2010 Mazda6 First Drive Review

Tim O'Brien | 3 Comments

IT KICKED OFF Mazda’s ‘Zoom-Zoom’ campaign in August 2002: that was the strikingly-styled first-gen Mazda6. Back then it introduced a new sense of dynamism to the medium car sector. It was a good performer, if a little coarse, and the MPS AWD Turbo was a scorcher.

The 6, and in particular the zesty 3 that followed it, have been global success stories for the Mazda brand.

But we all know that the gravest danger for any model with a bit of sporting elan is that the next generation arrives bigger, fatter and overblown. That could have been the story for the Mazda6. Yes, the second generation was bigger and fatter – but it was also better.

The third-gen, we’ve just driven it, is better again. Sure, its straight-line performance is nothing special, there are not a lot of kilowatts punching away under the bonnet, but its strength is in its dynamics and refinement.

And, after all, the 6 has never pretended to be a road-rocket - that’s been the preserve of the MPS.

No, Mazda’s 6 is about on-road balance, responsiveness, precise handling and with enough under the toe to satisfy the discerning driver. Its essence is that slightly annoying but very effective ‘Zoom-Zoom’ thang.

The subtle updates on the 2010 model, especially the revisions to the suspension geometry, are genuine improvements to an already good car. Does it now shade the Accord Euro? That’s a question for a longer test.

But after some spirited kilometres at the wheel in both the ‘Activematic’ auto and six-speed manual (the auto in Limited guise and the manual the top-spec Luxury Sports), Mazda would seem to have most things right dynamically.

Like the first and second generation models before it, the 2010 6 is an enjoyable steer in a very smart looking package.

Inside, things are also smart. The power-adjustable seats (added across the range) are good in both up-spec and down-spec models; the dash display and controls are well laid-out, and the piano-black and metal highlights set off an appealingly styled interior.

In even the entry models, it feels classy – expensive even – and is a large step up (to these eyes) from the Mazda3.

Of course, the 6 is shooting for a different demographic: “28 to 34 year olds… white collar males while still appealing to older and female buyers” according to Mazda’s pre-release guff.

Certainly the coachwork will appeal to any demographic. While only a practiced eye will pick the external differences between the new model and the old, the 6 remains a style leader in its segment: its edgy but nicely balanced lines are both individual and – most would agree – unusually stylish in a mostly humdrum segment.

The lines of the wagon, in particular, work very well; something that will not be lost on family buyers with an eye to style.

Of course, anyone can build a handsome car, but fewer get the on-road experience right.

The Drive

From the wheel, the now cheaper 2010 6 (thanks to Mazda passing on the benefits of exchange rate movements) certainly lays down the gauntlet to others in the sector.

The improvements to the updated 6 make a sharp handler, sharper. It will take a very good car to better the 6 for dynamics.

With reach and rake adjustment to the tiller, and those electrically-adjustable seats across the range, it is easy to ‘get set’ at the wheel.

Of the pair, manual and auto (the manual-only diesel will not arrive until next month), the six-speed manual feels the most lively off the line.

The clutch feel, and precise shift action through the six-speed gate, feel ‘right’. It is a slick box, centres nicely between third and fourth when being rowed along, and is the pick for the sporting driver.

The Activematic auto, a five-speed, is shaded a little by higher-tech DSGs in the market, but is no slouch. In the new model, it feels a little sharper – a little quicker to kick down than the previous-gen model we were driving just two weeks ago.

The auto has a nice feature: a ‘slope control’ function that selects gears according to the upward or downward slope of the road, or the curve and driver’s intent. This all-but eliminates ‘hunting’ on upward inclines and puts the right gear underfoot when pushing through the apexes.

Luxury and Luxury Sports models also get paddle shifters on the steering wheel in addition to the centre shift (which, incidentally, has the more logical ‘tip forward’ for down-shifts, ’pull back’ for up-shifts).

We had the six-speed manual for the more challenging sections of the drive. On the hunt, when stretching out the rev-band, it is a bit of a hoot – nicely composed, swift, and, above 5000rpm it sings with a very nice brattish rasp from the MZR 2.5 litre petrol ‘four’ up front.

With 125kW@6000rpm and 226Nm@4000rpm, it is not over-endowed with kilowatts nor Newton metres. To really hustle, things need to be kept in the sweet spot above 4000rpm; do that, and the 6 will happily pick up its skirts.

The nicely weighted shift helps, so too the sharpened steering feel. There is a little understeer evident when pushing hard, but otherwise turn-in is good if not razor edge.

We had the tyre-walls scrubbing a couple of times but that was under serious duress (and there is a fair mass in the 6’s spacious dimensions).

The only let-down is the lack of torque; this can find the 6 wanting on long inclines or when overtaking. There is nothing much under the foot below 4000rpm; mashing the pedal provides little result.

Drop down a couple of cogs of course and things suddenly brighten up, but some drivers will be looking for a few more ergs than the 2.5 litre up front is capable of.

That’s where the diesel comes in, but it won’t be available for another month (and a diesel is not everyone’s cup of tea). More to the point, don't bother waiting for a diesel auto, because there won't be one - manual only I'm afraid.

The greatest improvement with the new 6 though is in refinement. Mazda engineers have revised both front and rear suspension geometry and damper settings.

The result is not only a demonstrable improvement in ride comfort (with good initial compliance), but NVH, and, in particular, road roar is significantly reduced.

The rear suspension now features more rigid mounting bushes which has really quietened things down, especially on coarse-chip surfaces.

