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2006 Mazda Speed6 Road Test
'Holy Shamolley!' This car moves!
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
Don't believe all that you hear about the life of an auto journalist. It is not all fast cars and exotic locations. Yes, very occasionally, some of us get to drive the latest wild ride from the supercar manufacturers, but much more often, we're in your normal, everyday vehicles. It was with this in my mind that I arrived at Mazda's head office to pick up my car for the week, another four-door family offering from the Mazda stable: A nice Mazda6 sedan fitted with a four-cylinder engine. Well, at least it will be economical, I thought to myself.
This is where I usually say that “they handed me the keys” but they didn't; what they gave me was my very own Mazda credit card -- or at least that's what it looked like. After realizing that it didn't have a magnetic strip or any numbers printed on it, I pushed everything on the card that resembled a button, expecting to see a key flick out from it, but nothing. I walked off in the direction of the car park thinking “are we really becoming a keyless society”?
Approaching the vehicle, I was suitably impressed. Mazda has a unique way of giving all its products a certain sporty look; even this sensible four-door model carried 18-inch alloy wheels and a cute little trunk lid spoiler. Now it's probably not going to give the young tuner guys heart palpitations, but for a guy like me sporting a slight middle age spread, it couldn't hurt my street cred.
The interior followed along similar lines, black leather bucket seats; leather-bound three-spoke steering wheel and a dashboard that wouldn't have looked out of place in a two-seat roadster. I turned the key and started it up -- well actually not -- I turned a little knob where the key should have been.
This vehicle sports a six-speed gearbox. That's impressive, but then again I guess the more gears that you have, the more you're going to get out of that 2.3-litre four-cylinder. After driving about a block or two, it was time to join the highway, so I pushed the accelerator pedal and aimed for a suitable gap in the northbound traffic.
Holy Shamolley! What have I got here, a Speed6, not just a Mazda6? It's more like a speed fix! I hadn't noticed the sporty nameplate when I picked up this Mazda.
To call this car a wolf in sheep's clothing just doesn't do justice to the vehicle! Imagine that the wolf has just shoved a kilo of white powder up his nose and now you're starting to get the idea.
As I live in the countryside north of the city, I started to search out the twisty back roads where I could put the car through its paces. The vehicle was totally in its element on them and let me quickly run through the reasons why.
The DOHC 16-valve engine with a direct-injection turbo system produces 274 horses; all of this is then coupled to a slick manual gearbox. It has an independent coil sprung suspension all round with stabilizer bars back and front. It also boasts a dynamic stability control system and anti-lock brakes with EBFD (electronic brake force distribution). Oh! I should mention that the Speed6 is equipped with Mazda's multi-mode active torque split all-wheel-drive system and carries a limited slip differential.
The Speed6 just loves winding roads; it is also rather partial to a bit of gravel now and then, so on country roads it's a blast! I have tried to put a handle on what the Speed6 is truly like but I think that the best way that I could describe it would be a Subaru WRX without all the boy-racer bits.
Of course, the vehicle also has its civilized side with plenty of room for the family, reasonable trunk space and a whole host of the usual safety features. It also carries a six-disc in-dash CD changer with Bose audio system and seven speakers. This I tried for a few minutes and found extremely pleasant, but not quite as pleasing to the ears as the vehicle's exhaust growl.
All in all, I truly enjoyed my week in the Speed6. I've tried the so called “hot hatchbacks” before and they're nice, but I tend to like a car with a real trunk and a door for everyone. If I were in the market for a new car, I think that I'd forget the “hot hatch” and go for the “flaming four door”!
Base Price: $35,995
Price as tested: $38,795 (includes $2,800 leather package, keyless entry and moon roof)
Fuel economy: City 12.5L/100km, Highway 8.5L/100km.
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.6 seconds.
What's new for 2007 models?
Voice-controlled Navigation System optional with Leather Package
Exterior colour added: Titanium Grey Metallic
Exterior colour removed: Liquid Platinum Metallic