2013 MAZDA6 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $46,810 (plus on-roads)
Engine: 2.5 litre petrol four-cylinder | Power/Torque: 138kW/250Nm
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km| tested: 9.0 l/100km
In fact, its sticker price is beaten only by the turbocharged and six-cylinder variants of the Subaru Liberty range. But as far as medium sedans go, you get a lot of car for your money with Mazda’s new 6.
Not only in terms of equipment - the Atenza is packed to the rafters with all sorts of high-tech gizmology and advanced safety - but also the sheer size of the vehicle.
Designed primarily for the US market, the Mazda6 sedan’s proportions are definitely more American than Japanese. So what does that make this? An expensive midsizer, or a well-priced large car?
Quality: The design is classy, clean and very much in keeping with Mazda’s new design direction.
The first impression gives a sense that this is something more up-market than the average Japanese sedan, especially if you opt for the beige leather upholstery like that fitted to our tester.
However, there are a few faults.
The seven-segment digits in the climate control display look outdated and the sat-nav screen looks distinctly aftermarket - not surprising with TomTom as the supplier.
We were also surprised to note that the centre console flexes quite a bit with just the slightest pressure from the driver’s left knee.
Otherwise, the Mazda6 feels very tightly and securely screwed together.
Comfort: The front seats are spacious and hold driver and front passenger with a snug - but not tight - embrace.
The power-adjustable front seats have a wide range of movement, and with the reach and rake-adjustable leather-bound steering wheel it’s easy to get settled.
Outward vision is generally quite good, and, with Mazda repositioning the new 6’s A-pillars 100mm further rearward, it’s now easy to see around sweeping corners.
With the new 6’s wheelbase now stretching to 2830mm, back seat space is abundant. The rear bench is nicely sculpted and can fit three (reasonably slim-hipped) adults, while leg and knee room has grown substantially.
The tips of your toes can sometimes feel a bit crowded by the proximity of the front seat base though, and headroom in the rear can be tight even for those of average height.
Equipment: The Atenza is the range-topper of the Mazda6 range, and it comes fully loaded. As standard, you get all the expected features - Bluetooth, dual-zone air conditioning, power adjustable front seats, power windows and USB inputs with iPod connectivity.
Then there’s a pile of other standard luxuries, like keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, dusk-sensing xenon headlamps, a glass sunroof, radar-assisted active cruise control, heated wing mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, satellite navigation and a thumping 11-speaker Bose audio system.
Driver aids on the Atenza include front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, lane-keep assist, a blind spot monitor and a frontal collision detection system.
Storage: The boot is quite shallow, but measures in at a reasonable 438 litres.
Folding the 60/40 split rear seats increases the Atenza’s luggage-carrying capacity, but we found the boot-mounted release handles to be unreliable and finnicky, often requiring two people - one to pull the handle, the other to pull the seatback away from the latch.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: One thing that surprised us about the Mazda6 Atenza is just how tractable its petrol engine feels down low.
For a petrol engine that doesn’t feature any kind of forced induction, there’s quite a bit of low-rpm torque.
Not only does that make the Mazda6’s 138kW/250Nm 2.5 litre petrol four-pot an effortless performer relative to other similar petrol engines of its size, it also makes it quite an efficient one.
After a week’s driving in mostly urban conditions, we averaged 9.0 l/100km - higher than Mazda’s claim of 6.6 l/100km, but not unexpected given we did relatively little highway driving.
A good chunk of the Mazda6’s thriftyness can also be attributed to the ‘i-stop’ engine start-stop feature, which shuts down the engine when stationary.
A six-speed automatic is now the only transmission choice for the Mazda6 range, and it’s one of the better transmissions in its segment.
It shifts early to keep fuel consumption down, but get busy with the throttle and it’ll start to hold gears for longer and shift much higher in the rev range.
There’s no dedicated sports shift-mode, but with mapping this intelligent there is no real need.
Besides, a pair of shift paddles are standard on the Atenza for manual control over changes, should they ever need it.
