Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - range
Great looks, excellent ride, a quiet, refined and well-appointed cabin, good value for money, roomy
Room for improvement
Digital speedo needed on lower grades, no manual gearbox, petrol engine could do with a bit more power
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4 Feb 2015
A FLAGSHIP vehicle is the equivalent of that car-maker wearing its Sunday best.
It’s the model that offers the brand’s finest workmanship and materials, most advanced technologies and unsurpassed ride and comfort making it fit to sit at the top of the product range.
The Mazda6 ticks all these boxes, but unlike the flagships of high-end brands the Japanese car-maker needs to keep its prices sharp to compete in this end of the market.
Mazda says the free-trade agreement between Australia and Japan has helped reduce prices, with the Mazda6 Sport petrol sedan now starting at $32,540, plus on road costs, while its wagon sibling kicks off at $33,840 – both $920 less than the 2012 launch prices. At the top of the petrol line-up is the Atenza with the sedan priced at $46,420 and wagon asking $47,720.
Prices for the diesel variants are up by $130 on 2012 prices with the base Touring sedan priced at $40,480 while the Touring wagon is $41,780. The range-topping Atenza diesel wagon is $50,920 while the sedan is $49,620.
Mazda admitted it can’t compete on price with Toyota’s Camry which starts at $30,490 for the Altise, and said it saw the Mazda6’s rivals as being Volkswagen’s Passat (from $38,990), Ford’s Mondeo (from $31,490) and Subaru’s Liberty (from $29,990).
We kicked off our drive in the New South Wales border town of Albury in a Touring wagon. It was a diesel-powered variant but we couldn’t tell that to begin with – it was that quiet. Only the tacho that went to 6000rpm and the fuel usage readout gave away the fact that it was an oil burner.
Mazda has made a big deal about how it has improved the car’s Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) levels and already we were seeing the effects of this before leaving the car park.
Heading south and over the Murray River the course-chip road was another test for the work Mazda has done on improving cabin insulation, and again it was a serenely quiet place and only a tickle of wind noise could be heard.
Rolling on 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/55R17 Toyo tyres the ride is truly class leading with engineers adopting a new front and rear damper set-up.
It appears the boffins have got it spot on as there’s never a moment regardless of potholes, loose surfaces or dips where the Mazda6 feels unsettled.
Handling is improved, too, although a little oversteer persists when pushed and those front wheels still sometimes struggle to grip under hard acceleration from a standing start.
Powered by a 129kW/420Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel, there’s plenty of torque and more than enough power.
Mazda has given its flagship an interior overhaul in response to customers saying that some elements of the cabin looked “dull”. New materials and colours, an integrated seven-inch screen and redesigned instrument cluster make for a premium feeling cabin.
The Touring is the base grade for the wagon line-up and has a standard features list that includes LED daytime running lights and headlights, leather seats, parking sensors, reversing camera, Mazda’s MZD Connect media system and satellite navigation which is easy to use and was very much needed when road works took us on a detour and way off course.
Our Touring had the optional Safety Pack fitted, which for $1260 adds Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Smart City Brake Support and an auto-dimming rear vision mirror.
A swap into a petrol variant of the Sport sedan for the next two hours saw us blast through the Victorian High Country to meet our plane back in Albury.
Fitted with the same wheel and tyre combination as the wagon, the sedan’s ride was smooth and composed. From a handling perspective the car was well balanced and as in the wagon, too, the electric power steering has been noticeably improved with more feedback and feel.
Under the bonnet is a 138kW/250Nm four-cylinder petrol engine. There were times when more power would have made the twisty, hilly roads more fun, but there’s a ‘sport’ mode which holds gears for longer and plenty of oomph for overtaking.
A six-speed automatic is still the only transmission available for both the diesel and the petrol variants. Mated to the diesel engine Mazda claims it returns 5.4 litres per 100km, while when matched to the petrol powerplant sips 6.6L/100km – although we averaged 8.4L/100km thanks to some spirited driving.
The transmission is a smooth-shifting unit which can be put into ‘manual’ mode so the driver can swap gears with the steering wheel-mounted paddle, standard across the range.
Also standard on the Sport is the seven-inch screen with MZD media system and navigation and reversing camera.
All that was missing was a digital speedo which is standard on the GT specification and beamed onto the head-up display.
The cabin is not as well appointed as the Atenza and the cloth seats, while sporty, supportive and comfortable, look a little low rent, but this cockpit still offers a premium feel, from the redesigned split-level dash to the new electric park brake.
Legroom in the back is outstanding and this 190cm test pilot can sit behind his driving position with about 10cm of air between his knees and the back of the front seat.
The Mazda6 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating and this model update brings more safety features such as Adaptive LED Headlamps (ALH) Lane-Keep Assist and Attention Alert, which keeps an eye on the driver’s behaviour checking for signs of fatigue.
Arriving back at the airport there was a chance to step back and take last look before heading home. Mazda has made some tiny changes to the styling, which have quite a big effect. The grille fins are straighter giving the car’s face a broader and stronger look while the new LED headlights are striking.
It definitely has the flagship looks to take on Passat and Mondeo, and with that excellent ride and hush-quiet cabin, the ball is now in the Euros’ court.
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