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Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - Sports Luxury 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Impressive handling, improved refinement, efficient engine, practicality, good looks
Room for improvement
Not enough power, expensive, some features are missing, costly premium fuel diet

Mazda logo9 May 2008

By JAMES STANFORD

GOAUTO has already tested the entry-level Mazda6 Limited, so now it's time to check out the other end of the range.

The Mazda6 Luxury Sports hatch, as its name suggests, combines luxury features with a sporty look and set-up for an attractive range-topper. It is almost fully loaded, with a few exceptions, taking the impressive Luxury package and adding 18-inch rims, a full bodykit and aluminium-look pedals.

It costs a hefty $44,650 for the manual model (the auto is $46,910), which is a substantial leap from the $29,740 price of the base model. There's no doubt the base model is a winner, with its excellent dynamics, impressive ride quality and its attractive interior which is also more practical.

While there was nothing wrong with the look of the first generation Six, which pushed the styling envelope for mid-sized models when it arrived in 2002, it was starting to look just a little old.

The new look is sharp, with bulging wheel-arches and sleek headlights, and the Luxury Sports bodykit gives the Mazda a more muscular appearance.

While the Luxury Sports Mazda6 is an impressive vehicle, it is also very expensive. You get the feeling that you should get a bit more for your money, especially when it comes to the powertrain.

Consider this: for similar money you could buy a Falcon XR6 Turbo, Commodore SS or have thousands of dollars left after buying a Mondeo XR5 Turbo or Skoda Octavia RS turbo.

Now, many Mazda customers would never consider being seen in a Ford, Holden or Skoda, but the point is that there are a lot of truly sporty cars around for similar money.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine in the Mazda6 is a nice powerplant and serves most of the models very well. But is its 125kW and 226Nm really enough in a $44,650 car that is supposed to be sporty? Not really.

It is likely that an all-wheel-drive boosted Six is in the works at Mazda, but that doesn't mean a car like the Luxury Sports can't have a bit more grunt. If Ford can get hold of the Volvo turbo five-cylinder engine for its XR5, surely Mazda can do something similar.

The standard engine is smooth and quite refined, but has to be revved hard to get the Six moving along at pace. The test car had a manual transmission and it is a nice gearbox, allowing for crisp changes.

Mazda has done a great job in sorting the chassis of the Six. It really is a great car to drive and you will often find yourself looking for detours that include winding roads to test its impressive dynamics.

With 18-inch rims, the ride is on the firm side, but the pay-off is excellent turn-in. The suspension set-up promotesr excellent cornering grip, but also does well to absorb most bumps without unsettling the car.

Mazda has switched to an electric steering system, replacing the hydraulic one, and the move has reduced fuel consumption. Its engineers have tuned the system very well - you still get a lot of feel through the wheel and you know exactly where the car is and where it's going.

But all of this makes you crave more power to play with. While it may not be the perkiest engine around, the 2.5-litre four does return impressive fuel economy figures. It used an average of 9.6 litres per 100km in daily driving and on spirited drives, which is pretty good.

The only problem is discovered when you arrive at the bowser the Six demands premium unleaded. That is a nasty surprise given the already high price of petrol, with premium adding another five to eight cents a litre.

Back on the road at the Six is quite refined. Engineers have done a lot to reduce the tyre roar of the previous model and it is a generally quiet cabin on most surfaces.

The practically of the hatch is also impressive. A lawn mower and catcher fit easily in the boot with the rear seats in place. You can fold the rear seats down, which opens up a large cargo area. It also managed to swallow a full-size mountain bike with ease.

There is healthy rear headroom and legroom and the seats are very comfortable, wrapped in soft black leather.

Mazda has done a great job with the dashboard in general and the instrument display is brilliant, using a combination of red and purple lighting with metallic surfaces. It looks expensive and futuristic and really does lift the feel of the interior.

Unfortunately, the car is missing out on a suitable information display screen. It makes do with a narrow strip that displays information in chunky letters in mono. Even the base model Falcon has a nice big display with clear resolution which makes the display in the Mazda6 look quite ordinary.

Apart from that, all the surfaces are excellent.

There is a fair amount of kit in the Luxury and Luxury Sports models, including the leather seats, Xenon headlights, sunroof, electric front seats and the premium Bose sound system.

But there are no parking sensors or a reversing camera, which is surprising given the cost of this car.

The Bose audio system sounds very good in general, but struggled to pick up some major radio stations in Melbourne. This may sound like a minor thing, but imagine the frustration of buying a new car and not being able to listen to your favourite station.

It is not a problem unique to Mazda, with some Japanese and European cars having trouble picking up stations. All of them should copy whatever Ford, Holden and Toyota do with their locally-made cars, which have no such problems.

The Luxury Sports hatch is a pricey premium car that could do with more power, making the vastly less expensive Mazda6 variants seem even better value than before.

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