Refinement: Engine noise isn’t overly intrusive, and wind noise is hardly noticeable at speed. Even the 19-inch wheels of the Atenza don’t generate much in the way of tyre roar.
There were some intermittent minor trim rattles from the lower dash area, but, on the whole, the new Mazda6 is considerably more refined and serene than the car it replaces.
Suspension: The first generation Mazda6 was loved for its sharp handling, and while the intervening generations have become progressively duller, the new car is still an exceptional handler.
The electrically-assisted power steering is nicely direct (although a little numb at the straight-ahead). The 6 turns decisively and the Macpherson strut front-end and multi-link rear suspension give excellent cornering grip without compromising on ride comfort.
It’s compliant when it needs to be, but suppresses body roll nicely when hooked into a tight corner. Yep, the Mazda6 still has one of the best suspensions in its class.
Even on the big 19-inch wheels of the Atenza, the Mazda6 is a comfortable ride, although they do impart a slightly more brittle ride than the smaller 17-inch wheels used by the Mazda6 Touring and Sport.
Braking: Mazda’s ‘i-eloop’ regenerative braking system is standard on all Mazda6 grades, and saves fuel by converting the car’s forward motion into stored electrical energy (in the Mazda6’s case, stored in a compact and light capacitor rather than a battery), then using that energy to power the radio, air conditioner and lights.
It all works pretty seamlessly, and we couldn’t detect any impact on braking performance or pedal smoothness.
The Atenza also gets Smart Brake Support, which detects objects up ahead and warns the driver to start braking if it detects a collision may be imminent.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: The Mazda6 Atenza features a generous amount of both active and passive safety equipment.
Six airbags are standard (front, front side and full-length curtain), as are anti-whiplash front seats, pretensioning front seatbelts and three-point seatbelts for all passengers.
ABS, traction control, stability control, EBD and brake assist are also standard features, and are augmented by the Atenza’s standard frontal collision warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitor and Smart Brake Support systems.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Servicing costs can vary. Consult your local Mazda dealer
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Passat 118TSI ($38,990) - Boasting an ultra-refined powertrain and drivetrain, the Passat is pretty much the Mazda6’s German analogue.
Its turbocharged 2.0 litre petrol four has just 118kW against the Mazda’s 138kW, but develops the same peak torque (250Nm) at 2500rpm - 750rpm lower than the Mazda.
However, while the Passat’s retail price is substantially lower than the Mazda6 Atenza’s, once you spec it to a similar level the VW costs $49,990 before on-roads. (see Passat reviews)
Toyota Camry Atara SL ($39,990) - Toyota's Camry dominates the mid-size market, and the luxurious Atara SL variant is packed with equipment and features.
It's roomy inside and its 2.5 litre engine delivers good performance, but it's not as sharp a drive as the Mazda, nor does its interior feel quite as premium. It is, however, nearly $6000 cheaper. (see Camry reviews)
Honda Accord Euro Luxury Nav ($43,140) - Prior to the arrival of the new Mazda6, we had the Accord Euro right at the top of our list of “most likeable mid-sizers”.
The Accord Euro is a thoroughly enjoyable drive, and has an interior that is both well-built and functional.
The new model Mazda6 Atenza beats it for technology, rear seat space, torque and fuel economy though, and all for just a few grand more. (see Accord Euro reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
After spending a week behind the wheel, we’ve discovered that the Mazda6 Atenza is a number of things.
It’s a good drive, for starters. Also efficient, spacious and good value.
And you really do get more metal for your money with this one - at 4865mm long it’s almost exactly halfway between a VW Passat and a Ford Falcon.
More ‘large’ than ‘medium’, its dimensions are definitely stretching the envelope.
And that brings us to another point. Yeah, $46,810 before on-road costs is quite a lot of money to pay for a family-sized Japanese sedan, but it’s very well equipped and has a distinct quality feel.
For style, it’s also a winner. It has the lines and on-road presence that may draw buyers back to mid-size cars.
It’s got stiff competition there - the top selling Camry is a very good car - but, for less than $50,000, you’ll be hard-pressed to buy better than the Mazda6 Atenza .http://www.themotorreport.com.au/tag/large+sedan