Blog: Glenn BrooksWhy the Mazda6 wagon is smaller than the sedan

Glenn Brooks | 20 May 2013

According to the configurator on Mazda.co.uk, the estate is 65mm shorter than the saloon (4,805 versus 4,870)

According to the configurator on Mazda.co.uk, the estate is 65mm shorter than the saloon (4,805 versus 4,870)

I've been wondering about this since Mazda launched the different body styles months apart last year: is the latest sedan a rebodying of the old car, while the wagon has the latest platform as introduced by the CX-5? If so, why?

Today saw me heading to Old Windsor to sample the Mazda6 and CX-5 at a turn-up-and-drive event organised by the company's PR team. The cars themselves were as good as the reviews I read a while back, and I was especially impressed by the high-revving diesel in both 150- and 175PS forms. Not normally a fan of diesels and manual gearboxes in the congested south of England, today I found not only clear roads but also a super-slick six-speed manual transmission which - suspend your disbelief - reminded me of the shift in the MX-5. Really, it was that good.

Chatting to the head of media relations, I pressed him on why the two different sized cars. Here's a facts to remember before we move on: at 2,750mm, the sedan's wheelbase is identical to that of the car it replaced, which would appear to be a coincidence.

This old Mazda6 used the Ford-Mazda EUCD architecture but the Hiroshima-based company insists that it now develops powertrains and platforms independently of its former shareholder. So why a 2,830mm wheelbase for the latest wagon but a 2,750mm wheelbase for the sedan? I sat in the back of both cars and found the difference in legroom isn't as great as you might think.

Mazda's man says the US market dictated the size of the sedan, while Europe demanded a less lengthy wagon. This, despite the fact that the US is unlikely to be the largest region for the latest model - it was largely the lower than expected sales of the second generation model which led the company to axe plans to build the new car at the AAI plant at Flat Rock in Michigan.

Remember that Russia is an increasingly important market for Mazda. Note too  what Toyota takes the trouble to do - Russians can buy a locally made Camry but TME considers it too big for Europeans so we have the Avensis instead. There is another (big) reason why Mazda's largest sedan is super-sized.

As complicated and possibly strange as all this seems, it isn't a unique situation. The Honda Accord is the other obvious comparison, with the US-built sedan having different dimensions to the wagon sold elsewhere. Have a look at these numbers, which I have taken from PLDB:

  • US-built Accord sedan: 2,775mm wheelbase
  • Accord coupe: 2,740
  • (Accord) Crosstour: 2,794
  • Europe's Accord sedan and wagon: 2,705

In that context, what Mazda is doing isn't odd at all. In fact, it's possibly rather clever. If I worked in marketing, I'd probably now start talking about tailored solutions or something like that. The point is this: call it whatever you want, but for a small company, with no rich parent to fall back upon if deep financial trouble comes knocking again, Mazda has done something really gutsy. It has gambled on one platform with multiple permutations, not just for different bodystyles but for B, C, CD, SUV and MPV vehicles. You can read some more thoughts on that here.


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