Paul Murrell’s Mazda6 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

IN A NUTSHELL The third-generation Mazda6 has had a significant nip and a tuck. It’s now easily one of the best-looking vehicles on the market.

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS Mazda continues its trend of reinventing its cars without destroying their essence. The Mazda6 offers a quality look and feel that you normally have to pay a lot more money for. Indeed, Mazda benchmarked the 6 against the BMW 3 Series and Audi’s A4. It stacks up well.

WHEN MAZDA GETS THINGS RIGHT, it really hits the nail on the head. The Mazda3 dominates its category; the Mazda2 is right up there with the leaders in the tiddler class and the Mazda6 keeps the flag waving in the highly competitive mid-size category.

But the competition, as they say, never sleeps and recent entrants into the class such as the Holden Malibu will keep Mazda on its toes. It’s no secret that manufacturers are always watching what others are doing, and set themselves benchmarks, based on the best. In Mazda’s case, the benchmarks were the BMW 3 Series, Audi’s A4 and Volkswagen Passat. In other words, Mazda set out to match the Europeans and outgun the Korean and Japanese peers.

The third generation Mazda6 has undergone quite a facelift, gaining the wide-mouth look of its siblings and adopting the Kodo (“soul of motion”) design theme. The new grille is flanked by sleek new headlights incorporating LEDs and a new corona-style light. The overall effect is a lower, slightly more aggressive stance.

The Mazda6 elevates the 6 into the premium class

The hatch is no longer part of the line-up, but both the sedan and wagon variants continue. Diesel models, previously only available with manual transmission, are now equipped with a six-speed auto as standard, and the two are well matched.

Inside, Mazda has once again delivered a classy, stylish interior that manages to feel just a bit more special than its price would indicate, a clever and worthwhile achievement. There are still some hard plastics that don’t measure up, especially around the centre console, but the soft-feel dash top, neat stitching and leather (on every model other than the entry model Sport) feel special.

Even at the entry level, the 6 is well equipped with Tom Tom sat nav, front fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED tail lamps, keyless push button start, dual zone air conditioning, cruise control, auto headlamps, leather on the steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake handle, paddle shifts, auto wipers, six-speaker sound system with single disc CD player. But for no apparent reason, the 6 Sport is only available with the 2.5-litre petrol engine.

The Mazda6 features a well designed and easy to use dashboard

If you want to specify the diesel, you have to move up to the Touring model. Note: with Mazda, “Touring” doesn’t mean station wagon – that’s purely a BMW affectation. The Touring Mazda can be either a sedan or wagon and adds leather seat trim, eight-way adjustment for the driver’s seat (four-way for the passenger), premium Bose sound system with 11 speakers, front and rear parking sensors.

The Mazda6 GT, as the name suggests, delivers sportier style with 19-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lamps , bi-xenon headlamps with adaptive front lighting, power sliding and tilt glass sunroof, auto-dimming interior mirror, heated front seats and “advanced” keyless entry.

The full bells and whistles model is the Atenza with a longer list of active safety aids including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, auto dipping headlamps, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, smart brake support and collision detection system. All models are comprehensively equipped with safety features such as front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock braking, dynamic stability control, emergency stop signal, hill launch assist, reverse camera and traction control system. Naturally, each of these has a matching acronym.

Compared to the previous model, the A-pillars have been moved rearwards by 100mm and the wing mirrors repositioned. These apparently minor adjustments have noticeably improved the view from the driver’s seat – all too often, thick A-pillars and chunky external mirrors conspire to create a significant and unexpected blind spot. The front seats provide good lateral and under-thigh support. The perforated leather upholstery (in all but the Sport model) allows the leather to breathe, although we didn’t try it in extreme conditions.

The sedan wheelbase is 80mm longer than the wagon and that means better rear seat legroom. If you specify the wagon, you may find access to the rear seat is limited by the smaller rear door. On the other hand, the additional 30mm height in the wagon means better head room, although the sunroof takes some of that back.

The 2.5-litre petrol engine and 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine both have i-stop and the oddly named i-Eloop energy regeneration system. Each time you slow down, the system “harvests” energy and stores it in a capacitor. The i-stop turns off the engine whenever you come to a standstill (this system was recently the cause of a safety recall, but Mazda Australia reports most vehicles recalled have been checked and none were found to have any significant problem). Between them, i-stop and i-Eloop reduce fuel consumption to as low as 5.3 l/100km in the petrol engine and 4.8L/100km (extra urban cycle, 6.6L/100km combined for the petrol, 5.4 for the diesel).

The Mazda6 isn't as sporty feeling as the old Mazda6

On the road, the Mazda6 soaks up bumps remarkably well, perhaps due to its softer spring and damper rates combined with stiffer anti-roll bars and a 40 percent stiffer body rigidity. The larger wheel and low profile tyres have a noticeable negative effect on ride quality.

The Mazda diesel feels more muscular than the petrol engine, as you would expect with 420Nm of torque coming on from just 2000rpm. The downside is a considerable turbo lag. The petrol engine, on the other hand, has 250Nm of torque and delivers its power more linearly and with better throttle response.

Mazda have stuck with their commendable policy of not charging a premium for metallic colours, except for the hero colour of Soul Red Metallic that adds $200. It’s a stunning colour that probably justifies the premium.

Mazda6 Diesel

PRICE from $40,350 (plus ORC) (petrol models from $33,460 plus ORC) WARRANTY three-year, 100,000 kilometres SAFETY RATING five-star ANCAP ENGINE 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel TRANSMISSION six-speed automatic (SkyActiv-drive) BODY 3.55m (L); 1.63m (W); 1.49m (H) WEIGHT 1541-1593kg THIRST 5.4L/100km (diesel, combined)


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