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First drive: Mazda6 makeover to maintain momentum

Price down: The facelifted Mazda6 gets a price slice, along with other enhancements.

Fresh Mazda6 gets cosmetic, mechanical and equipment upgrades, plus lower prices

15 Mar 2010

MAZDA’S comprehensively upgraded mid-size model range is now available in Australia, just two years after the current Mazda6 range was released here.

Priced between $530 and $935 lower than before, the revised 2010 Mazda6 sedan, hatch and wagon range comes with a host of cosmetic, mechanical and equipment enhancements that are said to deliver improved dynamics, refinement, convenience and safety.

The return of Mazda6 prices to February 2008 levels, when the second-generation Six was released in Australia, follows price increases of between $500 and $1500 in January 2009 and this year’s five per cent federal import tariff reduction.

Now priced at $27,310, the entry-level Mazda6 Limited manual sedan has received the biggest price reduction and continues to open the nine-variant Mazda6 range.

22 center imageHowever, while a new leather-lined automatic-only wagon derivative named the Touring ($38,120) brings the number of Mazda6 wagon versions to three – including the Classic auto ($35,050 – down $565) and Diesel manual ($36,250 – down $530) – just two hatch models are available following the discontinuation of the Luxury version.

Topping the fresh Mazda6 line-up is the manual-only Diesel Sports hatch, which is $615 more affordable at $42,815 – $1400 more than the manual and auto Luxury Sports hatch (from $41,415) – while the Luxury auto remains the most expensive Mazda6 sedan at $40,905 (down $655).

The GH-series Mazda6 was Australia’s top-selling imported (and privately purchased) mid-size model range in 2009 – despite 14 per cent slower sales – but a further 16.7 per cent sales slide so far in 2010 has slipped it to third overall behind Toyota’s perennial homegrown top-seller, the Camry, and Subaru’s new Liberty.

Facelifted last August and bolstered by the hybrid version last month, the Camry has attracted 3317 buyers in the first two months of 2010 (up 22.9 per cent) for a dominant 35.8 per cent share of the medium segment.

Meantime, 1508 Liberty sales (up a huge 90.2 per cent) represents 16.3 per cent of the category, while 1137 purchases of Australia’s only mid-size vehicle available in sedan, hatch and wagon body styles accounts for 12.3 per cent.

As previewed by the facelifted Atenza that went on sale in Japan in late January and the European Mazda6 released after its debut at the Geneva show earlier this month, the front-wheel drive Mazda6’s earlier than expected midlife makeover brings a new-look corporate face first seen on last year's new Mazda3 and then facelifted CX-7 and CX-9 models, as well as an updated interior.

Rather than ‘floating’ on a black grille as before, the Mazda badge is now fixed to a single large crossbar. The more prominent five-point grille resides on a redesigned front bumper with ‘smiling’ lower air-dam and diamond-shaped foglight bezels, while subtle headlight, tail-light and (lighter) wheel design changes aim to inject a more sporting and premium appearance.

Safety features across the five-star ANCAP crash-rated range continue to include electronic stability/traction control, ABS brakes with EBD and EBA, six airbags and active front head restraints, while the new Mazda6 Touring Wagon comes standard with leather trim, power adjustable front seats and front/rear parking sensors. A roof-mounted sunglasses holder is now standard across the range.

While the Mazda6’s volume-selling 125kW/226Nm MZR 2.5-litre DOHC 16-valve petrol four continues basically unchanged, subtle exhaust system updates to make manual versions slightly more efficient.

Petrol Mazda6 sedans now average 8.3 litres per 100km (down from 8.4L/100km), while the hatch returns 8.5L/100km (down from 8.6L/100km). Auto versions are unchanged at 8.7L/100km (sedan), 8.8L/100km (hatch) and 8.9L/100km (wagon).

The Mazda6 also gains the overseas model’s updated MZR-CD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, which comprises a smaller turbocharger that is said to offer better response and mid-range acceleration, plus upgraded steering and suspension systems and new features such as hill-start assist, which is now available on all manual models.

The base Mazda6 Limited petrol sedan – again available with either a six-speed manual or five-speed ‘Activematic’ automatic transmission ($2000 extra) – comes standard with air-conditioning, cruise control, a four-speaker MP3-compatible CD sound system with auxiliary-in, power windows/mirrors, remote central locking, variable intermittent wipers and 16-inch steel wheels with 205/60 tyres.

