Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - 20th AE
Sweet interior and exterior styling, turbo-petrol engine a solid all-rounder, tyre hum is still an issue and the ride borders on firm
Room for improvement
Infotainment system is stuck in the past, cabin isn’t as large as you might think, wing mirror optics are unusually compromised
20 years have passed since the 626 was retired, and the ‘6’ replacement still shines
9 Aug 2023
By MATT BROGAN
IT IS hard to believe that the Mazda6 has been with us for 20 years.
Over three generations, the stylish Skoda Octavia and Toyota Camry rival has clocked up close to 145,000 unit sales in Australia, the once highly popular mid-sized sedan and wagon now surpassed in favour by the strong selling CX-5 and CX-8 SUV duo.
Yet, not wishing to see the anniversary of the ‘6’ slip by, Mazda has released a 20th Anniversary variant to commemorate the occasion. It is priced from $53,635 + ORC in sedan format and $54,935 + ORC for the wagon, placing it atop the MY23 Mazda6 range.
Being based on the range-topping Atenza, the anniversary variant is highly specified and features several cosmetic and equipment upgrades worthy of the ‘special edition’ moniker.
Available only in Artisan Red or Rhodium White metallic paint, the variant features 20th Anniversary badging on the front guards, a high-gloss silver grille, and high-gloss silver 19-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, Tan Nappa leather and Leganu synthetic suede upholstery are said to provide the cabin with a “rich, dignified feel” while the front-seat head restraints are also embossed with the 20th Anniversary logo.
As the current-generation Mazda6 enters its fifth update, the model range receives a minor upgrade to the Skyactiv-G 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine available in higher grades, with power rising to 173kW (+3kW) at 4250rpm. Torque remains unchanged at 420Nm.
Turbocharged models also have recalibrated shift logic for the six-speed automatic transmission, offering what Mazda says is more direct upshift response that will “provide drivers with a more direct and intuitive connection to the engine’s torque”.
Across the range, all Mazda6 grades get power steering tweaks to provide “more tactile feedback at medium and high speeds”, Mazda says, while the driver assist tech offered on GT SP and Atenza variants is enhanced with semi-autonomous Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS).
Touring variants also now receive wireless device charging and wireless Apple CarPlay functionality.
Visually, the Mazda6 range is largely unchanged, save for the addition of gloss black signature wings on the front and rear of the GT SP grade. The Mazda6 GT SP wagon further gains gloss black roof rails.
Finally, Atenza grades now arrive as standard with black Nappa leather.
A premium paint charge of $795 applies for Rhodium White, Soul Red Crystal, Polymetal Grey and Machine Grey exterior finishes.
Mazda offers the 6 with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with included roadside assistance. Capped price servicing covers the warranty period with service intervals set at 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. The average service cost for the G25 petrol is $422 and the G35 turbo-petrol $501.
The current generation Mazda6 is now serving its eleventh year on the market, despite several facelifts along the way.
Having recently clocked its 20th Anniversary, the ‘6’ nameplate is celebrated here with a special edition model that adds a number of design touches and added equipment (see Overview above), in what may be its last update before retirement.
And while most of the vehicle has defied the aging process, it’s immediately obvious that the MZD Connect infotainment system is very much feeling its age.
The infotainment system in the vehicle on test was slow to respond to commands and glitched numerous times, dropping the wireless Apple CarPlay function several times and, on one occasion, blacking out completely (to return only after stopping, locking and unlocking the car).
Still, the rotary dial and touchscreen combination used to control the infotainment array is handy for those that don’t like taking their eyes off the road. It is also useful when trying to dive deep into lesser used settings, like those required to reconnect your smartphone when the system ‘bugs out’.
We appreciated the hard buttons for shortcuts and for the HVAC system, heated and ventilated seats, and heated steering wheel. The concise and logical-to-operate instrument panel is another welcomed touch, as is the head-up display which again helps keep the driver focused on the task at hand.
Storage options are decent, without being Skoda-sized in nature. Indeed, the 6’s cabin feels a little more cramped than several of its nearest competitors, no doubt a result of the model’s design age.
Front seat space is acceptable, without being generous, and though we did find the driving position to be ergonomically sound, outward vision is a little restrictive, with the wing mirror optics contributing little to the sense of confidence when changing lanes or parking.
Further back, the Mazda6 is a little on the tight side for headroom, particularly in sedan format (we tested the sedan and wagon back-to-back). It’s also a cabin that is best suited to four, and not five, adult passengers, with the rear-centre seat being a little ‘tight’ for Aussie-sized bums.
Outboard seats score ISOFIX child seat anchorages while all three rear seat positions get top-tether mounts.
Boot space is listed at 474 litres in the sedan and 506 litres in the wagon. Both configurations offer a 60:40 split-fold rear bench and a space-saver spare wheel beneath the cargo area floor.
Up front, the ‘6’ is available with a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit dubbed G25 (140kW/252Nm) or a turbocharged variant with the same displacement labelled G35 (173kW/420Nm). Both are paired to a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission driving the front wheels.
On test, the G35 engine performed solidly offering steady all-round performance and decent fuel efficiency (7.4 litres per 100km as tested). It’s a smooth unit and one that is appreciably quiet, even when pushed – though there isn’t a great deal of reason to “sink the boot in” given the generous helping of torque on hand from lower in the rev range (2000rpm).
Mazda’s sportier chassis tune is felt on the larger 19-inch wheels fitted to the 20th anniversary model, though we wouldn’t say the ride is unforgiving. It certainly borders on firm, but it doesn’t bang and crash through surface imperfections in the way weightier, and more firmly tuned SUVs tend to, which is a “win” for passenger-car-kind.
The ride is well mannered and the handling tidy. Mazda has gifted the ‘6’ with body control levels that still lead the class a decade on, though we can’t help but feel the steering communication is now blurry when viewed against more modern rivals – even presenting a little kickback in harder driving scenarios (think pockmarked winding road and higher speed limits).
For the most part, however, the driver’s seat is a pleasant place to spend time. The 6 feels enjoyable to drive and remains both comfortable and supportive even after longer stints in the saddle. It’s a pity, then, the tyre hum is still one of the Mazda6’s major bugbears… especially when trying to enjoy the Bose-branded stereo on a long stretch of country road.
Pleasingly, the driver assistance technologies are just that – assistive – functioning well in the driving scenarios encountered on test, and never “jumping at shadows” in the way some rivals’ systems do.
The Mazda6 features a long list of active safety technology, including adaptive cruise control, AEB with pedestrian detection, reversing AEB, blind spot monitoring, driver attention alert, lane keep assist, rear parking sensors and 360-degree camera, traffic sign recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.
Okay, the Mazda6 might be showing its age in a few areas, but it is still a viable and worthy segment contender.
With fewer medium passenger cars available with each passing year (there are now just six available in the Medium passenger car under $60K segment), it’s a relief to those of us that prefer a sedan or wagon that cars like the ‘6’ are still available – especially when they’re this enjoyable to drive.
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