Mazda learns to play it by the numbers


Mazda is making news again. The Japanese manufacturer, now controlled by Ford, has had been relatively quiet of late but that's coming to an end as the firm announces a brace of new models, writes Andrew Hamilton.

On the Irish market, the new 6, successor to the 626, goes on sale at the end of this month, in saloon form. Next month the hatchback versions arrive and, in August, estates and diesel-engined cars will be on sale.

Diesel is set to bring new customers to the marque, not just with the new 6 but also in the much revised MPV that will have its Irish launch in October.

The MPV - it's simply called that - has been on Irish sale for some time but it has not been hugely familiar on the streets. Probably its best-known competitor is the Galaxy from the parent Ford company. The Galaxy and the other competitors in the class such as the Seat Alhambra and the Volkswagen Sharan all have diesel power.

"It will be a great help to us having the diesel," says Mazda marketing manager David Moran. "That's where 80 per cent of the business is."

As well as a 2.3 litre 141 bhp petrol engine, the MPV has a 2.0 litre 136 bhp common-rail diesel. We drove the diesel-engined model for a couple of hundred miles last week over flat Austrian terrain. Like most of the common-rail ilk, it's quiet and particularly responsive in the middle and lower gears.

Compared with the old model, there have been suspension modifications, more powerful brakes and a stiffer body. Externally, it comes with restyled and fuller bumpers, new headlamps and new 16-inch alloy wheels. Carried over from the old MPV are features like twin sliding doors which, Mazda says, allow easy entry and exit in narrow parking bays.

The old MPV sold here as a five-seater. Mazda at the international launch intimated that it would be available with seven seats as standard in some markets and five seats in others. With all the seven seats fitted, it can carry seven adults with ease, while the five seats from the second and third rows can be removed to provide more than 2,500 litres of carrying capacity.

The new MPV has a standard specification which includes four airbags, ABS, air conditioning, a height adjustable steering wheel, roof rails and electric windows, both front and rear.

The old MPV with a 2.0 litre petrol engine that's now succeeded by the 2.3 unit, retailed here at €36,500. There's still no clue as to what the new versions will cost. "We are still in the middle of price negotiations," says David Moran.