The Mazda6, a favourite among buyers looking for an affordable mid-size car, has been given a mild refresh for 2010.
Improvements are relatively minor, but the overall package – already one of the best buys in the segment – now sports some added polish.
A minor cosmetic update brings a new fascia and updated headlights and tail-lights.
Alloy wheel designs are new for the 2010 model year, and the cabin materials have been upgraded for a more upmarket feel.
A hill-start assist function has been added to all manual-equipped models, and there are detail changes to the suspension and steering system to enhance handling.
Most importantly though, thanks to a strong Australian dollar, price cuts across the MY2010 Mazda6 range now make it even more enticing to new car buyers.
What’s the appeal?
The Mazda6 has a well-deserved reputation as a reliable and roomy mid-sizer with excellent driving dynamics.
The MY2010 model continues this successful formula, with its suspension tweaks and lower retail pricing (compared with last year’s model, the 2010 Mazda6 Classic hatch is $650 cheaper) adding even more appeal.
What features does it have?
The Mazda6 Classic is the next rung up from the entry-level Mazda6 Limited, and the mid-spec model for the Mazda6 sedan range.
Equipment levels are good, with dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a trip computer, cruise control, Bluetooth phone integration and a six-speaker, six-disc in-dash CD stacker all standard.
What’s under the bonnet?
Mazda’s 2.5 litre naturally-aspirated petrol inline-four powers the Mazda6 Classic, producing 125kW and 226Nm.
A six-speed manual is the standard transmission (and the one we tested), while a five-speed tiptronic automatic is available as an option.
The Mazda6 forgoes the MacPherson strut front suspension that’s used by most other front-drive mid-size sedans and instead, like the Accord Euro, uses a more sophisticated double wishbone system.
The rear suspension is an independent multi-link design. There are stiffer bushings on the front sway-bar and revised geometry for the rear links to improve stability and responsiveness.
The front dampers have been re-valved to reduce harshness, and the suspension mounts are more compliant to improve comfort.
Steering is electrically-assisted, with the 2010 model gaining new rack mounts and tweaked power-steering. Brakes are discs all around, with sliding calipers.
How does it drive?
The 2.5 litre petrol engine is a great unit, willing to rev and with adequate torque down low.
It does get quite noisy when worked hard (when accelerating into an on-ramp or when overtaking, for example), but in everyday driving it’s smooth and refined.
Our test car was equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission, which was a delight to use thanks to its precise gate, smooth shifter throw and light clutch.
Steering feel is great, and the tiller is well-weighted and communicative. Torque steer is kept at bay, although there can be a bit of kickback over rougher roads.
The revised electric power steering adds a pleasing amount of weight to the wheel when at speed, but keeps it light at low speed to aid parking maneuvers.
There aren’t many negatives to report about the driving experience. All-round visibility is good, the driving position is nice and the seats are comfortable enough to handle the occasional long-haul trip.
The interior can be a bit noisy on the highway, with tyre roar working its way into the cabin when traversing coarse asphalt, but noise levels are not overwhelming.
What did our passengers think?
Passenger comfort is good. The front seats are supportive and nicely bolstered, and so is the rear bench.
Legroom is plentiful for all passengers, however very tall back seat passengers may find a shortage of headroom thanks to the slope of the roof.
Even the rear centre seat is usable, although suited to smaller adults and children.
There are four cupholders situated around the cabin, with the rear seat getting its pair in the fold-down centre armrest.
Disappointingly for family buyers, there are no air vents in the rear of the centre console.
Interior quality and feel
The materials used in the cabin’s construction are hard-wearing, feel very durable and fit together very well, however they aren’t terribly exciting.
There are some nice touches though. The piano-black finisher around the centre stack looks good, and the silver dash trim that extends from door to door breaks up the large expanse of black plastic.
Classic models get a leather-wrapped steering wheel as standard, which fits comfortably in the hand.
The steering wheel is a bit button-heavy, but each switch is clearly marked and easy to interpret.
Having to press the clock button to light up the digital clock is a bit of an oddity, however.
All switchgear operates smoothly and feels solid. It’s also screwed together tightly, with our test car exhibiting no trim rattles or other quality issues.
The hatchback straddles the divide between the wagon and the sedan in terms of practicality, and has a generous 510 litre capacity with the rear seats up and 1702 litres with them folded down.
With the rear seatbacks folding flush with the boot floor, the load area becomes very long and very flat. Perfect for hauling a living room’s worth of flat-pack furniture.
A handy feature is the provision of two handles in the boot area that release the rear seatbacks, which then automatically fall forward.
Underneath the boot floor is a full-size alloy spare wheel.
How safe is it?
The Mazda6 hatch has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and is equipped with ABS, stability control, traction control, emergency brakeforce distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), three-point seatbelts on all seats, ISOFIX child seat anchorages, anti-whiplash front headrests and front, side and curtain airbags.
Fuel consumption and green rating
Mazda claims a conbined cycle consumption figure of 8.5 l/100km for the manual-equipped Mazda6 hatch. Our average of 8.9 l/100km comes close to matching this figure.
Average carbon dioxide emissions come in at 201 g/km, and the 2010 Mazda6’s 2.5 litre petrol engine is now compliant with Euro IV emissions regulations.
The government’s Green Vehicle Guide rates the Mazda6 Classic Hatch 6 stars out of 10 for CO2 emissions and 6.5 stars for particulate emissions.
How does it compare?
The Lancer is too small to really be considered a competitor; the Camry, while solid buying, lacks the dynamics of the 6 and it’s hard to recommend the Epica for anything other than its low price.
The i45 is a great package at a very keen price, but concerns about the dynamics of its rear suspension may turn off some buyers – at least until a fix arrives later in 2010.
That leaves the Mazda6 lined up against the Accord Euro, Mondeo, and Kizashi. All have their strong suits, and all offer a great drive. The Kizashi is one of our faves, but also one of the smallest of the set, while the Mondeo is starting to feel a little dated.
Dynamically, the Accord Euro and Mazda6 are at the top of the pile, but, really, you can’t do much wrong by picking any of the above four.
All new Mazda models come with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with the option of an extra 12 months.
The Mazda6 hatch is available in a wide range of colours, most of them darker, more subdued hues.
It’s available in Black Mica, Clear Water Blue Metallic (as tested), Copper Red Mica, Crystal White Pearl Mica, Graphite Mica (grey), Stormy Blue Mica, Sunlight Silver Metallic and Velocity Red Mica.
Retail pricing for the 2010 Mazda6 Classic manual hatch starts at $32,750, with Mazda’s online price calculator putting its on-the-road price around the $36,000 mark.
There are no factory-fitted option packages available for the Classic.
Prior to the introduction of the MY2010 model, the Mazda6 wasn’t exactly showing any wrinkles in its already-fresh visage.
Now it looks even better, is cheaper, better equipped and, always a good drive, it’s now even more competent on a winding road.
The Mazda6 is one of the leaders in its segment, deservedly so, and good buying.
If you’re shopping for a mid-sizer, we’d recommend a close look at Mazda’s very well-executed 6.