2017 Mazda6 review
Isaac Bober’s first drive 2017 Mazda6 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The refreshed Mazda6 gets quieter diesel engines, more safety tech and nicer interiors on top-spec models. Prices are unchanged.
Pricing From $32,490+ORC (Sedan – Sport) Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety 5 star ANCAP Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol; 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power/Torque 138kW/250Nm; 129kW/420Nm Transmission six-speed automatic Body 4865mm (L); 1840mm (W); 1450mm (H) – Sedan Weight From 1463kg GVM Not listed Spare Space saver Fuel Tank 62 litres Thirst 6.6L/100km (petrol); 5.4L/100km (diesel)
THE MAZDA6 is one of the best-selling medium cars in the country. Indeed, its sits just behind the locally-produced Toyota Camry and with production on that car ending soon and Toyota’s ability to offer such tight pricing it’ll be interesting to see what happens…
Beyond this, the Mazda6 is the best-selling imported medium car under $60k in the country. Sure, the passenger car market is losing ground, and fast, to SUVs, but it’s still the biggest market segment overall. And Mazda is hoping the tweaks to this third-generation Mazda6 which is, essentially the same that it launched here in 2012 will help it to appeal not just its traditional buyers but also those thinking about trading up to something, well, German.
At the local announcement of the refreshed model, Mazda boss, Martin Benders said, “the premiums are coming down to meet the non-premiums. So we should really come up to meet them half way.”
That’s an interesting statement, because overseas the Mazda6 refresh is being pitched at keeping the car relevant against the likes of Ford’s Mondeo and the Skoda Octavia and Superb, and not the entry-level premium brands.
What is it?
The Mazda6 you’re looking at right now is essentially the same vehicle that saw jaws drop when it launched here in 2012. It’s swoopy exterior design and classy interior gave it a more upmarket presence than just about anything else in the segment. It was refreshed more thoroughly last year and this tweak has the most effect on the top-spec Atenza model which now gets nappa leather which, if you scratch it, actually smells like leather and that means something when you’re trying to woo potential buyers away from entry model German cars.
Beyond this, the refreshed Mazda6 is virtually unchanged on the outside, with just slight tweaks to the wing mirrors to set it apart. Whether Mazda would admit it or not (tip: it won’t) the one cloud hanging over the Mazda6 as far as this writer’s concerned has been its NVH. Indeed, I once described the aural experience of sitting in the backseat and driving across a B-road as if a machine gun was being fired underneath the car. Well, I’m pleased to say that Mazda’s engineers have been able to quieten the cabin down to the point where you could now quite easily describe it as being: serene. But we’ll come back to that.
Mazda said it has also developed a way of cancelling out the clatter from its diesel engines and I’ll come back to this shortly too.
What’s it like inside and how practical is it?
The Mazda6 in 2012 looked good both inside and out – it largely borrowed its interior from the CX-5. And, the good news is that the exterior looks as fresh as it did when it first appeared. And the interior now matches the look of the exterior, especially in the GT and Atenza grades.
Climb inside and the dashboard is quite unlike anything you might find in either a Subaru or Toyota (meaning Japanese) and more like a Japanese version of a European interior. And it works.
All of the dials and controls are easy to follow and use even while driving, or unfamiliar with the vehicle. Across the range there’s a new steering wheel, but it’s in the top-spec models, the GT and Atenza, where more important changes have occurred. And there’s method to this; these are the two models Mazda’s hoping to win buyers with.
But, back to the rest of the range for a moment. From the entry-level Sport up, new Mazda6 offers tweaks like digital radio, a 7.0-inch colour touch screen (Mazda’s MZD Connect system), sat nav, blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and reversing camera, and dual-zone climate control with rear air vents.
Move up to the GT and Atenza models and you get 19-inch alloys, sliding and tilt glass sunroof, and heated front and rear seats, the Atenza adds nappa leather seats, Mazda’s radar cruise control, lane departure warning and black headlining and more.
From a practicality standpoint, there’s plenty of room in the front and thanks to reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel and good adjustment on the seat it’s possible for drivers, both short and tall, to get comfortable. Vision all around is quite good and the wing mirrors offer a good field of view down the side of the vehicle but, even with blind spot monitoring it’s important to shoulder check.
Over in the back and two adults could travel comfortably. You could carry three in a pinch, although the centre console and transmission tunnel intrude for the passenger travelling in the middle seat. For the two outboard passengers, legroom and knee room is impressive. There are ISOFIX and top tether anchor points in the back.
Spread around the cabin are four cup holders, two in the front and two in the back which are hidden in the fold down centre armrest. There’s also room in the door storage bins for a one-litre bottle.
The boot, in the sedan, offers 474 litres which is fine (less than Subaru Liberty at 493 litres) and the boot opening is a little pinched and while I didn’t get to measure it, the height of the boot seems low. Mazda only had sedans for test driving at the local announcement, so, I’ll refrain from commenting on the wagon. But, let’s not split hairs here, you’ll fit a set of golf clubs into the back of the Mazda6 and it’ll hold the weekly shopping just fine. Underneath the boot floor is a space saver spare.
