2018 Mazda6 Review: Atenza Sedan
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Mazda6 Atenza Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Updated Mazda6 is more than a refresh with a quieter more refined cabin and improved dynamics.
2018 Mazda6 Atenza Specifications
Price $47,690+ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety five star ANCAP Service Intervals 12 months, 10,000km Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 170kW at 5000rpm Torque 420Nm at 2000rpm Transmission six-speed auto Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4865mm (L) 1840mm (W) 1450mm (H) 2830mm (WB) Boot Space 474-1648L Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 62L Thirst 5.3-7.6L/100km
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THIS IS THE THIRD UPDATE for the Mazda6 since it was launched in Australia back in 2012 and it would be easy to suggest Mazda might be stretching the 6 a little too thin. But that would be wrong. See, so extensive have the changes been that you could make a case for calling this a new car rather than one that’s been merely refreshed.
What is the Mazda6?
The Mazda6 has long been regarded by motoring writers (although not by me) as one of the very best in the medium passenger car segment. I’ve never been totally convinced by the things refinement or dynamics. I am now.
This update, under the guise of ‘Mature Elegance’ has seen the interior and exterior tweaked. Indeed, the snout of both the sedan and wagon variants is new, with the bottom edge of the grille flowing into the headlights to give a sense of width and the grille mesh (changed from a fin design) has been pushed deeper into the grille to give a sense of depth.
The headlights have also been reworked with LED turn indicators now incorporated. Indeed, Mazda reckons the new lighting signature was aimed at giving the car an impression of, when the lights are on, “eyes focussed forward in a penetrating stare”. The fog lights have been incorporated into the headlight unit.
At the rear, the lower part of the rear bumper is now body coloured rather than black, giving the car a more elegant and ‘finished’ look, at least to my eyes. Other things that only a train spotter would notice, include tailpipes pushed further out to the edges of the bumper and a new lower half of the boot lid design. There are new designs for the 17-inch and 19-inch alloys.
The physical dimensions of the vehicle remain the same, and that means 4865mm long, 1840mm wide and 1450mm high with a wheelbase of 2830mm for the sedan.
In terms of pricing, there have been some changes because of improved equipment levels, with the entry-level Sport sedan with a 2.5-litre petrol engine starting from $32,490+ORC and maxing out at $50,090+ORC for the Atenza wagon with a turbo-diesel engine. The top-spec Atenza sedan we’re testing here list from $47,690+ORC.
In terms of features, and in addition to everything else the Mazda6 offers, the Atenza gets plenty of fruit with a leather interior, heated and ventilated front seats, sliding glass sunroof, wood door and dashboard trim inserts, adaptive LED headlights, 360-degree view monitor, frameless interior mirror, 19-inch alloys and more.
What’s the interior like?
Before the update, the interior of the Mazda6 could best be described as plain. But that’s no longer the case with the interior now able to match the swooping and classy looks of the exterior.
The dashboard was always a horizontal affair but now some of the curves have been knocked out of it to give it a stretched-out appearance creating a sense of width in the cabin. That the air vents have been pushed apart helps with this trick on the eye. The climate controls sit lower down on the centre stack with an expanse of nothing between them and the air vents, on the Atenza the metal dials for the climate control feels as nice to the touch as anything you’d find in a BMW or Audi.
Back at the top of the dashboard is an 8.0-inch infotainment screen that remains proud of the dashboard (meaning it doesn’t fold away) and features Mazda’s latest-generation MZD Connect system but there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality, although Mazda has said that it’s coming soon to its local line-up.
I’ve never been a fan of Mazda’s infotainment system and that hasn’t changed with this car. Sure, there’s plenty of functionality but the menu structure is perhaps a little too complicated for easy use on the move. Boasting a Bose sound system, I can attest to the quality of the sound when you’ve got your music pumped.
The front seats have been redesigned and new materials used. The Atenza adds front seat ventilation, the first Mazda to offer this feature. On first meeting, the seats don’t feel overly supportive looking quite flat and I wasn’t super impressed with them after my first drive at the local launch, but spending a week with the thing and getting to put it across the Practical Motoring road loop has changed my mind.
Sure, the seats could do with some more support for when the road gets twisting, especially considering the grunt and cornering ability of the thing, but overall I found the seats grew on me, proving comfortable across longer (100km-plus) stints behind the wheel.
