It’s Japanese versus Czech, sportiness versus space. How does the popular low-slung Mazda 6 square up against the roomy Skoda Superb?
IF the sport utility vehicle were food, it’d be a plate of mixed rice or cai png – a large heaping of everything you want on one plate, leaving you satisfied that you got your money’s worth.
By contrast, sedans are more subdued. They’re more like a plate of nice, inoff ensive chicken rice, good enough to make a nice meal and fill you up.
That doesn’t mean the sedan has gone out of favour. On the contrary, the Mazda 6 and Skoda Superb show there’s plenty of life left in them – and a bright future too.
As of print time, the Mazda 6 2.5 goes for $149,888 while the Superb costs a smidgen more at $149,900, both with COE.
The Mazda 6’s cockpit is airier and classier looking than the Superb’s with more attractive trim, and makes driving safer and better with a heads-up display and paddle shifters.
In the Japanese corner, Mazda’s “Kodo” design language is on full display here.
The Mazda 6’s sinewed surfaces are by far the more visually arresting and sensual of the two and capture the light brilliantly in Soul Red.
In the Czech corner, Skoda’s German parentage peeks out through the Superb’s design through its comparatively clean and stoic lines.
Its straight-edged surfaces (literally and figuratively) make it look more anonymous than the Mazda on the road but nonetheless give it an imposing and officious air.
A quick glance at the spec sheet confirms our visual estimates: the Mazda is 9mm longer and 34mm lower than the Superb, but the Czech car is wider by 24mm, which translates into more room for passengers.
And the Superb has an incredibly spacious, well-constructed and unpretentious cabin.
In top-spec Laurin & Klement trim, you get a 9.2-inch touchscreen, a banging Canton sound system and power-adjustable front seats with three memory positions each (the Mazda makes do with two positions, and only on the driver’s side).
But the Superb lacks the paddle shifters behind the wheel that the Mazda has, which is a shame because you can’t fully exploit the quick-shifting dual-clutch gearbox and turbocharged engine.
The meters in the Superb also look dated next to the modern and super-legible ones on the Mazda.
In the rear, Superb passengers get more head- and shoulder-room, both at a premium in the Mazda due to the sloping roofline and narrower body respectively. But I was still able to fit my 1.78m frame into the Mazda’s rear, just not as comfortably.
THE MAZDA 6’S LOVELY INTERIOR IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER MAINSTREAM JAPANESE CAR.
THE SKODA SUPERB IS ROOMY AND PRACTICAL WHILE THE MAZDA 6 IS FUN TO DRIVE AND CHARMING.
Mazda 6 has a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre Skyactiv engine (engine) that is keener to rev, while the Superb has a punchy turbocharged 2-litre motor (below) that’s more frugal.
The Superb’s rear air-con has adjustable temperature, compared to the Mazda’s simple blower.
The fastback-style boot in the Superb is just ridiculously vast. At 625 litres, it’s 125 litres larger than the Mazda’s, ballooning to 1760 litres with all seats folded. It’s far more usable too, having an electric bootlid and nifty touches like a bootlight-slash-torchlight.
The Mazda’s 500-litre boot, meanwhile, is manually operated but unlike the Superb, you get levers to flip down the rear seats in a 60:40 split.
Jumping into the Mazda’s cockpit, its light-coloured dash makes it feel nice and airy. It’s paired with Japanese Sen wood in the top-spec Luxury version and trimmed with velvety aluminium. It makes for a sensory experience unlike any other mainstream Japanese car.
One particularly exquisite detail I love is how the outermost air-con vents dovetail nicely with a cutout in the doors.
You get a heads-up display in the Mazda, a 360-degree parking camera and a larger screen in the instrument binnacle, but you make do with a smaller 8-inch infotainment display that’s showing its age.
As far as handling goes, the Mazda 6 ekes out a clear win over the Superb. It’s a driver’s car, right down to the rorty exhaust.
Steering is accurate, feelsome and well-weighted. You just know that given the right road, the Mazda 6 will stitch together corners as easily as Tarzan swings through trees. I didn’t even need to engage sport mode because normal mode was already so sweet.
The naturally aspirated 2.5-litre Skyactiv engine is smooth and rev-happy, even though it ultimately lacks the punch of the Superb’s turbo unit.
To be clear, the Superb is no slouch but it lacks a certain crispness that the Mazda has in spades. With the quieter cabin, the Superb would be my choice to drive up to Malaysia in. With its 15.2 km/L fuel consumption to the Mazda’s 14.1km/L, you’ll make fewer fuel stops, too.
How do you square this contest then? The Skoda Superb makes a strong case for being the larger and more practical choice. Add Skoda’s smart touches and higher equipment levels and you basically have all the car you need. If you frequently do large shopping runs or carry bulky items, the Superb is your companion.
The Mazda 6 doesn’t get a free pass either. Lesser headroom and boot space work against it, as does a dated infotainment system. But like chicken rice, you want to add chilli to spice it up, and the Mazda’s classier interior, superior driving dynamics and an alluring body all combine to pip it past the Superb and makes it the one to get.
PHOTOS TAN MENG CHOON
ART DIRECTION MICHAEL CHIAN