Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - GT
Quality, cabin space, features, style, value
Room for improvement
Restrained petrol engine performance
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15 Jun 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
THERE’S not a lot more inducement to buying a new car than having $500 shaved off the price while also receiving an expanded equipment list.
Mazda has done it, as has Subaru and there are others. It’s the way of the world at the moment and is yet to reflect in any weakening of used-car values.
The mid-life refresher to the Mazda6 adds a technology-focused boost in equipment, some refinement to ride and noise suppression, and some extra gloss to the cabin and exterior.
The 2015 models have a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen with Mazda’s MZD Connect system, using a console-mounted dial to access an updated connectivity suite, sat-nav and audio.
Its access to the internet via Bluetooth brings with it apps such as Pandora and Stitcher that gives a broad global music reach.
Mazda has also added a head-up display to variants including the Grand Touring (GT) tested here.
There’s also the optional Safety Pack under the i–ActivSense umbrella that for $1060 adds features including Smart City Brake Support for low-speed collision avoidance.
The GT’s headlights are LED – a first for Mazda – as are the daytime running lights, tail-lights and fog-lights.
The audio has 11 speakers, the leather is available in white or black, the GT has a sunroof and rear air-conditioner vents and the mirrors are heated and fold when the car is locked.
All this comes at $42,720, plus on-road costs, a drop of $500 on the previous model despite the increase in equipment and the neater, more upmarket exterior and cabin appearance.
The only options are the safety pack – which is highly recommended – and the Soul Red metallic paint at $200. Other metallic paints are no-cost options.
It has the cabin space expected from its near-4.9m length, able to seat up to five adults with expansive rear legroom. But it’s not just the room. Mazda has appeared to make small changes to its flagship passenger car yet there’s a sense that quality has been lifted.
There’s a neater centre console and a more co-ordinated use of colours and materials, such as lacquered trim and soft-feel plastics.
Leather upholstery now comes in white or black but – as mentioned in GoAuto’s test of the CX-5 – the beautiful white leather can share the blue of your jeans unless it’s kept protected.
The sense of the car being more spacious has been achieved mainly by replacing the manual park brake lever with an electric button. That changed the console’s landscape, providing more personal storage space and elbowroom.
It now holds a ‘sport’ button to sharpen the petrol engine and houses the rotary dial for the central monitor. Spin this dial and it accesses functions from the audio, connectivity, ventilation and sat-nav.
The reasons why buyers prefer bigger cars is obvious. Behind the steering wheel, there is ample legroom. The dashboard is wide, low and easy to navigate.
Mazda claims the 6 is also quieter, partly because of some sound deadening but also small changes to the rear suspension to mute road and shock noise. The car-maker says noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is down 10 per cent by these changes.
The price of the Mazda 6 GT is only $670 less than the equivalent CX-5 GT.
Many would buy the CX-5 for more luggage space and flexibility. In fact, the Mazda 6 sedan has a bigger boot at 474 litres compared with the CX-5 at 403 litres. If you want even more room, consider also the Mazda 6 wagon at $1300 more than the sedan that has 506 litres of storage.
Engine and transmission
The unorthodox high-compression petrol engine is designed to allow a highly efficient fuel-air burn with the immediate aim of lowering fuel consumption.
It is the middle rung on Mazda’s ladder aiming within five years towards a petrol compression engine that needs no ignition system and uses the same efficiencies as a diesel engine. But we are probably a few steps ahead of ourselves.
The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with its 13:1 compression ratio (against, for example, the Nissan Altima 2.5-litre at 9.6:1) has no turbocharger so relies solely on its clever combustion chamber.
The balance is commendable. The engine delivers 138kW/250Nm and Mazda says the official combined fuel use figure is 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres.
Surprisingly for a high-compression engine, it runs on standard 91RON petrol.
This year Mazda has spurred the engine on with a ‘sport’ button that improves engine response – but not power – and demands higher shift points for the transmission.
The engine is part of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology umbrella now applied to nearly all the car-maker’s passenger-car range, except the CX-9 SUV.
Under this umbrella is the six-speed automatic transmission with rapid lockup ratios to minimise slippage. The less slip, the less fuel waste.
On the road the package is smooth and relatively responsive though a betting person wouldn’t put many odds on it being a 138kW output. There are times when the engine feels dull, hesitant to respond to an eager right foot and very occasionally can be caught napping just when more power is needed.
It’s part of the fuel saving system and can be shaken awake by using the ‘sport’ button and a more aggressive throttle action.
Once awake, it’s a good performer but it’s not the power that makes it an enjoyable drive. Rather, the well-balanced steering feel and the wide-planted, assured cornering agility of the big sedan are the subject of approval.
