Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda6 - Touring
Cabin comfort, infotainment features, safety upgrade worthwhile
Room for improvement
Rear headroom tight for taller occupants, boot is shallow, a little skittish on dirt roads
15 Jun 2016
Price and equipment
THE Mazda6 Touring sedan in petrol form is priced from $37,290 plus on-road costs, it is the most popular nameplate of the 6 range and the features list more than does that pricetag justice.
A leather-trimmed cabin, LED head and tail-lights, power adjustment for the front seats (with a memory function for the driver), parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera and an 11-speaker Bose sound system are among the highlights.
It sits on 17-inch alloy wheels (with 225/55-sized rubber and a temporary spare) and also boasts heated and power-folding exterior mirrors, (although the mirrors don’t fold when locking), keyless entry and ignition, power windows, rain-sensing wipers, a 60:40 split fold rear seat backrest, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, cruise control, an electric parking brake (a first for the breed), a reach and rake adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel with and a trip computer.
The satnav-equipped infotainment system displays on a 7.0-inch full-colour touchscreen, with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, as well as a USB and app-based music link (Pandora, Stitcher and Aha), with many functions’ controls mirrored in the multi-function controller on the transmission tunnel.
The Touring variant has the darker interior theme with silver highlights, which has a quality feel to the materials and is much more user-friendly than the lighter-coloured trim combinations that we’ve seen in other Mazda vehicles, particularly if children are likely to inhabit (and leave their mark on) the back seat.
Having driven one of the previous generation vehicles from Brisbane to Perth (one driver, one car) in five days, we can attest to the seat comfort – the fact that we could walk at the end of each day after being behind the wheel for between 800 and 1000km was testimony to the quality and comfort of the seats.
The updated model has a bigger centre screen that looks stuck-on and can suffer for that positioning when inundated by direct sunlight.
But it does have slightly less involved menu systems to navigate through the myriad functions available, although the whole system did surrender as though the car had been switched off then re-started, all while we were happily cruising in metropolitan traffic.
Thankfully the rest of the car didn’t follow its lead, but it’s not the first time an iPhone’s presence on the end of a USB cable has given a Mazda test car grief.
The rear seat gets vents in the centre console and cupholders in the fold-down armrest, but no 12-volt outlet.
There’s more than enough legroom for this correspondent to sit behind himself, but headroom is a little tight for our 191cm frame.
Boot space is listed at 474 litres, which isn’t cavernous when you consider a Toyota Camry sedan has 515 litres and a Commodore has 495 litres the access is sufficient and it’s not a deep boot, rather it gains space by heading a long way toward the cabin.
Engine and transmission
Mazda’s drivetrain work is a staple of the breed and the brand’s engine boffins have plenty about which to be proud – the 2.5-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv powerplant has some character to it as it proceeds 138kW and 250Nm.
The 16-valve double overhead cam engine has direct injection and the variable valve system, as well as the clever idle-stop and ‘i-ELOOP’ energy recovery and fuel-saving systems. The former fires fuel into the cylinder closest to firing for the re-start in 0.35 of a second, reducing the electrical system load, while the latter is a brake energy recovery system that uses a storage capacitor rather than a (heavier) battery.
The official fuel consumption claim on the combined cycle is 6.6 litres per 100km, which translated into a real-world figure of 9.3 litres per 100km at an average speed of 32km/h, but the payoff is that despite the high compression ratio it can happily exist on 91RON fuel.
Where the drivetrain works is in the “hooked-up” nature of the six-speed automatic. It feels more adept at using the outputs and reading the throttle inputs, where other autos bolted to small capacity engines can sometimes slur the surge and never reach a lively level.
Ride and handling
Sauntering through the metropolitan maze of school runs, work commutes and shopping trips, the Mazda’s chassis sits in the firm camp, tolerating but not completely dismissing any and all road ruts and bumps.
It gets the ride comfort job done but it’s not a plush chassis tune the “zoom-zoom” mantra might not have much punch with those power and torque figures but what it lacks in outright oomph is made up for to some extent with enthusiasm.
A chassis tuned more toward the driver who gets on with the job of driving, its ride comfort is not to the point of discomfort and body roll in the bends is – for a mainstream passenger car – well controlled and the Mazda6 can be driven with purpose through a back road.
Cornering with intent eventually elicits understeer for which the Toyo tyres can take some of the blame it’s a pace few would travel at given the purchasing priorities that would result in such a vehicle in the driveway.
Mazda claims a reduced amount of noise in the cabin, and it has improved to the point of qualifying as among the quieter of the medium segment.
Safety and servicing
The Mazda flagship scored five ANCAP stars the last time it was tested and the features list contributes to that score – six airbags (front, front-side and curtain front and rear), anti-lock brakes, stability control, a reversing camera and hill start assist.
Mazda recently updated the safety features list to include the safety option pack, with Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), rearview mirror with auto dimming function and the low-speed Smart City Brake Support automatic braking (for forward and reverse) now standard – previously it was a $1200 option.
The Mazda6 also gets LED headlights, tail-lights, front fog and day-time running lights and rain-sensing wipers.
The Mazda service intervals are shorter than some in the market place at 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first, and range in capped price schedules from $301 to $329.
A three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty does not include any roadside assistance program – that costs $68.10 a year or the brand has Premium Roadside Assistance for $83.50 per year (which adds benefits like accommodation, a rental car, or vehicle recovery for any break downs more than 100km from home, for longer than 24 hours).
There’s much to like about the Mazda6 – the exterior styling, cabin comfort and chassis demeanour – and the safety kit upgrade was also welcome news for shoppers in the medium car segment, but others in the class have reset the value for money bar.
One of those cheaper competitors has improved its looks enough to make the battle more interesting. Only the Subaru’s CVT – which is good but it’s still a CVT – gives the Mazda the edge when it comes to the drivetrain preference however the all-wheel drive of the Subaru scores extra points.
It’s a tough call to make but money talks and the Subaru might just get the cash if we had to enter a showroom.
Toyota Camry Atara SL from $37,440 plus on-road costs
A retrograde styling step for the new model (particularly in the rump) hasn’t helped it in the aesthetic fight against its own dour-but-dependable reputation or the Mazda, but its pricing is razor sharp and it pips the Mazda with a driver’s knee airbag, digital radio reception and a full size spare.
Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium from $35,490 plus on-road costs
Bigger and more comfort oriented in its cabin trim and space, the re-styled Liberty is easier on the eye and its CVT is smooth, with less tendency to flare the engine revs outrageously. Plenty of standard fare and a strong safety features case (headlined by the inclusion of the EyeSight automatic braking and pedestrian detection system, adaptive cruise control, six plus a driver’s knee airbag and a full-size spare as standard) as well as the added safety of all-wheel drive makes the Liberty a tough one to ignore, particularly if you value ride quality and a cheaper pricetag.
Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfort from $39,990 plus on-road costs
The staid and conservatively styled German might has the smallest engine (albeit turbocharged with both direct and port fuel injection) and the highest pricetag, but it boasts a big boot, a full-size spare and a knee airbag for the driver.
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