Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - range
Still looks good, sporty diesel performance, premium feel to cabin, strong value, great idle-stop and lane keeping aid systems
Room for improvement
Drab grey tone in cabin, heavy low-speed steering, NVH improvements effective but diesel still noisy
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15 Sep 2016
MAZDA introduced a significant mid-life update for the Mazda6 sedan and wagon early last year in Australia, bringing subtle, yet effective visual changes that improved an already attractive car.
The 6 didn’t really need a further visual refresh for the model year update arriving in showrooms now so Mazda kept the changes to new exterior mirrors – can you tell? – and a new metallic paint offering of Machine Grey.
That’s probably for the best because the sleek shape and distinct front end mean the Mazda6 is still one of the most pleasantly styled passenger cars on the road.
We were given a top-spec Atenza diesel sedan to sample, which is priced from $48,240 plus on-road costs, close to $16,000 more than the base petrol-powered Sport.
In flagship guise, the Mazda6 has a healthy standard features list and compares well to similarly positioned mainstream rivals such as the Kia Optima GT ($43,990), the Ford Mondeo diesel Titanium ($47,490) and the diesel Volkswagen Passat ($47,490).
Standard gear in this price bracket includes Nappa leather, black headliner, adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, Driver Attention Alert, Forward Obstruction Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-keep Assist and Smart Brake Support along with a lengthy list of connectivity and comfort features.
In terms of value for money, there is not much you’d be left wanting for in the top-grade Mazda6.
This is something the car-maker is hoping will influence user-chooser buyers who might be considering something German. Mazda reckons it can lure a few buyers away from the C-Class/3Series/A4 brigade with its strong value proposition and similar dimensions. Based purely on standard gear, the 6 is victorious in that company.
Changes on the inside are equally hard to identify but include brighter graphics on various displays, more splashes of chrome and a new leather option on higher grade variants.
The interior has a classy feel but the grey trim and panels in our test car made it also feel a touch gloomy at times. Thankfully there are enough chrome and other flourishes to break it up but the optional white leather – while seemingly impractical if you have children or are just a messy adult – changes things up considerably in the cabin.
It is difficult to detect but there’s a new steering wheel which has a high quality feel to it thanks to the leather.
Everything in the cabin, from the controls in the centre stack to the MZD Connect screen and the instrument cluster, is ageing well. The 6 launched in late-2012 with a major update last year, but much like Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney, it is ageing gracefully.
Speaking of MZD Connect, it is a much better system than we originally thought.
Given the number of over-complicated connectivity systems being offered by car-makers, the Mazda system feels simple by comparison. And as we have said in the past, a controller in the centre console is a much safer way to navigate than a touchscreen only.
Mazda has introduced new sound-reducing measures for the 6, some of which were used to improve the Mazda3 a couple of months ago.
The impact to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels was immediately evident in the Mazda3 because the car-maker provided an outgoing model to test back to back, so identifying the improvements on the Mazda6 was a little harder.
Mazda is only just now refining its NVH measures to the point that you could compare it with the Germans and so far the best example has been the just-launched CX-9. The difference compared to the old model is astonishing and is a credit to Mazda’s engineers.
We will have to wait until the next-gen Mazda6 to see dramatic changes, but more clever engineering by Mazda boffins has resulted in a reduction in diesel knocking noise thanks to the introduction of new Natural Sound Smoother and Natural Sound Frequency Control technologies.
Recounting the last time we drove a diesel Mazda6, we can safely say that it has had an impact. The 6 is noticeably quieter overall.
However, the 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv turbo-diesel engine is not as smooth and quiet as the aforementioned Germans with Audi, BMW and Benz all producing oil-burners that are so silky it is difficult to tell you are driving a diesel.
It might not be as quiet, but it is still a cracking engine. There is the slightest hint of lag on take-off but it is barely noticeable and does not impact driving enjoyment. Once up and running the sweet oiler loves to be revved and is gutsy in the mid range.
We didn’t get to do an overtaking test in the 6 but we have no doubt it would pass safely and swiftly on country roads.
Around the city, the Mazda6’s front strut and rear multi-link suspension ensures a balanced ride. Bumps are not soaked up as smoothly as some of its rivals, but that could be due to a sportier tune, which aided cornering, something that the 6 does very well indeed.
Steering is on the heavy side at very low speeds but perfectly weighted at speed.
The Mazda’s idle-stop system – dubbed i-stop – is by far one of the best systems we have experienced. More often than not we switch off systems in other cars as it impacts standing start acceleration but the i-stop is smooth as silk and far more intuitive than other brand’s systems.
Also impressive is the Lane Keep Assist System as it is not as aggressive and does not tug quite as harshly as some rival setups. It is subtle but noticeable, exactly the way a system like this should behave.
Official combined cycle fuel economy is rated at 5.4 litres per 100km and we managed 7.7L/100km in mostly city and freeway driving.
It’s no secret the mid-size passenger car segment is being hit hard by people switching into SUVs, but as we have said before, we would encourage buyers to take another look in the segment. Some of the best driving and best value passenger cars on offer in Australia can be found in the sub-$60,000 medium car sector.
And the Mazda6 is one of them. Since its launch back in 2012 the 6 has consistently rated highly among the motoring media and for good reason.
It offers an engaging, sporty and downright enjoyable driving experience, it looks terrific and is packed full of value.
Before you look at an SUV, or if you are considering an entry-level C-Class/3 Series/A4, you could do a lot worse than putting the Mazda6 on your consideration list.
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