Mazda claims 6.6L/100km but a blend of city crawl, suburban shopping run and freeway cruising yielded 8.2L/100km. That’s still pretty good and perhaps less enthusiastic owners could reduce that to the zone around 7.5-8.0L/100km.
Ride and handling
Changes to the suspension have been minor but aimed by Mazda at rectifying small imperfections in ride and handling. But it’s more about occupant perception.
NVH has been improved by 10 per cent when driving on rough roads and up to 25 per cent when on highways, lowering any road noise intrusions and muting road shocks.
The ride is smoother and quieter and achieved by new suspension bushes and stiffer mounting points for the dampers.
More scalloped seats and denser seat material has improved body support and comfort and also been responsible for some reduction in cabin noise.
While component changes have been small, there’s little doubt that the latest Mazda 6 feels more precise through the corners and a bit quieter over coarse bitumen.
The refinement also brings it up to the large-car class and this should impress motorists who may be downsizing – and I use that word loosely – from a Commodore or Falcon.
Safety and servicing
The Mazda6 meets all the mandatory safety requirements with a five-star ANCAP crash rating, six airbags and the electronic brake aids.
The crash rating is important because it proves up Mazda’s theory that a body can be light as well as strong. The SkyActiv technology creates a body made of high and very-high tensile steel for lightness and strength. It’s not unusual in its class but this premium steel is expensive to buy and can be difficult to mold.
Mazda continues to offer safety packs as options. The GT comes standard with mandatory aids but adds front and rear park sensors, a reverse camera, LED headlights and daytime running lights, LED tail-lights and fog-lights, headlights that trace corners and heated mirrors. The spare is a space saver.
You’ll pay $1060 for the safety pack called i-ActivSense. This pack differs depending on the variant but in the GT, includes rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support that works in forward and reverse.
Smart City Brake Support works between 15km/h and 145km/h and will automatically brake the car if its radar system detects an obstacle. It is important to note that this works while the car is reversing, minimising chances of injuring a pedestrian that may be unseen by the camera.
To say the pack should be mandatory is an understatement. All buyers must consider this option.
Mazda’s warranty is three years or unlimited kilometres. There have been changes over the past two years with its capped-price service program that now covers the vehicle for life. Its life, not yours.
Mazda recommends servicing every 10,000km or annually. If you travel more, reduce the service intervals to nine months.
Based on annual servicing, it will cost its owner $924 for three years, plus any additional specialist fluids or filters.
Mazda has a strong resale value. Glass’s Guide gives the Mazda6 a 55 per cent residual value after three years, one of the strongest in its class. By comparison, a Holden Calais – which is about the same price as the Mazda6 GT – has a 42 per cent residual.
The upgrades to the 2015 mid-life Mazda6 appear small. But the additional connectivity equipment, the quieter and smoother ride and the $500 discount just make a very good sedan even better.
It is an impressive car in a segment that isn’t being shown much love, however, for a family that likes the style of a sedan or motorists moving down from a much bigger vehicle, it’s an excellent choice.
Aside from the features, the safety and the space, it’s not an expensive car to own. And for any family, that’s a bonus.
Ford Mondao Titanium, from $44,290, plus on-road costs
The new kid on the medium-size car block gets a sleek look, a host of safety equipment such as pre-collision assist and pedestrian detection, plus an electric bootlid, adaptive suspension, leather upholstery with heated front and rear seats, and a panoramic roof. The boot size is a large 458 litres. It carries over a 178kW/345Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine rated at 8.2L/100km.
Hyundai Sonata Premium, from $41,990, plus on-road costs
The new Sonata competes with Hyundai’s own i40 but attacks the segment differently, using conservative styling backed by a 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Fuel consumption is claimed at 9.2L/100km. The Premium gets 18-inch alloys, rear camera and park sensors, bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, heated and ventilated front seats, sat-nav and a panoramic roof. It has an expansive 510 litre boot.
Subaru Liberty 3.6R, from $41,990, plus on-road costs
This is Australia’s safest car tested by ANCAP. It gets better - the price of this new model is a whopping $14,000 down on its predecessor. It’s the only six-cylinder here and the most powerful at 191kW/350Nm. The 3.6-litre engine returns 9.9L/100km.
Standard equipment is impressive, especially the safety list that includes Subaru’s lauded EyeSight laser and camera system that automatically brakes the car when it detects an obstacle, whether another car or a pedestrian. It also has lane departure assist, adaptive cruise control, seven airbags and a lane sway detection system. The sedan has a 493 litre boot area.
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