NOT REALLY AN UPDATE, MORE OF A MODEL-YEAR CHANGE, THE 2017 MAZDA6 ATENZA IS NONETHELESS NOTEWORTHY.
It sits as the second-best seller in the medium segment under $60,000. However, the Mazda6 gets there on the back of private sales, unlike the best-selling Camry which owes its success to a strong fleet-standing.
But rather than chase volume, Mazda has instead opted to chase loftier targets. It sees its upper-end models, the GT and Atenza, as a better-value option against prestige players from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
And that’s not quite the stretch that it might at first seem.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $45,390 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.6 l/100km | Tested: 7.9 l/100km
As the flagship model, the Mazda6 Atenza steps up with added safety technology, and a plusher interior, using top-shelf materials like Nappa leather to place a foot firmly in prestige territory.
- Standard Equipment: Nappa leather seat trim, power-adjustable front seats, heated front and rear outboard seats, dual-zone climate control, powered sunroof, adaptive LED headlights, radar cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear lever, trip computer with colour TFT display, head-up driver display, keyless entry and start with walk-away locking, auto lights and wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen with supplementary rotary controller, DAB+ digital radio, satellite navigation, 11-speaker Bose audio, smartphone streaming app support, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity
- Cargo Volume: 474 litres, expandable via 60:40 split fold rear seats
Though little has changed on the inside, Mazda has made a push towards a more premium feel to the cabin.
The seats are now trimmed in Nappa leather, with a more soft and supple feel than the standard leather trim, available in either black or white and contrasted with titanium-coloured piping and stitching.
There are also new titanium trim plates across the dash, doors, and centre console, also with a premium look and feel. And, auto-folding mirrors, colour displays in the centre console and the head-up display also bring the Mazda6 up to speed with the CX-9 and Mazda3.
Interior fitting and space are otherwise unchanged, with a low-seated, but still spacious feel and a hint of coupe-like intimacy thanks to the sweeping low roof.
Sedan buyers are treated to extra legroom in the rear, thanks to the four-door’s longer wheelbase compared to the wagon, but, as a result of the rather low rear-roofline, taller rear seat passengers may not find the rear of a Mazda6 the best place to while away the hours.
The infotainment system remains as-before with a screen size of 7.0-inches (not the larger 8.0-inch display of the CX-9) including satellite navigation, and app connectivity through compatible smartphones, however there’s still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 138kW/250Nm 2.5 litre SkyActiv naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: 297mm ventilated front discs, 278mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 11.2m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1500kg braked, 550kg unbraked
Though the engine may be unchanged, the updated Mazda6 range is no worse for it. Outputs are the same 138kW at 5700rpm and 250Nm at 3250rpm as before, and while it’s no rocket, the Mazda6 gets along smartly.
Some of Mazda’s sound deadening work (particularly on the Atenza) is revealed with a quieter interior, particularly at idle, though once on the road, there’s still a little more road noise than is ideal.
But whether commuting or on the highway, the Mazda6 is certainly polished, and offers what might be the best relationship between the steering wheel and the front tyres of any front-wheel-drive mid-sizer.
Part of that comes down to Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control - this new in-house technology is designed to increase load over the front wheels when cornering, making steering more accurate and precise while at the same time removing small directional shifts.
The system won’t be one that every driver (or passenger) can detect but in practice it means less need to take a ‘second bite’ at a corner and reduced nibbling at the wheel in a straight line. The result is a more fluid and relaxed time behind the wheel.
Certainly the huge 19-inch alloy wheels of the up-spec Atenza look the part, but they also mean that it isn’t quite as absorbent over surface imperfections as lower-spec cars on 17-inch wheels.
Though the ride is compliant for the most part, there’s an underlying firmness that is just a touch out-of-step with the car’s premise of being a plush prestige-rival.
On road it is quick enough, and has ample there for safe overtaking and dealing with hills. But the Mazda6 lacks the flexible torque rush of turbocharged rivals like the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Mondeo.
Buyers looking to replicate that torquey-rush can opt for the diesel variant instead, which has undergone further work to increase refinement, and we’ll have a full review of that car soon.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.44 out of 37 possible points When tested in 2013.
Safety Features: All Mazda6 models are equipped with six airbags, a reversing camera, rear park sensors, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, front and rear city autonomous braking, electronic stability control, and ABS brakes.
The Atenza adds lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, forward obstruction warning, driver attention alert (fatigue monitoring), and autonomous braking with a higher operating threshold.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals are set at every 12 months or 10,000km whichever occurs first. Service pricing varies from $302 for every odd-numbered service, up to $330 for even-numbered intervals, with extra charges (and a separate interval) for items like brake fluid, spark plugs, cabin filter, air filter, fuel filter, and spark plugs. Consult your local dealer for full details.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Despite the shrinking market for medium sedans, there’s no shortage of upscale offering in the segment like the Hyundai Sonata Premium and Kia Optima GT, both packed to the gills with features but still attractively priced.
Value is also the calling card of the Subaru Liberty Premium, which also includes all wheel drive, and the choice of a six-cylinder engine. If practicality is more your thing, then the Ford Mondeo Titanium comes with a versatile hatchback design.
The biggest seller in the segment, by far, is the Toyota Camry, though the top-spec Atara SL doesn’t quite match the premium look and feel of the Mazda6.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The first generation Mazda6 was one of the first medium cars to advance the class from mere A-to-Z transport into a statement of style. It is now good enough to be considered premium, but priced to fit the needs of user-chooser lease plans.
But the Mazda6 isn’t alone, there is some good machinery in that medium sedan and wagon segment; a bit ironical given the segment is shrinking under the squeeze of a rampant SUV market.
But thanks to its slinky styling, feature-packed equipment list and handling that’s second-to-none for the segment, the Mazda6 Atenza really does challenge executive sedans.
Any way you look at it, this is a smart buy. It may not have the lure of a three-pointed star, but a spin around the block in a Mazda6 will give you more than a few things to think about.