What’s the infotainment and communications system like?
Mazda’s MZD Connect runs through a 7.0-inch tablet-esque screen that’s controlled via a rotary dial down at the back of the gear shifter. Because we only had a short drive in the refreshed Mazda6 there wasn’t a chance to really plumb the depths of MZD Connect.
But, we’ve used it before on a number of different Mazdas and it works fine, if a little clumsy at times. The screen itself is dull and prone to being washed out by glare, but the Subaru Levorg also suffers from that.
In similar fashion to Audi and other premium brands, Mazda’s system requires you to take your eyes off the road to use it, at least until you become familiar with it. There are shortcut buttons around the rotary dial that allow you to dive quickly into the system and they work well, but it doesn’t feel as slick as the system in the premium models that Mazda is hoping to woo buyers away from.
What’s the performance like?
Like the rest of the car there have been small tweaks to the engine range, but these, rather than power, have mostly centred on making them quieter. For instance, the 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder makes 138kW at 5700rpm and 250Nm of torque at 3250rpm. Mazda said it had improved the refinement of this engine by incorporating a balancer shaft in the piston to off-set vibration… Mazda showed an animation of the new balancer shaft in action which I’d suggest baffled half of the room watching it. Suffice it to say, the engine is now very quiet indeed. But I can’t help wonder if the same result couldn’t have been achieved with better insulation?
This petrol engine is mated to a conventional six-speed transmission and uses 6.6L/100km on the combined cycle and emits 153g/km of CO2 (sedan) and 155g/km CO2 (wagons).
The 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, like the petrol engine, offers the same output but with improved refinement (129kW at 4500rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm). It’s copped the same balancer shaft piston treatment to reduce compression vibration, while a Natural Sound Smoother and the Natural Sound Frequency Control have been designed to cancel out sound waves by providing an alternate sound wave… Again, surely better insulation would have done the trick.
After driving this refreshed Mazda6 I headed to Byron Bay to drive the new Volkswagen Tiguan and while Mazda’s diesel engine is quiet, the 2.0-litre diesel in the Tiguan is just as quiet, both at idle and throughout the rev range, and it doesn’t have any of the fancy noise-cancelling gear. Hmmm. Away from the engine, Mazda has beefed up the door seals and added more sound deadening insulation around the car to improve its NVH.
The diesel engine, like the petrol, is also mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Both engines feature stop-start and the petrol will restart in 0.35 seconds while the diesel takes 0.40 seconds.
Turbo lag has also been reduced in this new diesel engine (lag is used to describe the time it takes for the turbocharger to spool up – in old turbo cars this used to feel like a light switch being turned on). Both engines are smooth and refined and quiet under load.
What’s the ride and handling like?
The Mazda6 has always been one of the better handling medium cars on the market and this refreshed model continues that tradition. The suspension is untouched although the Mazda6 now gets G-Vectoring Control which was introduced on Mazda3 and helps with steering refinement and cornering stability, but there’s a but…
So what is G-Vectoring Control? Well, it isn’t torque vectoring and so doesn’t apply the brakes to the wheels when turning in. Rather, based on steering inputs and throttle load the system will reduce the amount of torque being sent to the front wheels. The idea is that this helps to balance weight transfer both when cornering and at high speed on the highway.
Now, we’ll have to take Mazda’s word for all of this because we couldn’t feel a thing but then our drive loop was around Melbourne and covered mainly outer suburb roads and highway.
That said, there’s no doubting the quality of the steering in the Mazda6 which, while not overly feelsome, is direct and both well-weighted and consistent in its action. There’s no fidget on-centre when travelling on the highway and the corners we sampled didn’t stress it at all. We’ll put it through a harder loop when we’ve had our hands on it for a week.
The ride is good but the Mazda6 is prone to fidgeting across broken surfaces and we’d suggest the smaller wheels are the way to go because they are better at speed, providing a nice comfortable ride.
How safe is it?
The Mazda6 continues with its five-star ANCAP rating and adds to its safety suite with improvements rear traffic alert for all models, and this works to detect both pedestrians and traffic. The autonomous emergency braking system has also been retuned with a new camera to work at detecting both braking and braked traffic as well as pedestrians that might step off the footpath in front of you.
The safety system also adds traffic sign recognition on some models and blind spot monitoring across the range. The Atenza adds lane keep assist which gently tugs at the wheel if the system detects you’ve wandered out of your lane. Every Mazda6 gets six airbags and all but the entry-level Sport get front and rear parking sensors.
Sedan: 2.5L Petrol
- Sport – $32,490+ORC
- Touring – $37,290+ORC
- GT – $42,690+ORC
- Atenza – $45,390+ORC
- Touring – $40,140+ORC
- GT – $45,540+ORC
- Atenza – $48,240+ORC
Wagon: 2.5L Petrol
- Sport – $33,790+ORC
- Touring – $38,590+ORC
- GT – $43,990+ORC
- Atenza – $46,690+ORC
- Touring – $41,440+ORC
- GT – $46,840+ORC
- Atenza – $49,540+ORC