Monday, April 22, 2013

2014 Mazda6 Ride & Drive: What I Learned

One of the great perks about selling cars, especially a brand that you really believe in, is the opportunity to drive the vehicles every day and when new models come out, you're the first to experience them.  I have always advocated on this blog that you must drive the vehicle before you can make an informed buying decision.  And, more importantly, before I can sell a vehicle, I need to drive it (I mean really drive it) under more challenging conditions that my customers will encounter.  I need to become a believer and there is no better way to find out what is the true personality of the vehicle than to really put it through its paces.

As part of the training provided by Mazda Canada, I recently participated in the Mazda6 Ride & Drive training in Toronto which gave dealership personnel the opportunity to test drive the new 2014 Mazda6 on a challenging slalom course against its major competitors.  Unfortunately, I have not figured out a way to replicate this experience for my customers (other than to share the above video).  So, from here to the end of this blog post, please excuse my enthusiasm for Mazda's latest new product, the 2014 Mazda6.

Wow!   The Mazda6 Ride & Drive held in Toronto recently put the new 2014 Mazda6 with SKYACTIV-G (gasoline) engine and new SKYACTIV-D (diesel) engine up against the 2013 Ford Fusion, 2013 VW Passat, 2013 Honda Accord, and 2013 Kia Optima on a demanding slalom course at Ontario Place.  Click on the video link (above) to share some of the experience and excitement.

The new Mazda6 was awesome and the diesel version is definitely going to shake up the market (and a certain German competitor I'll leave nameless).  The Ford Fusion came closest to being a viable competitor (if you can handle the ultra techie interior).  The Honda Accord was a big disappointment on on all dimensions (I expected more from Honda).  The VW Passat was consistent but lacked any enthusiasm (that I expected from a German sedan).  The Kia Optima was a powerful handful to drive (when the traction control was turned off) but with TCS turned on (the normal condition), the car was unpredictable in emergency maneuvers.

One of the benefits of this kind of head-to-head comparison is discovering than not all safety systems are created equal.  For example, all vehicles now have an electronic stability control system, however, try each on a hard turn at speed and see how well (or how poorly) it keeps the car tracking true.  The level of sophistication of these systems is something that is hard to demonstrate on a normal test drive but some vehicles and brands spend the money for systems that work seamlessly (and some don't).  I can report that the Mazda6 worked so well that I always felt in control under all situations.

Driving a cross-section of the market's best mid-sized sedans on a test track was great fun and great education into how the various vehicles perform in emergency manoeuvres.  The fact that Mazda has the confidence in their product to put it up against the other competitors in such a venue gives me a great deal of confidence that no one is selling a better product in this class than I am.