2013 MAZDA6 ATENZA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $49,660 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy listed: 5.4 l/100km | tested: 8.4 l/100km
It also has to move the game forward: a new skin alone, no matter how handsome, won’t cut it in this market. The old 6 was good, but flawed - it was noisy and there were holes in the spec list.
After a week at the wheel in the new 6, we’re pleased to note that those flaws have mostly been addressed.
The new Mazda6 is not only nicer to live with than the older model, but is swifter, quieter, a whole lot classier and absolutely terrific to look at - especially in the striking Soul Red of our test car.
Quality: We already know how well the 6 is put together, but there are a few niggles. Some of the surfacing is a little flimsy and the TomTom sat-nav looks like something you could get off the shelf at JB Hi-Fi.
The instrument cluster is well laid-out, but the third screen, a selectable information screen, looks a little cheap, with graphics that look more at home on a 1980s Apple IIe.
Otherwise, the brave choice of two-tone leather upholstery looks like it will go the distance and is nicer than in some more expensive European competitors.
Comfort: The driver has plenty of adjustment to both seat and steering wheel, making it very easy to get comfortable. There’s a wide range of tilt and reach adjustment on the wheel, with particular emphasis on ‘reach’.
Both electrically-operated front seats are comfortable with good bolstering for back and thighs and added lumbar support for the driver.
The back seats are also very comfortable with plenty of leg and knee-room. Head and toe-room for taller rear passengers is marginal, however.
Equipment: Sitting at the top of the range, the Atenza is bursting with standard equipment.
Driving aids include lane-departure warning, active cruise control, blind-spot assist, rear vehicle monitoring, smart braking assist, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera and frontal collision warning.
The conveniences list is very long: dual-zone climate control, 11-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB streaming and seven-inch TomTom sat-nav screen, and Bose speakers.
There's also power front seats, power windows all round, keyless entry and start, dusk-sensing Xenon adaptive cornering headlights with high beam assist, heated front seats, heated rear-view mirrors, sunroof and rain-sensing wipers.
Storage: Perhaps one of the weaker elements of the 6 is the amount of storage. There’s a modestly-sized bin in the centre console, a pair of cupholders in the front and a small slot in the dash.
The in-door storage for water bottles is shallow, narrow and suitable only for short bottles.
The boot is also quite shallow, although very long. With the seats down the space expands appreciably, but the middle seatbelt is in the way and the seat squabs don’t flip, so it isn’t flat.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: While not the benchmark in the class, the 6 is a very good drive in most conditions.
The engine is revvy, willing and strong. The 2.2 litre SkyActiv turbodiesel develops 129kW at 4500rpm and a walloping 420Nm of torque at a low 2000rpm.
It pulls away strongly on a light throttle but is also quite happy to rev to peak power without unduly offending your eardrums.
It's a quiet unit all-round. It's only at idle that you'll notice a slight clatter, otherwise, in most driving, you'd barely know there was a diesel at work.
The 6-speed automatic is excellent, making the most of the shove from the diesel. Tacky plastic paddles on the steering wheel allow you to override the computer for manual gear-changes, but the transmission’s intelligence meant we rarely did so.
The i-Stop fuel-saving system didn’t have a huge effect in our hands - the week we spent with the 6 was hot and humid, so while the engine would shut down, it wasn’t long before it re-fired (putting air-con as the priority). We agreed, but it meant 8.4 l/100km.
When working, it was very quick to start up as soon as it detected a change in brake pedal pressure or, cleverly, steering movement.
Unfortunately, the electrically-assisted steering isn’t quite so well-sorted and is easily fooled when parking.
Spinning the steering wheel from side-to-side (like when getting yourself out of a really tight space) can confuse the assistance to the point where it gives up.
On the road though the steering is well-weighted and ‘accurate’.
Refinement: The new 6 is a huge improvement on the old, which was blighted by a really noisy front suspension and tyre-roar from all corners.
The cabin of the new 6 is quiet with wind and tyre noise well-muted, if not entirely silenced. A faint rustling from the rear-vision mirrors comes and goes at certain speeds but isn’t intrusive.
Suspension: The ride is taut but not overly firm, made more impressive when you remember the 6 is rolling on gigantic 19-inch wheels.
Grip from the front is much-improved and the overall body control is excellent, with just a hint of float on bigger bumps. You do feel the weight of the diesel engine in the twisty stuff however.
Braking: The brakes are more than up to the task of hauling the 1573kg Atenza (70kg more than the petrol) to a stop, with no detectable interference from the i-eloop energy recovery system.
ANCAP rating: Not yet tested
Safety features: The Atenza features has a Euro-rivalling list of safety features.
Six airbags are standard with just the omission of a driver’s kneebag raising an eyebrow. There are two front-airbags, side-airbags for front seat passengers and a full-length curtain.
Additionally, the 6 comes with ABS, traction control, stability control, EBD and brake assist are also standard, with additional standard frontal collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor and collision sensing brake warning.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Mazda still hasn’t bowed to pressure to get on the fixed or capped price servicing train, so servicing costs will vary by dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
• Volkswagen Passat 125TDI Highline ($43,990 ) - The oft-overlooked, but accomplished Passat packs an impressive engine and transmission package with VW TDI technology and a six-speed DSG.
It’s 200kg lighter so the power/torque deficit of the Volks won’t show, but the Mazda is considerably better equipped for standard features. (see Passat reviews)
• Ford Mondeo Titanium TDCi ($46,990 ) - Like the Passat, the Belgian-built Ford has less power and torque but weighs in over 160kg lighter than the 6. It’s closer to the Mazda on price and runs reasonably close for specification.
The styling is more sober and its road manners perhaps better the 6, with the exception of the dual-clutch transmission. (see Mondeo reviews)
• Opel Insignia Select 2.0T diesel ($46,990 ) - Newcomer Opel’s Insignia sedan is about 12 months from the end of its current life, but it’s well worth a look.
The Opel runs the 6 very close for specification, has 3 years of capped price servicing and is a decent drive. (see Insignia reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Our time with the 2013 Mazda6 drew lots of admiring glances. It was tempting to roll down the window and tell these people that its beauty is more than skin deep.
This is a fine car from Mazda. You’d happily have it in the garage for style alone, but that would be to overlook its dynamic improvements and refined on-road behaviour.
And the diesel now has the automatic that the market has craved.
That said, it’s now one of the more-expensive purchases in a market segment with some pretty good buys. For some, paying $50,000 for a Mazda6 might be a bridge too far.
But, no doubt, its slinky looks, good build quality and excellent equipment list will help in the showroom. We think it’s worth the leap.