Available in both sedan and hatch guise with manual and automatic transmissions, the petrol-powered Mazda6 Classic adds automatic headlights, Bluetooth phone connectivity, dual-zone climate-control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, six-speaker six-CD sound system with steering wheel controls, trip computer, front foglights and new 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/50 tyres.

Peak power output of the revised Euro 4 emissions-compliant Mazda6 diesel engine is actually down by 4kW to 132kW, while maximum torque remains 400Nm and Mazda claims improved midrange flexibility.

Diesel consumption in both the hatch and wagon is now 5.9L/100km (previously 6.0L/100km in the wagon), making the oil-burning Mazda6 more economical than the new Camry Hybrid. The Mazda6 Diesel wagon continues to be a six-speed manual-only proposition and comes with the Classic equipment level.

The Mazda6 Touring petrol wagon is auto-only and to the Classic specification level adds leather seat trim, front seats three memory positions and eight-way power adjustment (four-way for the front passenger) and front/rear parking sensors.

To this, the auto-only Mazda6 Luxury sedan adds a sports grille, ‘blackout’ instrument cluster, leather-wrapped gearshifter, steering wheel paddle shifters, a powered tilt/slide sunroof, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, premium Bose 240-Watt amplifier with eight speakers, Xenon headlights and LED tail-lights.

In addition, the petrol-powered Mazda6 Luxury Sports (manual and auto) offers a rear spoiler, aluminium-faced pedals and footrest, bi-Xenon headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) and updated 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 tyres.

Finally, the manual-only Mazda6 Diesel Sports hatch comes with the same equipment as the Luxury Sports, except for a sunroof.

A new ($2800) option for the 2010 Mazda6 Luxury, Luxury Sports and Diesel Sports is a seven-inch touch-screen satellite-navigation system incorporating Whereis Sensis maps, Bluetooth audio and hands-free compatibility, and voice control.

Clear Water Blue metallic, Graphite mica and Black mica paint are available for the first time on the Mazda6. Metallic paint, which costs up to $700 on some of its rivals, continues to be a no-cost option on the Mazda6.

While Mazda says the car’s exterior aerodynamics have been improved by the addition of plate-type front tyre deflectors, interior changes include the increased use of chromed and piano-black surfaces, refreshed trim panels, updated seat upholstery, easier-to-read centre and instrument meters and more intuitive steering wheel controls.

The latest Mazda6’s steering system comes with increased steering torque in a straight line to deliver enhanced stability and feedback, while optimised front and rear suspension bushes and more rigidly mounted rear wheel hubs aim to return “enhanced handling stability, straight-line stability and ride comfort”.

There is as yet no replacement for the previous GG-series Mazda6 MPS 2.3 turbo sedan, although other all-wheel-drive Mazda6 variants are on offer in Japan.

Mazda Australia says it expects to sell an average of about 680 Mazda6 vehicles per month in 2010, mainly to white-collar males aged between 28 and 34. The hatch is forecast to be the biggest selling body style at 50 per cent, followed by the sedan (30 per cent) and wagon (20 per cent).

Similarly, the Classic is expected to account for half of all sales, followed by 30 per cent for the Luxury and Luxury Sports variants, 10 per cent for the entry-level Limited and five per cent for both the diesel and new Touring version.

More than 1.8 million examples have been sold in about 80 countries since the original Mazda6 replaced the 626 globally in 2002, with more than 85,000 bought in Australia since August 2002.

2010 Mazda6 range pricing:
Limited sedan $27,310 (-$935)
Limited sedan (a) $29,310 (-$865)
Classic sedan $31,750 (-$685)
Classic sedan (a) $33,750 (-$615)
Classic hatch $32,750 (-$650)
Classic hatch (a) $34,750 (-$580)
Classic wagon (a) $35,050 (-$565)
Diesel wagon $36,250 (-$530)
Touring wagon (a) $38,120 (new)
Luxury sedan (a) $40,905 (-$655)
Luxury Sports hatch $41,415 (-$660)
Luxury Sports hatch (a) $43,415 (-$590)
Diesel Sports hatch $42,815 (-$615)

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