The original Mazda6 of 2002 was the model that finally made mainstream mid-size cars sexy. It really reinvigorated the segment in New Zealand and with good reason: it looked fantastic and was great to drive.
Powertrain and performance: 2.2-litre turbo diesel four, 129kW/420Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 5.4 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4800mm long, 1480mm high, kerb weight 1550kg, luggage capacity 451/1593 litres, fuel tank 62 litres, 19-inch wheels on 225/45 tyres.
We like: Style, quality, dynamics, equipment. It’s all good.
We don’t like: High price, odd steering at parking speeds, TomTom locks out on the move.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
The original Mazda6 of 2002 was the model that finally made mainstream mid-size cars sexy (with a nod to the Honda Accord Euro). It really reinvigorated the segment in New Zealand and with good reason: it looked fantastic and was great to drive.
The new Mazda6 comes to market with an enviable image then. It also comes with a lot of technology, including Mazda’s SkyActiv powertrain and chassis construction, plus a lot of electronic driver assistance on high-specification models like our Limited test car.
Where once the Mazda6 range had three body shapes, the rather sleek hatchback has been dropped in the new lineup. So now there are two: sedan and wagon. Both look striking, but for a combination of style and sheer practicality the wagon presents a strong case. The styling is just that bit more cohesive and it’s more compact than the sedan, which is tailored towards Asian and American buyers: there’s an 80mm difference in wheelbase between the two, for example.
Our car is the turbo diesel, although there’s also a 2.5-litre petrol available in the range.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
For the most part, fantastic. The 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine is a mighty thing, with 420Nm of torque. Even more impressive in the Mazda6 than it is in the CX-5, although perhaps that’s because we expect great diesels in crossovers, whereas for conventional sedans and wagons they’re still a bit of a niche concern and therefore also a novelty.
The chassis is excellent too, as it should be: the Mazda6 is only the second model designed under Mazda’s SkyActiv programme to be new from the ground up (CX-5 is the other). The so-called ‘SkyActiv chassis’ is stiffer yet lighter than the previous Mazda6 platform.
The electric power steering is fine once you’re up and moving, but it does have the tendency to go into weird weighting spasms when you’re twirling it around during parking manoeuvres – not to mention making whirring sounds. Kind of spoils the ambience of what is really a pseudo-luxury car in many respects.
Same goes for the loud cracking noise the front suspension makes under load over low-speed potholes in certain circumstances. Ordinarily I wouldn’t make a big deal of that, but it’s happened on two Mazda6 models I’ve driven this year (both Limited diesels, a sedan and this wagon), so it’s clearly down to design and engineering rather than an isolated incident.
Overall though, the Mazda6 is a very strong competitor compared with similarly sporting rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and Hyundai i40. Hard to believe mid-sizers have become so driver-focused and desirable in such a short space of time.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
The interior is simple but nicely finished indeed, with the one quirk being some glossy red trim inserts (you’ll find the same thing in the latest CX-9). An odd touch, but at least it didn’t clash with the blue exterior finish. Love the off-white leather upholstery on our car – actually a firm-order option (black leather is standard) but one well worth inspecting if you’re a potential buyer, because although it sounds a bit gauche it actually looks fantastic and give the cabin a real lift into premium territory.
The Limited is loaded with the latest in driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise control and lane departure plus blind spot warning systems. Satellite navigation too – in this instance a TomTom touch-screen unit integrated into the dashboard, which works well but isn’t quite as user-friendly as a portable unit. It won’t let you (or more to the point, your passenger) input a destination while the car is moving. Whereas a TomTom that you stick on your windscreen will.
Sleek the Mazda6 wagon is, but still quite practical with a generous 451 litres of load space. As ever, delight is in the detail: as before, the 6 has rear seats that can be released from the cargo bay and (new for this car) a tonneau cover that’s actually attached to the tailgate. So when you lift the fifth door the cover swings up out of the way, and when you close it again it covers your valuables. No fuss.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
The medium-car market is shrinking and conventional wagons are no longer the big draw they once were – mostly because people have moved into crossover-type vehicles. Mazda New Zealand is probably thankful it has the excellent CX-5 in its ranks.
That notwithstanding, wagons still have a style and charm of their own. Forget about ‘sports utility’, cars like this are just plain sporty. The Mazda6 is certainly one of the most appealing wagons around.
The only thing that might hold you back is price. This is not a cheap car: admittedly, the Limited diesel wagon is the flagship of the range, but $60,795 is still a whole lot of money for a mainstream mid-sizer.
Not that the Six is lacking the technology or quality to justify it, but the problem is that there are so many other options at that price. Many of them in the dreaded crossover segment.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: Yes
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Lane guidance: Yes
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
Power boot or tailgate: No
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes, integrated TomTom
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40, one-touch folding
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Stop-start: YesTrip computer