It was a bit of an Achilles-heel of previous-gen models – the 6 was always noisier than the Mondeo which shared essentially the same platform – but for refinement the new model is now arguably at the head of the segment.

The Verdict

So, yes, Mazda has another good’un in the stable with the updated 6. Besides being a competent and swift point-to-point tourer, it offers a new level of refinement and of driver and passenger enjoyment.

And while the styling revisions for the 2010 model are subtle, the Mazda6 remains – most would agree – among the style leaders in the segment.

With a revised (downward) pricing structure, it makes a compelling case.

We would like a little more urge up front, but for the driver who values refinement and ‘feel’ as well as responsive handling and involving dynamics, the Mazda6 demands a very close look.

It was always a good buy. Now it’s a better one.

The Drive

From the wheel, the now cheaper 2010 6 (thanks to Mazda passing on the benefits of exchange rate movements) certainly lays down the gauntlet to others in the sector.

The improvements to the updated 6 make a sharp handler, sharper. It will take a very good car to better the 6 for dynamics.

With reach and rake adjustment to the tiller, and those electrically-adjustable seats across the range, it is easy to ‘get set’ at the wheel.

Of the pair, manual and auto (the manual-only diesel will not arrive until next month), the six-speed manual feels the most lively off the line.

The clutch feel, and precise shift action through the six-speed gate, feel ‘right’. It is a slick box, centres nicely between third and fourth when being rowed along, and is the pick for the sporting driver.

The Activematic auto, a five-speed, is shaded a little by higher-tech DSGs in the market, but is no slouch. In the new model, it feels a little sharper – a little quicker to kick down than the previous-gen model we were driving just two weeks ago.

The auto has a nice feature: a ‘slope control’ function that selects gears according to the upward or downward slope of the road, or the curve and driver’s intent. This all-but eliminates ‘hunting’ on upward inclines and puts the right gear underfoot when pushing through the apexes.

Luxury and Luxury Sports models also get paddle shifters on the steering wheel in addition to the centre shift (which, incidentally, has the more logical ‘tip forward’ for down-shifts, ’pull back’ for up-shifts).

We had the six-speed manual for the more challenging sections of the drive. On the hunt, when stretching out the rev-band, it is a bit of a hoot – nicely composed, swift, and, above 5000rpm it sings with a very nice brattish rasp from the MZR 2.5 litre petrol ‘four’ up front.

With 125kW@6000rpm and 226Nm@4000rpm, it is not over-endowed with kilowatts nor Newton metres. To really hustle, things need to be kept in the sweet spot above 4000rpm; do that, and the 6 will happily pick up its skirts.

The nicely weighted shift helps, so too the sharpened steering feel. There is a little understeer evident when pushing hard, but otherwise turn-in is good if not razor edge.

We had the tyre-walls scrubbing a couple of times but that was under serious duress (and there is a fair mass in the 6’s spacious dimensions).

The only let-down is the lack of torque; this can find the 6 wanting on long inclines or when overtaking. There is nothing much under the foot below 4000rpm; mashing the pedal provides little result.

Drop down a couple of cogs of course and things suddenly brighten up, but some drivers will be looking for a few more ergs than the 2.5 litre up front is capable of.

That’s where the diesel comes in, but it won’t be available for another month (and a diesel is not everyone’s cup of tea). More to the point, don't bother waiting for a diesel auto, because there won't be one - manual only I'm afraid.

The greatest improvement with the new 6 though is in refinement. Mazda engineers have revised both front and rear suspension geometry and damper settings.

The result is not only a demonstrable improvement in ride comfort (with good initial compliance), but NVH, and, in particular, road roar is significantly reduced.

The rear suspension now features more rigid mounting bushes which has really quietened things down, especially on coarse-chip surfaces.

It was a bit of an Achilles-heel of previous-gen models – the 6 was always noisier than the Mondeo which shared essentially the same platform – but for refinement the new model is now arguably at the head of the segment.

Verdict

So, yes, Mazda has another good’un in the stable with the updated 6. Besides being a competent and swift point-to-point tourer, it offers a new level of refinement and of driver and passenger enjoyment.

And while the styling revisions for the 2010 model are subtle, the Mazda6 remains – most would agree – among the style leaders in the segment.

With a revised (downward) pricing structure, it makes a compelling case.

We would like a little more urge up front, but for the driver who values refinement and ‘feel’ as well as responsive handling and involving dynamics, the Mazda6 demands a very close look.

It was always a good buy. Now it’s a better one.

Filed under: Featured, review, petrol, Mazda, mazda6, diesel, sedan, hatch, fwd, family, medium, 5door, 4door, mazda6 luxury sports, mazda6 limited, tim o'brien

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  • 668475019
    Jake02 says,
    4 years ago
    I've always loved the Mazda6, ever since i hired the first-gen in NZ. It's a great all-rounder! I loved it right until I bought one of its rivals. This facelift is a step backwards, especially those wheels! God they're awful!!!
  • PeterG says,
    4 years ago
    Great they have reduced road roar.But it still looks a bit chintzy... too much chrome and the clear surrounds of the rear lights.Also a bit Transformer looking at the front.Photos probably not flattering.
  • Andrew says,
    4 years ago
    Technically, this is still the second generation - not a third generation. A new 'generation' insinuates it's an all-new or substantially revised and rebodied update.

    Also, I'm fairly sure the Mazda Tribute was the first vehicle to kick off the "Zoom-Zoom" campaign in 2001 with the advertisement featuring black MX-5s.

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