Sat behind the steering wheel there’s decent vision right around and adding the sense of quality is the ditching of the old car’s flip up head-up display. That cheap-looking unit has been replaced by a projector-style system that sees the speed and other information float over the bonnet.
Over in the back, the wheelbase of 2830mm has meant there’s plenty of rear seat legroom; I’m about six-feet-tall and with both the driver’s and front passenger’s seat set to suit me, I can easily sit in the back seat without my knees or feet touching the seat backs. Like the front seats, the back seats have been reshaped and redesigned to make getting in and out easier but also make them more comfortable. And they are but only the two outboard seats, the middle seat is more of a perch but that didn’t stop me managing to fit three six-foot blokes into the back – they all claimed to have enough room although because the base of the middle seat is raised headroom wasn’t great but that was because of the standard-fit sliding sunroof. Didn’t stop us driving for an hour like that so I guess that makes it a pretty practical backseat. There are pockets on the back of the front seats, directional air vents at the back of the centre console and ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats.
The sedan offers 474 litres of storage growing to 1648 litres with the back seats folded. The shape of the boot is shallow and deep and while it’s a decent size the opening is small which reduces its practicality. A space saver spare lurks beneath the floor of the boot.
What’s it like on the road?
Our test car, the Mazda6 Atenza ran the new engine in the line-up, a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol that’s been borrowed from the CX-9. The other engines in the range are carried over although they’ve all been breathed on. This engine makes an impressive 170kW at 5000rpm and 420Nm of torque at a diesel-esque 2000rpm. In good news for the hip pocket the engine has been homologated to run on 91RON. There’s only one transmission to choose, regardless of the engines, and that is a six-speed automatic. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 7.6L/100km; in my week, I managed a little higher than that at 8.1L/100km.
At the launch of the new Mazda6 I spent much of my time in the Atenza so it was nice to spend a week with the thing and put it across our road loop to see if it confirmed my earlier impressions. And it did. Which was, ahem, nice. The engine is a smooth unit with plenty of usable oomph and while the transmission is tuned for fuel efficiency the thing will shuffle down and hustle when needed.
The nice thing about the engine and transmission is that it maintains its key characteristics of being quiet, relaxed and smooth whether you’re in stop-start traffic or burning up the highway. Even when you’re trying to trip up the transmission it’s almost impossible with the thing responding as you want and need happily letting you rev the engine when you’re overtaking or opting for efficiency when you’re cruising. So, the engine and transmission is good.
Pre-update Mazda6 always felt a little tinny to me with a lack of noise insulation (particularly the underbody) but that’s not the case with the updated vehicle. Mazda has clearly paid close attention and added insulation to improve the ‘conversational clarity’. Vibration reducing materials were added to the central tunnel, the suspension rigidity was increased and even the thickness of mounting brackets was increased. In addition, the floor panels are now thicker as are the wheel arches, and improvements were made to the noise absorbing potential of the headlining, while on the outside, there are various ducts and panel shaping to improve the airflow characteristic across the car and reduce wind noise.
The way the Mazda6 rides and handles also came in for revision and the changes, which you can read about in our first drive review, have resulted in a vehicle that feels more composed across broken surfaces and better balanced when pressing on in corners, although big mid-corner bumps will still send a jolt through the steering (but it doesn’t upset the stance). This, coupled with steering that’s well weighted and accurate in its action makes for a car that finally lives up to Mazda’s zoom-zoom tagline.
What about ownership?
Well, Mazda still doesn’t have a great warranty, running just three-years (although unlimited kilometres is a bonus) and it’s fast being overtaken by rivals moving to five- and seven-year warranties. In terms of servicing costs, Mazda offers fixed-price servicing but the servicing schedule is shorter than some at 12 months or 10,000km with prices ranging from $312 to $341.
What about safety?
This updated Mazda6 carries over its five-star ANCAP rating and includes just about everything from Mazda’s active and passive safety arsenal. As standard, there’s the usual traction and stability controls, six airbags, electric park brake with auto hold, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, radar cruise control with stop and go, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking sensors and reversing camera, traffic sign recognition, and smart city brake support in forward and reverse. Top-spec models add things like adaptive headlights and a 360-degree monitor.
So, what do we think?
I was impressed by the Atenza (2.5L) at the local launch earlier this year and I continue to be impressed with it. Mazda has addressed many of the concerns I’ve had with the 6 for many years, like poor insulation and a flimsiness to the way it rides and handles. It’s now more quiet and capable than ever and one of the best in the segment.