The skinny: Mazda’s 6 wagon is not only one of the best-looking of the medium wagon brigade, but also one of the best-buying.
For class and refinement, it sits ahead of its competitors, and the 2.2 litre SkyActiv diesel engine, with 420Nm of torque and a healthy 129kW, has no trouble coping with the biggest load.
Not so good is rear-seat legroom (the wagon is a tad smaller than the sedan), neither the softer suspension upgrade - it can feel ‘floaty’ on some surfaces.
In this GT grade, it is very well-featured, but it is also getting a little pricey at $47,200 plus on-roads.
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $47,220 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 129kW/420Nm 2.2 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.4 l/100km | Tested: 8.4 l/100km
Medium cars may not be in vogue, but Mazda did some ‘fashion adding’ to its Mazda6 earlier this year to keep it in the spotlight with buyers.
While the Mazda6 range starts from $32,540 for the entry-level Sport sedan with 2.5 litre petrol four-cylinder, we’re testing the pricier GT wagon with 2.2 litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder power.
- Standard equipment: leather-wrapped steering wheel and seat trim, electrically adjustable front seats with heating, sunroof, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise and dual-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry and push-button start, multi-function trip computer
- Infotainment: seven-inch touchscreen with Mazda MZD-Connect software, sat-nav, USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and Pandora and Aha internet radio apps connectivity
- Options fitted (if applicable): none
- Cargo volume: 506 litres-1648 litres (rear backrest folded)
With lashes of leather-look trim across the dashboard, new soft-touch plastics and a brilliantly ergonomic seven-inch touchscreen backed by a console rotary controller, the new Mazda6 sets a higher standard to the interior than its predecessor.
That MZD Connect system (with nav and apps connectivity) deserves special praise - it is the easiest system to use in the class.
There is some extra storage around the centre console area thanks to a new electric park brake, and a very Euro-looking roller-blind cover now slides over the cupholders.
That Continental feeling is perhaps no coincidence – in the case of the Mazda6, the wagon is designed for Europe while the sedan is larger and targeted at the US market.
Up front, both Mazda6 sedan and wagon get the same comfortably-supportive seats and fine driving position.
Further rearward, however, and the supposedly more ‘practical’ wagon variant gets narrower back doors and substantially less legroom behind them. That’s because the sedan is 65mm longer overall, at 4865mm, and riding on a 80mm longer wheelbase.
Although the Mazda6 wagon has fine headroom, door bottle-holders and - unlike the CX-5 SUV with which it shares showroom space - rear air vents, it doesn’t have much rear legroom for the class.
Further back again, and the 506 litre boot matches exactly the capacity of a Hyundai i40 Tourer while falling 106 litres shy of a Peugeot 508 Touring, 62 litres adrift of a Skoda Octavia wagon and six litres less than the Subaru Outback.
Those rivals offer extra legroom, too, but few have the flexible rear-seat folding mechanism of the Mazda6 - two boot-mounted levers each fold the respective 60:40 portion near-flat into the floor to reveal a huge 1648 litres.
A low loading-lip means less of a lift to get Ikea furniture off the floor and into your wagon, too.
However this GT model lists blind-spot monitor, low-speed auto braking and reversing traffic alert as a combined $1060 option.
You need to go to the $50,920 Atenza diesel wagon to get as standard-fit active cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and adaptive front lighting system with auto high-beam that detects then ‘blocks’ only the portion of beam affecting an oncoming or following car – though this is Benz tech at three-quarters the price.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine output and configuration: 129kW/420Nm 2.2 4cyl twin turbo-diesel
- Transmission type and driveline configuration: 6spd automatic, FWD
- Suspension type, front and rear: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brake type, front and rear: ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering type, turning circle: electrically assisted mechanical steering, 11.0m
- Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked), 1600kg (braked)
With the facelift, Mazda softened the suspension and added sound deadening for a 10 percent reduction in cabin noise levels.
On low-profile 19-inch Bridgestone Turanza tyres specific to GT and Atenza grades, the Mazda6 skims over small imperfections in the road surface and ‘nibbles’ less on the freeway compared with the pre-facelift version.
The trade-off comes over speed humps or sudden undulations in the road, where the Mazda6 can now feel floaty and ‘slap’ its front end into its bump-stops unless caution is taken.
Perhaps this trait is more evident in this 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel version that adds extra weight on the nose compared with the $3200-cheaper, but significantly less potent, 2.5-litre petrol.
The diesel GT wagon weighs 1577kg, 80kg more than the petrol GT wagon.
The Mazda6 is at its best as a load-lugger teamed with the diesel though.
The engine is beautifully refined with only a distant clatter signalling the diesel engine under the long bonnet, and the six-speed automatic flicks fluently through its ratios.
Fill the GT wagon to the brim with luggage and people, and the engine barely notices, such is the vast torque.
That effortlessness translates to fine real-world economy; its 6.6 l/100km official combined figure only enlarging to 8.4 l/100km in our mainly urbanised test.
The lusty 420Nm of torque also gives it a very handy turn of speed when a sudden burst is called for.
Not by any stretch of the imagination does “diesel wagon” mean “dreary drive” with this Mazda6 diesel.
The light and direct steering at low speeds is transformed on the highway becoming incisive and responsive through bends at speed.
Despite the relative softness, the Mazda6 is agile and balanced, remaining the class leader for dynamics and firmly allowing us to call it a sporting, if not sports, wagon.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.44 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side, and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, front and rear sensors, reversing camera and LED headlights.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Subaru Outback is the most popular wagon in the class, with left-of-centre Peugeot, Skoda and Hyundai rivals soon joined by a Volkswagen Passat in between.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’re willing to give the traditional wagon another chance, few are better than the Mazda6 GT diesel for the price.
Maybe pick a Holden Calais Sportwagon if you need extra space, a Skoda Octavia RS if you want to ramp up the sportiness for less; even a Subaru Outback if dirt regularly finds its way under your tyres.
But the Mazda6 has a blend of class, refinement, driveability and efficiency that is difficult to match.
Ideally there should be more rear space in what is a decent-sized family wagon and some terrific technology would be great as-standard.
However, if your kids are small and you don’t mind ticking some options boxes, then look no further.