas frequently touched by occupants, such as door trims and the upper dashboard.
The front wheel has been moved 100mm forward, reducing front overhang, while a 2830mm wheelbase (105mm longer than the previous model) creates extra cabin space.
Front shoulder room of 1450mm is 20mm wider than previous model, front legroom is up 37mm to 984mm, the rear centre armrest is 60mm bigger, the rear seat cushion is 20mm longer, the rear seat back is 33mm higher and, most significantly, rear-seat knee clearance is 43mm more than in the 'old' Mazda6.
Even the boot opening is 32mm wider than before.
A multi commander allows intuitive control of an array of functions such as audio, navigation system and sensitivity of the automatic windshield wipers via the 125mm centre display, while trip management information is displayed on an 90mm multi-information screen in the instrument cluster.
While the new Mazda6 has conventional front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension, the new column-type electric power-steering system has been designed to enhance straight-line stability and prevents steering pull when driving on rough roads.
The Mazda6 is on display at Moscow with only two petrol engines - the established SkyActiv-G 2.0, rated for 110kW at 6000rpm and 201 at 4000, and the all new SkyActiv-G 2.5, a lightweight, all-alloy unit for which Mazda quotes 142kW at 5700rpm and 256Nm at 3250.
According to Mazda SA, the model line-up for when the new Mazda6 is released in South Africa in the first half of 2013 has yet to be finalised.
High-beam control detects oncoming vehicles and automatically switches to low beam to help avoid dazzling oncoming drivers, while adaptive front-lighting predicts curves based on the degree of steering input and vehicle speed and turns the headlights in the direction that the vehicle is heading.
Emergency stop signal rapidly flashes the hazard lights in the event of panic braking at 50km/h or faster, in order to warn vehicles behind.
Rear vehicle monitoring detects cars approaching from behind or driving in the blind spot on either side, warning the driver when he turns on the indicator to change lanes, and a lane departure warning system uses a forward-facing camera to judge the position of lines on the road and warns the driver of unintentional lane departures.
And finally, a smart braking system uses an infrared beam sensor to monitor the distance to the vehicle ahead and prevent or reduce fender-benders at low speeds (up to 30km/h) by automatically applying the car's brakes. It's already standard on CX-5 models in some markets.