Diesel is a bit of a funny old fuel. Sales figures show that its popularity, particularly in passenger cars, is on the slide but as families turn away from traditional sedans and towards SUVs and dual cab utes that’s probably to be expected.
In Europe where the cost advantages of diesel are somewhat more significant than Australia the fuel enjoys a strong following, though recent emissions reporting controversies and a move by some European governments to reduce reliance on the fuel could see that position change.
For now though Mazda isn’t afraid of diesel, at least not in its medium Mazda6 sedan and wagon, and with prestige buyers who might have otherwise considered a Mercedes-Benz or BMW in mind, the company has gone all out to improve and refine its frugal diesel engine.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $48,240 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.4 l/100km | Tested: 7.3 l/100km
In the four-variant Mazda6 range, the SkyActiv diesel engine can be optioned into all but the entry-level Sport for a $2850 step-up and in the range-topping Atenza sedan tested here the 2.2 litre turbo diesel starts from $48,240 plus on road costs.
From an aspirational point of view Mazda doesn’t mind comparing itself to the $62,900 Mercedes-Benz C 200 d or the $70,400 BMW 320d but in realistic terms vehicles like the Skoda Superb and Ford Mondeo are more likely to cross potential buyers’ shopping lists.
With a roomy interior, impressive quality, and new-found levels of refinement as well as decent performance it’s easy to see the lure - and the staying power - of the Mazda6 diesel.
- 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
The interior of the the Mazda6 sedan range is pleasantly roomy. From the front seat there’s no shortage of space with low-set seats countered by expansive legroom to stretch out in. Behind the wheel the Mazda6 feels decently sporty too, free from the sit-up-straight positioning of something like a Toyota Camry.
The rear seat is equally as roomy in almost every direction, but tall rear passengers will notice the sweeping roof line deducts from headroom slightly, and bright sunny days reveal the real possibility of a sunburnt neck though the long rear windscreen.
Though the Mazda’s design isn’t the newest, having first appeared in 2012, it has withstood the test of time well with contemporary lines and quality materials, including upgraded Nappa leather for the 2017 model year on the top spec Atenza.
Rear seat passengers in the Atenza also pick up seat heating in the outboard positions to go with the heated and power adjustable front seats.
Other standard inclusions include keyless entry and start, colour head-up display, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control and 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with digital radio and 11-speaker Bose audio.
Boot space measures 474 litres and can be expanded via 60:40 split fold rear sets. Inside the cabin each door features a storage space including bottle holders and the centre console locates two cup holders beneath a sliding cover and a shallow tray at the base of the centre stack.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 129kW/40Nm 2.2 litre SkyActiv turbo diesel four-cylinder
- 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: 1600kg braked, 750kg unbraked
With a simple two engine range the Mazda6 is relatively easy to decipher, with the optionally available 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel offered as a more punchy, yet more frugal alternative to the standard 125kW/250Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine.
The sole transmission available is a six-speed automatic, with drive taken to the front wheels - perfectly conventional for the medium car class, though not quite a match for the rear wheel drive prestige cars Mazda has in its crosshairs.
Deep within Mazda’s diesel engine changes have been made to smooth out the clatter and rattle that diesel engines are often guilty of thanks to something called a Natural Sound Smoother which acts like a little vibration damper mounted inside the piston to reduce vibration at idle and under gentle acceleration.
Mazda also uses something called Natural Sound Frequency Control, which optimises the engine management to reduce diesel knock. The end result of both measures is quite impressive, with the Mazda6 diesel sounding smoother and quieter than before, with only the occasional hint of traditional diesel traits.
Elsewhere Mazda has also made changes to roof sound absorption and door seals, while the Atenza also gains acoustic front door glass to address previous road noise criticisms, and though some tyre noise still makes its way into the cabin the improvement is welcomed.
On the road the muscular 420Nm engine, with peak thrust on call from 2000rpm, is as close as Mazda comes to a performance engine and though it doesn’t spin up as quickly as its petrol equivalent, it offers strong rolling acceleration for confident overtaking.
Standard 19-inch wheels look great underpinning the 6’s flowing form, and don’t rob the ride quality of its suppleness. But should the road turn winding, the Mazda6 is happy to turn-in sharply and deliver rather impressive handling, although the extra weight over the nose compared to the petrol can be felt at times.
As with the updated Mazda3, the Mazda6 also utilises Mazda’s unique G-Vectoring Control technology, a handling aid designed to enhance steering precision while reducing driver (and passenger load) in an attempt to relieve fatigue. Find out more about how G-Vectoring Control works, here
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 $322 for every odd-numbered service, and from $364 to $392 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
With plenty of polish, a high level of interior technology, and innovative safety including segment-first inflatable rear seat belts the Ford Mondeo Titanium delivers a premium experience and the added convenience of hatchback versatility.
Perhaps not the first car that springs to mind, the Skoda Superb 140TDI certainly lives up to its name - though its enticing price won’t remain that way once some of the available options are added to bring it closer to the Mazda’s standard specification.
A little more compact, and down slightly on power and torque, the Hyundai i40 Premium is a Euro-centric alternative to the petrol-only Sonata but is nonetheless well featured and finished, though perhaps not quite as comprehensive as the Mazda6.
With a few hints of technology and styling trickle-down from its prestige Audi division, the Volkswagen Passat 140TDI Highline has design simplicity down to a fine art, without neglecting refinement, or dynamics.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Detail changes to the Mazda6 diesel means the Japanese brand has overcome some of the traditional noise and vibration issues associated with diesel engines, in the process removing some of the resistance to diesel as a fuel.
Other small changes like the adoption of rear seat heating, Nappa leather trim, and a colour head up display with the ability to read traffic signs also boosts the comfort and premium feel of the top-spec Mazda6 Atenza making it a pennywise alternative to a more expensive prestige diesel sedan.
And on the road Mazda’s traditional driver engagement still shines through, with an enjoyable dynamic balance that helps Mazda battle competent competitors from Ford and Skoda without cutting corners when it comes to features and equipment.
MORE: Mazda News and Reviews
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