What’s hot: Super stylish inside and out, new technical features
What’s not: Petrol engine a little noisy and a little underpowered
X-FACTOR: A classy midsizer made even better, there is a lot of appeal here for buyers who value affordable style and quality
Vehicle style: Medium Sedan/Wagon
Price: $32,540 - $50,920
Engine/trans: 138kW/250Nm (2.5 petrol), 129kW/420Nm (2.2 diesel) | 6spd auto
Fuel consumption l/100km listed Petrol - 6.6, Diesel - 5.4 | tested: Petrol - 8.9
Mazda has given its '6' midsizer an update to keep it at the pointy end of the medium segment.
The segment leader is the Toyota Camry - and by a massive margin - but Mazda doesn’t see the Camry as a direct competitor.
Mazda instead views Toyota’s medium offering as something of a locally-built fleet special with pricing to match, whereas its fully-imported 6 sedan and wagon are the carmaker’s flagship models here... and a little classier.
This mid-model update gives the stylish 6 a freshened exterior, along with a host of new interior features and technology.
Mazda’s 2015 6 is available in four variants: Sport, Touring, GT or range-topping Atenza.
A ‘typical’ 6 buyer would choose the Touring variant (45 percent of sales) with a petrol engine (80 percent), while sedan and wagon sales are split 65/35.
With this in mind, TMR drove both the sedan and wagon with the petrol engine to put them to the test.
The Mazda6’s interior is a winner in almost every way.
It was a nice place to be in the outgoing model, but is even better now with a fresh new look and the addition of new technologies.
A seven-inch display screen stands horizontally in the centre of the dash, controlled not by touch but by a rotating dial behind the shifter for the six-speed automatic transmission.
The dial placement might have been awkward in the old 6, but the update brings a push-button park-brake in place of the lever from the outgoing model.
Mazda sought to improve the ‘human-machine interface’ with the updated 6, which now features the carmaker’s MZD connectively program.
The seats are new and are designed to reduce fatigue on long journeys. They come swathed in leather for all models bar the entry-level Sport which retains its cloth trim.
Black is the standard leather offering for the Touring, GT and Atenza variants and Mazda has now added classy chocolate-coloured leather highlights elsewhere in the cabin to complement the black.
If black isn’t your thing, you can literally switch to white; or ‘pure white’, as Mazda calls it, which replaces the off-white colour from the previous model.
The driving position is almost spot-on, but drivers will need to adjust seat-height to get a full view of another new feature for some models in the 6 range; a head-up display.
A new-look instrument cluster offers clear gauges and trip computer information, while the dual-zone climate control system largely retains the look and operation of its predecessor.
As with many midsizers, the fight between boot-space and room for rear seat passengers requires compromise and some might find the 6’s rear seats a touch cramped.
In this respect, buyers might consider the sedan over the wagon, surprisingly, as the sedan is longer overall by 65mm and has a longer wheelbase (by 80mm).
The sedan gives up 32 litres of cargo space to the wagon with the rear seats in place, and is 23kg lighter in the entry-level Sport with the petrol engine.
A major improvement for the updated 6 is Mazda’s adaptive LED headlamps.
The beams adapt automatically, offering as much of the ‘high-beam’ light as possible when driving at night.
Oncoming drivers won’t be dazzled as only the portion of the beam facing them is dimmed, while maximum vision is maintained on the driver’s side of the road.
Likewise, the 6 detects when approaching a vehicle from behind and lowers the beam.
Elsewhere in the cabin, all Mazda6 models feature standard satellite navigation, push-button start, cruise control (now radar-guided on the Atenza) and paddle shifters for the automatic transmission.
ON THE ROAD
Much of Mazda’s effort for the 2015 ‘6’ went into improved levels of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) along with suspension tweaks for a more compliant ride.
So has it worked?
Mazda claims a ten percent improvement in NVH levels for gravel roads, rising to 25 percent on highways.
It is improved by a noticeable margin, but there is still some road noise evident, perhaps more than you'll notice when in a Camry or Liberty.
The Sport and Touring models get 17-inch wheels while the GT and Atenza are fitted with a new 19-inch design.
