The Road Ahead : October November 2007
On the road Only one car is able to lift itself beyond the realms of mere transpor t. Mazda6 Spor ts is the most rewarding sedan here, supremely sure on-road. The lightweight Spor ts is quickest and effective brakes make it easiest to stop. The engine is punchy, revs cleanly and offers a progressive deliver y of pulling power. Its gearbox smooths through up shifts on light throttle or changes down purposefully. Mazda6 offers light and accurate steering plus terrific grip levels and balance. Its spor ty ride with highly disciplined damping rates can pick up a few road irregularities and a trace of mid-corner steering "chatter" is the other trade-off. Camr y's extra weight makes Ateva slower off the line and out of corners. The brakes also lack conviction in stopping tests. The Toyota is slower to over take but by mid-range its engine offers plenty of response and revs willingly towards redline. Shifts from the auto are clinical enough and it is a relaxed highway cruiser. In ever y facet of handling, Camr y is half a mark behind Mazda6 -- steering feel and linearity, grip levels, balance and body roll -- however it is still capable and nimble enough. Camr y's ride is an advantage, comfy and composed without being soft. Both the bump absorption and rebound control qualities are testament to Toyota's local suspension work. About 150 kg of additional mass and a four-speed 'box dull Sonata's urges, making it a little harder to keep on the boil. Again, the engine's best qualities can be found from the mid-range. Sonata's handling traits include decent grip levels but some tyre squeal and slightly lifeless steering plus more kickback. It is remarkably composed on gravel. In ride terms, Sonata is soft and comfor table however the damping could be more composed over bigger lumps. Epica also has a soft ride but is harder to fluster than Sonata. However, the Holden has an inherent heaviness to its nose that causes it to constantly push wider than its rivals in cornering. Predictable but ponderous, Epica's steering is slow and unwieldy and the steering wheel itself is large. Grip levels are fine, however, the brakes fade too quickly. The Holden's unusual engine is a smooth operator, however it fails to deliver any appreciable 'oomph'. It is flat down low and struggles to shift 1500 kg of car. Epica's gearbox hunts for the appropriate gear more often and it's less refined. Sebring stands as an example of how not to set up a car. It feels imprecise, lacks ability through tight sections and has an over-eager ESC calibration. Body roll is excessive, it leans heavily on the outer tyre in cornering, the steering feel is inconsistent and the balance between front and rear ends is far from reassuring. The softly sprung American fails to impress over potholes and road joins, while the rear suspension is badly in need of additional damping. Per formance is another Sebring spoiler. It has the heaviest body and it over whelms the engine outputs. The gearbox is reluctant to change down and can also be clunky. Sebring suffers badly on noise suppression, especially noticeable under full acceleration. Camr y has a hush the others can't match, while Epica and Mazda are behind but match up well. Sonata is a serene cruiser but proves less silent on throttle kick-down. Conclusion There's ample difference between the mar vels and the mundane in this class. Chr ysler can't compete with its Sebring. It looks elegant, the equipment is fine and the cupholder is clever but poor dynamics, crook seats, value shor tfalls and an under whelming engine consign it to a distant last place. Holden impor t, Epica, benefits from local tuning exper tise and teases that future Korean ring-ins may be contenders -- but not quite yet. Puny per formance, nose-heavy steering and questionable quality dent Epica's value advantages. Epica endears for value and a comfor table ride. OCT/NOV 07 53 Sonata's safety, seating and safety features are vir tues.
December January 2008
August September 2007