News of the week:
- Ford has previewed the upcoming Focus RS to media and it is a scintillating model.
- The RS – powered by a 2.3L turbo engine which will produce around 235kW – is the latest vehicle to be unveiled as part of a new era of Ford performance that will bring more than 12 performance vehicles to global customers by 2020.
- Through the years, RS models have consistently pioneered innovative performance technologies, from powerful naturally-aspirated and turbocharged powertrains and sophisticated aerodynamic aids to advanced front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive drivelines.
- Vehicles that pioneered AWD technology include the exotic 1984 mid-engined RS200 destined for Group B rallying, the 1990 Sierra RS Cosworth 4×4, the spectacular Escort RS Cosworth and the 1994 Escort RS2000 4×4.
- The original 215 PS Focus RS from 2002 featured a 2.0-litre turbocharged power unit and an advanced limited-slip differential. The second generation model sent 305 PS through its front wheels with a ground-breaking RevoKnuckle suspension design.
- Dramatic exterior design offers enhanced aerodynamics and cooling.
- New Focus RS will be the 30th vehicle to wear the RS badge since 1968; will be built in Saarlouis, Germany, starting late this year.
- Professional rally driver and star of Gymkhana films Ken Block teamed with Ford as a consultant on the development of Focus RS.
- Full product details to be announced at global reveal at Geneva Motor Show.
- I think that this might very be the best hot hatch ever made. But it’s going to have to take a lot to compete with the upcoming Honda Type R and the current Megane RS CUP.
ROAD TEST: Mazda6 2.5 Dynamic AT
The first time I laid my eyes on a Mazda6 was back in 2008 when I attended the launch of the second generation model to the local market. And seeing that I worked for motoring journalist Dave Fall at the time, I was fortunate enough to spend plenty of time at the wheel of the 2.0L and 2.5L models offered by the brand.
Dave was the fleet manager for Ford and Mazda in Cape Town at the time and I often managed his media fleet momentarily whenever he was away in the UK. And to say that I didn’t enjoy the experience of driving the Mazda6 would be a tragedy. In fact, I would rate that particular model as one of the best cars I had ever driven during my career as a motoring journalist.
Alas, the second generation Mazda6 enjoyed little success in South Africa and quietly faded into the background whilst its rivals – the Mercedes Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series – continued to make huge strides into the local car market. At the same time, Mazda and Ford’s divorce was a long and drawn out affair, which left the Japanese manufacturer with little or no marketing support.
Well, after years of uncertainty, Mazda is back and now operates as a totally independent company. Yes, you’ve heard me right. Mazda’s back with a bang and has a host of new models for every member of the family. The latest Mazda6 is just one of those models on offer and we got to spend a week behind the wheel of the 2.5 Dynamic model.
With the latest iteration, the brand has managed to give the vehicle a touch of sportiness to complement its elegant. I am sure many of you might disagree with my sentiment but this vehicle has a unique design from the mundane styling offered by Toyota and Volkswagen these days!
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the interior. It is dull and looks rather dated, albeit, with top notch build quality. This model has all the features you can expect in most new cars in class, such as the touchscreen, but it looks like it was installed as an afterthought and it isn’t nestled neatly into the dashboard as you’d expect on most new cars.
Then again, we’re about a year or two behind the rest of the world when it came to bringing this model to market. The current Mazda6 has been on sale since 2012 in other markets and a facelift is imminent. So we can expect Mazda’s designers to pay careful attention to detail to ensure that the model is spruced up nicely.
A bonus, however, is that the new model is much longer than you’d come to expect and one of the longest in its class, thus making it a pleasure for rear passengers who can now take advantage of the acres of legroom.
It’s also equipped with plenty of standard features which will only feature on the options list of many of its rivals. These include keyless entry and start, dual zone climate control, sunroof (model dependant), cruise control and electric seats, amongst others. The flagship Individual model carries a R26 000 premium but it’s worth every penny. It gets blind spot assist, high-beam control, lane departure warning and tons of safety features as well.
But there’s one major disappointment. The most powerful engine is a naturally-aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder petrol which delivers 138kW and 250Nm of torque, which isn’t much to write home about especially up against the force-induced rival models currently on sale.
And if you live in Gauteng, you’ll possibly find that the engine feels a bit lethargic, something that is synonymous with Kia and Hyundai, but certainly not Mazda! I wouldn’t call the performance sprightly but it will get up to a decent speed on the high speed and happily chirp along at 120kph.
But it is a very modern engine which employs Mazda’s Skyactiv technology. Mazda has managed to develop the engine to be as light as possible, whilst combining a high compression ratio and a longer stroke. The model come standard with stop-start system as well as regenerative braking – all of this in aid of making the vehicle as frugal as possible. Mazda claims a combined fuel consumption of 6.6-litres per 100km but it’s pretty far off in the real world. During my test period, I managed to average around 8.5-litres per 100km.
The 6-speed auto gearbox is decent – it swaps seamlessly through the rev range and it’s definitely a step up from the older auto boxes of yesteryear! The suspension is tuned for comfort and less sportiness, but even on some winding roads, the car handled decently. The steering is nicely weighted, it’s direct and intuitive.
But it comes at a price. Expect to fork out R373 000 for the 2.5 Dynamic model on test. Then again, it is much more affordable than many of its rivals. It comes with tons of features which you’d only get as an option of the German rivals. It’s about R40 000 cheaper than the equivalent Audi A4. The Volkswagen Passat 1.8T and Peugeot 508 1.6T might be slightly cheaper but they aren’t nearly as well specced as the Mazda6.
Ford’s recently launched Fusion is the only model that stands in the way of the Mazda6. The advantage to Ford is that the Fusion is available with a range of turbo-powered engines, and a seriously great price tag.
But that doesn’t mean you need to forgo the Mazda in favour of the Ford. You can always opt for the Mazda6 2.2L turbodiesel model with 129kW and 420Nm of torque. But you’ll have to dig deeper into your pocket and fork out an additional 30 grand to get your hands on one.