Naturally, the smaller wheels with their higher profile tyres emit less road noise than the bigger 19s.
We found little difference between the sedan and wagon for road noise, but our sedan tester in range-topping Atenza spec was perhaps disadvantaged with its 19-inch wheels. Our wagon tester was the mid-range Touring variant.
Mazda’s SKYACTIV 2.5 litre petrol engine producing 138kW/250Nm and returning 6.6 l/100km carries over from the previous model, as does the 129kW/420Nm 2.2 litre diesel with a fuel figure of 5.4 l/100km.
A six-speed automatic is the only transmission on offer, and the entry-level Sport is only available with the petrol engine.
Petrol models alone now come with Mazda’s ‘Drive Selection’ system - which is essentially a ‘sport’ button that changes the behaviour of the automatic transmission.
In Sport mode, the transmission holds gears for longer and is less inclined to seek top gear as soon as possible to save fuel. During ‘enthusiastic’ driving, it will also downshift under braking for tight bends.
The 2.5 litre petrol engine - with 138kW and 250Nm - could do with a touch more power and torque in the 'large-medium' 6. While it's ok for overtaking safely, we found it stretching to keep up when on a section of winding road.
Revving it out (for a little extra urge) also makes the petrol engine sing a little obtrusively; your passengers will notice engine noise entering the cabin.
But the engine is otherwise at home powering any of the sedan or wagon models, with weights ranging from 1450 to 1523kg.
While no powerhouse, the 2.5 litre capacity gives it just enough 'oomph' not to need a turbocharger like some of its smaller-engined rivals, and this in turn means no turbo-lag.
It’s quite efficient as well, with its 6.6 l/100km fuel figure, a respectable and quite meagre 1.2 litres more than what the diesel unit can manage.
After several hours of spirited driving, we could only inflate the fuel figure to 8.9 l/100km.
The suspension changes make for a compliant ride most of the time, and the 6 is a refined highway cruiser.
Bigger bumps did find their way into the cabin however, and while the handling is good there are better handlers on offer in the midsize class. Steering is light and offers adequate feel for the driver.
All Mazda6s feature stop-start technology, rain-sensing wipers and a reversing camera.
ANCAP rating: The 2015 Mazda6 retains the same 5-star ANCAP safety rating from its predecessor with a score of 35.44 out of 37 possible points.
A host of new safety features are now available as options through Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE including the adaptive LED headlamps, lane-keep assist, driver attention monitoring, smart city brake support and radar cruise control (some i-ACTIVSENSE safety features are standard on up-spec models).
All Mazda6s feature front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, brake-force distribution, brake assist and emergency stop signal.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
The 2015 Mazda6 is a good thing made better, with its updated interior being a particular highlight.
Buyers will continue to be drawn to its exterior styling, which has in no way been harmed by the 6’s new look.
And thanks to the Free Trade Agreement with Japan, the updated 6 is also cheaper than the model it replaces in all variants except the Touring diesel.
So, that means Australian buyers get all the additional features basically thrown in for nothing.
Perhaps consider the diesel engine if you plan to carry large loads often, but otherwise the cheaper petrol-engined models can do the job.
Mazda believes its updated 6 can deliver the sales to keep the Japanese carmaker on top of all models in the midsized segment in Australia - baring the Toyota Camry.
We’re inclined to agree.
Pricing (excluding on-road costs)
- Sport - $32,540
- Sport Safety - $33,770
- Touring - $37,280
- Touring Safety - $38,540
- GT - $42,720
- GT Safety - $43,780
- Atenza - $46,420
- Touring - $40,480
- Touring Safety - $41,740
- GT - $45,920
- GT Safety - $46,980
- Atenza - $49,620
- Sport - $33,840
- Sport Safety - $35,070
- Touring - $38,580
- Touring Safety - $39,840
- GT - $44,020
- GT Safety - $45,080
- Atenza - $47,720
- Touring - $41,780
- Touring Safety - $43,040
- GT - $47,220
- GT Safety - $48,280
- Atenza - $50,920
Soul Red Metallic paint adds $200