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Driven: Mazda6 targets small fleets

6 of the best: Mazda has introduced new measure to help improve noise, vibration and harshness levels in its latest Mazda6.

Opportunities from small fleets, entry level premium car buyers for updated Mazda6

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Mazda logo16 Sep 2016

MAZDA Australia is not expecting a big up-tick in sales for its refreshed Mazda6 mid-size range, but the company says it is now targeting small to medium-sized businesses and user-chooser buyers.

The updates to the second best-selling sub-$60,000 mid-size car in Australia mimics many of the changes introduced to the recently refreshed Mazda3 and includes a subtle visual tweak as well as improvements to the cabin and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.

Speaking at the medial launch of the updated Mazda6 in Melbourne this week, Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders said he expected the average monthly sales to continue at a rate of about 380 units given the move away from passenger cars to SUVs, but added that the car-maker was chasing more business buyers.

“Private buyers are basically moving to other things,” he said. “So for us to get any growth we need to go after those other buyers and that is a bit of a longer-term process. We are well engaged and moving in that direction.” Mr Benders said the opportunities for more small fleet sales could come at the expense of entry-level premium cars as well as buyers looking for an alternative once Ford, Holden and Toyota close their Australian manufacturing operations.

“There has been growth with lower-level entry premium brands and the last die-hard large-car buyers. We need to improve the competitiveness of our cars with the premiums and that is addressed with this (Mazda6) upgrade.

“Also those remaining die-hard large sedan buyers will shortly be left with similar mid-size offerings from GM and Ford, which means that Mazda6 is a viable competitive option for them.” Mr Benders said it was not Mazda’s challenge to knock off the Toyota Camry as the best-seller in its segment following the end of manufacturing next year, but suggested that Camry sales would likely contract when it becomes an imported model.

“I don’t know whether Camry can sustain the volumes that they do with an imported vehicle because I don’t know they can get it (pricing) quite as sharp as they have. There have been times when Camry has been priced against Mazda3 and Corolla rather than other medium cars.” Pricing has not increased for the updated Mazda6 range, maintaining its starting price of $32,490 plus on-road costs for the base petrol Sport sedan, before topping out at $49,540 for the flagship Atenza diesel wagon.

The only visual tweaks are newly designed exterior mirrors that now fold automatically (Touring grades and up) and a new Machine Grey metallic paint colour that made its debut on the recently launched CX-9 SUV.

Mazda says that given the major mid-life facelift the car received early last year, it did not require further visual changes.

Changes to the inside include a new steering wheel, while the instrument display now has clearer labels and fonts that match those of the MZD Connect connectivity system.

The Multi-Information Display in the instrument cluster is now full colour and now features a water temperature gauge and a graphically displayed compass function. The Active Driving (head-up) Display is also now full colour.

Further cabin upgrades include enhanced driving position memory, the introduction of digital DAB+ radio, redesigned front seatback pocket, redesigned rear centre armrest on higher-spec GT and Atenza variants.

The Atenza also gets a premium interior package that includes Nappa leather seats with Titanium piping, Titanium trim highlights on instrument panel, centre console and door trims, a black headliner with LED down-lighting, as well as chrome plating on the electric seat adjustment and glovebox opener.

New to the Mazda6 range is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system that reduces engine torque slightly with each steering input to increase vertical load on the outside front wheel, resulting in improved traction and a reduced need for small steering corrections.

The system made its debut in the updated Mazda3 that arrived last month and will roll out to all of its models in the coming years.

Mazda has introduced more measures to ensure improved NVH levels, such as increasing the sealing between the rear door trims and inner panels, boosting the moulding weather strip terminals around doors and including more sound-absorbing materials in the roofliner.

Mazda has also used thicker front door glass on entry variants, while the front door glass on the up-spec GT and Atenza is soundproof with an acoustic membrane between the glass layers.

On diesel variants, Mazda has included High-Precision DE Boost Control which the company says ensures “smoother acceleration that responds more accurately to the driver’s intentions”.

Also new to diesel Mazda6s is new Natural Sound Smoother and Natural Sound Frequency Control technologies that help decrease diesel knocking noise.

The two powertrains carry over unchanged with the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol unit delivering 138kW at 5700rpm and 250Nm at 3250rpm, driving the front wheels via a SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel uses the same transmission and pumps out 129kW at 4500rpm and 420Nm at 2000rpm. It is not offered in base Sport spec.

In petrol guise the Mazda6 consumes 6.6 litres per 100km, while the diesel drinks 5.4L/100km.

Standard gear in the Sport includes 17-inch alloys, LED tail-lights, power windows, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, black cloth trim, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, electric park brake, leather wrapped gear shifter and steering wheel, paddle shifters, 7.0-inch full colour touchscreen with MZD Connect six-speaker audio, Bluetooth, internet radio integration, sat-nav, steering wheel audio controls, USB and auxiliary jack.

It also features a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, an emergency stop signal, hill start assist, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and Smart City Brake Support that now features pedestrian recognition with the upper detection range increased from 30km/h to 80km/h.

Some versions of the 6 also gain upgraded Smart Brake Support that detects obstacles and other vehicles ahead, with the operating range expanded to between 15km/h and 160km/h, while Traffic Sign Recognition has been added to Mazda’s i-Activsense suite of safety gear.

Touring variants add LED daytime running lights, front foglights and headlights, eight-way power seat adjustment and two-position memory function for the drive and six-way power adjustment for the passenger, black or white leather trim, premium 11-speaker Bose stereo, front parking sensors and Smart City Brake Support – Rear.

The GT gains 19-inch alloys, power sliding sunroof, heated front and rear seats, keyless entry, Active Driving Display and Adaptive Front Lighting System.

Atenza variants include 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.

2016 Mazda6 pricing*
Sedan
Sport petrol (a) $32,490
Touring petrol (a) $37,290
GT petrol (a) $42,690
Atenza petrol (a) $45,390
Touring diesel (a) $40,140
GT diesel (a) $45,540
Atenza diesel (a) $48,240
Wagon
Sport petrol (a) $33,790
Touring petrol (a) $38,590
GT petrol (a) $43,990
Atenza petrol (a) $46,690
Touring diesel (a) $41,440
GT diesel (a) $46,840
Atenza diesel (a) $49,540
*Excludes on-road costs

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