A versatile statement in style, or a dependable family freighter - which title best suits the Mazda6 wagon? With a flexible load capacity and a svelte figure that couldn’t be any further from the profile of an SUV, the Mazda6 wagon stands out against a sea of sedan-only medium cars.
Though the Mazda6 isn’t the freshest metal in its class, the Japanese car recently introduced a mildly updated model, aiming to improve its strong appeal among private buyers.
Heated rear seats, colour displays for the instrument cluster and head-up display, plus G-Vectoring Control technology join the standard features list, while handling and engine technology remain the same.
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $43,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.6 l/100km | Tested: 9.2 l/100km (urban)
Buyers looking for a Mazda6 wagon can order one in any of the four available trim levels, but the Mazda6 GT represents Mazda’s push to sway buyers over from traditional luxury marques, hoping to lure buyers away from prestige brands by being a better-value alternative.
And that’s a smart move - where mainstream medium cars are fast dropping station wagons in favour of SUVs, premium manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi all offer a cargo-carrier of their top-selling sedans as a lifestyle-oriented alternative.
Mazda has cornered a sector of the market that Toyota, Holden, Honda and others have tried but turned away from. While it's rivals a fewer than before it isn’t there alone, with stiff competition still from the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat, and Hyundai i40, among others.
With a starting price of $43,990 the Mazda6 GT wagon undercuts the premium marques on price, and a strong equipment list means buyers won't miss out on modern luxuries.
- Standard Equipment: Dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable front seats, leather seat trim, heated front and outboard rear seats, keyless entry and ignition, multi-function trip computer, head-up display, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen with supplementary rotary controller, DAB+ digital radio, satellite navigation, 11-speaker Bose audio, smartphone streaming app support, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity
- Cargo Volume: 506 litres minimum, 1648 litres maximum
With quality materials, accurate build quality, and high-tech features the Mazda6 GT wagon is the equal of any of the premium vehicles its buyers might consider.
Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment offers fantastic ease of use with both a rotary controller and touchscreen with easy to understand menus - but it does lack the smartphone connectivity of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, instead offering dedicated app interfaces for a limited number of streaming services like Pandora.
Curiously the wagon rides on a shorter wheelbase compared to the Mazda6 sedan - a carryover of the appeal of the sedan in North America versus the wagon in Europe, where a smaller footprint is preferred.
That also means that rear seat leg space shrinks slightly, making the Mazda6 wagon fine for young families, but not always the right fit for lanky teens or adult passengers - which is a shame considering the taller wagon roofline has a positive effect on rear headroom.
Boot space is where the wagon really shines with 506 litres (to the cargo blind) compared with 474 litres in the sedan - but there’s also the added flexibility of being able to insert awkwardly shaped and sized items more easily, not to mention the 1648 litres available in total with the rear seats folded.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: 297mm ventilated front discs, 278mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 11.0m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1500kg braked, 550kg unbraked
Dynamically, the Mazda6 range was ahead of the medium car class when it first debuted, but now three generations later and faced with stiff competition, Mazda’s competitors have caught up.
Despite this, the 6 still stands out for its crisp steering and fine handling. You won’t mistake it for a performance car, but drivers that prefer a more entertaining drive won’t be let down by the Mazda6, and are unlikely to consider the wagon body style a penalty.
Power is provided by Mazda’s familiar 2.5-litre SkyActiv petrol engine which turns out 138kW of power and 250Nm of torque, backed by a six-speed automatic.
This naturally aspirated unit doesn’t pack the low-down punch of turbocharged engines available in cars like the Ford Mondeo. For urban use that’s not really an issue as Mazda’s engine is smooth and linear during stop-start driving, and lopes along nicely on the open road.
To really get it excited the Mazda6 does need a decent rev, and stays reasonably well refined when doing so. Buyers looking for more punch might be better suited to the available diesel variant.
Ride quality on the big 19-inch wheels is ideal for Australia’s rough-and-tumble road surfaces out of town, and settles nicely over speed humps, even with a load of passengers on board.
Little imperfections tend to be felt, such as cats eyes and ripple strips, but dips and bumps and surface changes that might otherwise unsettle the car are dealt with smoothly and calmly.
Previously the Mazda6 range has received criticism for its lack of sound insulation allowing road noise into the cabin at levels above its competitors. With the latest update that issue has been addressed somewhat through revised door seals, a sound absorbing roof liner, and acoustic door glass on the GT (and Atenza), making the Mazda6 a much more liveable car to ride in - even if there is a hint more booming from the back of the wagon compared to the sedan.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars The Mazda6 scored 35.44 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2013.
Safety Features: All Mazda6 variants are equipped with six airbags, a reversing camera, rear park sensors, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, front and rear city autonomous braking, electronic stability control, and ABS brakes. Additional features are available on the range-topping Atenza model.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals are set at every 12 months or 10,000km whichever occurs first. Service pricing varies from $302 for every odd-numbered service, up to $330 for even-numbered intervals, with extra charges (and a separate interval) for items like brake fluid, spark plugs, cabin filter, air filter, fuel filter, and spark plugs. Consult your local dealer for full details.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Euro-centric Hyundai i40 flaunts a slightly more compact medium segment form than some competitors, allowing it to run a less powerful 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine, though its consumption can’t match Mazda’s.
Skoda packs in plenty of “simply clever” features into the interior of the Octavia, giving it one of the more flexible rear cargo areas of any wagon. Instead of a large model range the Octavia comes in just two specifications, with a choice of two engines, but a series of options packs allows for a more upmarket look and feel.
More large car than medium, the Ford Mondeo fills the space vacated by the Falcon, making it ideal for growing families with a roomy back seat, plenty of cargo space, and a high level of available safety features including rear seatbelt airbags unmatched in the class.
Though the Volkswagen Passat’s conservative style isn’t in the same league as the Mazda6, the high level of interior quality and utility inside more than makes up for the white-bread looks.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
That flexible area out the back is a handy thing to have, particularly if your family is an active one, and the Mazda6 wagon is every bit as load friendly as an SUV, without the added bulk and ride height.
The GT variant is also a very polished package. Smooth and quiet in and out of town, it also has a dynamic character that makes it more enjoyable than some of its more vanilla competitors.
The very fact that the Mazda6 is a wagon is good news too, with SUVs taking the place of wagons in most markets. It’s just a shame that the wagon rides on a slightly shorter wheelbase than the sedan, limiting its practicality slightly but not entirely.
Note: Atenza model shown