December 10, 2019 By Johnny Revilla Photos by the author

Return Love Affair

Isabela Road Trip with the Amazing Mazda6 Diesel

First loves. One really never forgets one’s first love.

It’s (normally) a wonderful experience that brings smiles to almost all individuals. However, sometimes, unfortunately, many of us do not end up with our first love. For whatever reason, we fall apart, we outgrow each other, we change, etc.  Things just don’t work out.  We move on, find someone else, and live happily ever after together with that new significant other.  Then, as fate has it, after years of not seeing each other, we bump into our first love and we rediscover what it was we saw in each other in the first place.  He or she turns out to be even better than we were together. Our first love is more beautiful or handsome, more mature, and more complete, that we wonder why we let her or him go!  Yet, don’t get that statement wrong… we are totally happy with the person we are with now but, we wonder how things might have been.

Such is the case (for me) with the Mazda6. It was my first true love Mazda. I loved my white 2014 Mazda6 (3rd generation, GJ1). I remember driving it for the first time and realizing this was the most European-driving Japanese car. It was so good that its strengths far outweigh its slight imperfections. I so loved and enjoyed my Mazda6. However, Mazda threw me a curve ball. They let me do a long-term test on the fabulous Mazda CX-9. Argh… I immediately fell in love with my CX-9. So much so, that I decided to trade up to the brilliant CX-9 after doing a long term test with the car. Having a Mazda6 and a CX-9 felt rather redundant so I decided to sell my 6. Sob!

Fast forward to today, I had another opportunity to revisit the Mazda6.

Being a board member of MTRCB, we go to various provinces in the Philippines to educate people about what the MTRCB really is and what we do.  This we call MPs (Matalinong Panonood). So, when we had a schedule a Isabela to do an MP, I asked Mazda for the BT-50 pickup for me so I could do a test on the truck.  Since I needed to drive to Cauayan, and the roads may need a SUV or a truck to navigate, I thought the BT would be perfect. Sadly, I was informed that their pickup demo unit was already booked for that weekend, but they said they could let me use their DIESEL Mazda6. To which I IMMEDIATELY replied… YAASSS! A Mazda6 Diesel… great… perfect.

They delivered a silver Mazda6 Diesel to my MTRCB office.  I instantly got inside to familiarize myself with the car.  It is almost EXACTLY like my 2014 version but so much more lavish. Leather abound  there now is suede surrounding the dash.  I do like the simplicity of the interior… there is a large infotainment screen on the center of the dash (akin to my CX-9), a better layout for the tach, speed, fuel, temp display, etc. that addressed the older car’s shortcomings.  Everything one needs are in this car: cruise control, I-stop, Apple CarPlay, blind-spot monitoring, 360-degree camera, lane assist, automatic lights/wipers, ambient lighting, etc.  Nice. Getting personal with the car was so easy for someone who has had familiarity with Mazdas. It looks like very European, an extravagant car.  It was so simple to connect my phone to the car’s Bluetooth, adjust the Navigation to my home & office settings, etc.

Yet, the biggest change was when I started the engine inside the MTRCB parking garage … the sound of clanktey-clankety-clankety-clank!  It IS a diesel, after all.  Yet, as soon as I closed the door, turned on the air-con, unexpectedly, the engine sound practically disappeared… one really does not hear that this IS a diesel.  It is a rather quiet cabin.  Wow.

Stepping on the (diesel) pedal, this car just … went!  This car exhibited torque that’s very similar to my (2007) Ford Focus TDCI diesel.  This feels like a turbo charged gas engine. Hmm … this is nice.  I know that I’m going to enjoy this.

I left San Fernando at 5AM to head to Cauayan, Isabela. (I have a taping schedule for a teleserye in Pampanga the previous night.)  Cranking up the superb Bose sound system at (discotheque) levels, I cruised down SCTEX/TPLEX using Mazda’s cruise control.  [For Millennials who may have never heard of what a “discotheque” is, well, it is what Clubs or Clubbing was called then.  Oy vey.]  OK, even if this diesel’s cruise control is very accurate, I think a car of this caliber SHOULD have the new Mazda3’s Active Cruise Control.  It just makes driving down highways a more comfortable.  One doesn’t have to step on the brakes to slow the car down… the car does it for you.  It is unnerving at first but after a while, it is quite reassuring.  (I don’t care what anyone says … freeway driving IS boring.  I mean, we do maintain driving at speed limits, don’t we?  (Wink, wink.)  So, we may as well BE comfortable.  An Active cruise control definitely fits the bill.)

Nevertheless, it is in the Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija’s zigzags that this car really rocks.  As I approached the zigzags, I shifted the gearshift to manu-matic, and used Mazda’s marvelous paddle  shifters (pissing) off drivers through the tight curves of the Pan-Philippine Highway.  There was no time that this Mazda6 diesel felt short of power… if I needed quick passing spurts, it obliged … no delays. One never feels the down shifts and up shifts, which were immediate and precise.  I never felt “bitin” in any passing efforts. What a car!  I was driving with the biggest smile on my face. It exhibited very slight understeer in cases where the curves were tighter than anticipated.

I made it to Mango Suites in Cauayan in just under six hours. (I needed to be in the hotel by 12 noon.)  Not too shabby for a DIESEL! (Sidebar: Funny, but during my breakfast stopover in McDo, some guys commented on the car and how beautiful it was. I overheard one guy say, “… Mazda yan?” People do notice Mazda’s Kodo design philosophy.)

My drive back to Manila was more relaxed … I was in no hurry to get home.  I stopped by this wonderful restaurant for lunch in Nueva Viscaya called “Kamayan sa Kainyugan,” a restaurant selling Ilocano dishes, where I had the best Beef Papaitan ever!  And for dinner, I went back to San Fernando, Pampanga, to (finally) sample Mila’s famous sisig and tokwa’t baboy.  The sisig was great, but sadly, the tokwa’t babaoy was a disappointment!  Still, what a great way to end my Isabela drive.

What I guess is truly remarkable about this car that can be entertaining, sporty, at the same time, giving tons of comfort and luxury, is that it is an economical wonder. I recorded an amazing 17.8 km/L, traveling 63 kilometers to San Fernando, Pampanga, for my evening taping schedule. I traveled a total of 845 kilometers and averaged 13.8 km/Lfor the Isabela trip. That’s rather impressive for a car that was driven rather aggressively. To think that this is an eco-luxury car, I am sure I could have made it to Isabela AND back with ONE tankful of diesel have I driven like a grandfather not pressing the (diesel) pedal to the metal and just averaged a tepid 80 km/h.

Wow, I miss this sedan.  The main difference between a Mazda6 and a CX-9 (apart from the obvious) is the ride quality of both cars: the CX-9 lulls me to drive sedately, while having Mr. Hyde just waiting, ready to unleash its savage side, but, the 6, on the other hand, is sporty but has its luxury character ready whenever needed.  I personally think that the Mazda6 diesel IS the best sedan on the market now, bar none.  Beautiful, economical, sporty, luxurious, fun, stately, etc.  This is a car that can be driven to a formal ball today then tomorrow, be driven in a race track just for kicks.  OK, (honestly) an Audi 3, a BMW 3, a Mercedes C-Class may be a better choice but they are at least a million pesos more … duh, it’s certainly a no brainer.

I want this Mazda6 diesel sedan back in my garage!

‘Nuff said!

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