11 Oct 2018

Mazda Mazda6 GT sedan 2018 new car review

Aging Japanese sedan gets a turbo boost
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It’s true that good things come to those who wait. For the six-year-old Mazda6, it was an engine to compete against more powerful rivals.

The departure of the rear-driven Falcon and Commodore sedans had already opened up room for slick front-wheel-drive players but winning them over has been far from simple, with buyers lulled by the allure of the booming SUV segment.

Tinselled up like a shopping mall in December, the 6 has had everything thrown at it as it nears a generational-departure. And, using the same engine that features in the hulking CX-9 seven-seat wagon, the Mazda6 has left its best trick to last – but is it all a little too late?

1/10

Vehicle Style: Medium sedan

Price: $43,990 plus on-road costs

Engine/trans: 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre petrol 4cyl | six-speed automatic

Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.9 l/100km Tested: 10.0 l/100km

OVERVIEW

The Mazda6 line-up begins in Sport trim and finishes with the top-grade Atenza, offering a variety of petrol and diesel engines across the board. The GT sits below the Atenza and both come with either the new 2.5-litre petrol turbo, which replaces the naturally-aspirated unit, or a diesel engine.

Unlike the Atenza that is plush full of Mazda’s best attempts at luxury – things like open-pore timber panels and Nappa leather cowhide on the seats, the GT drops some of the pretentiousness without feeling much cheaper – though it is.

Pricing starts at $43,990 for the Mazda6 GT sedan with a petrol turbo motor and six-speed automatic transmission, the only transmission available across the range. Opting for a wagon body is an additional $1300 and as a substitute for the CX-5 SUV, or just about any mid-sizer really, the wagon offers a bigger boot of 506 litres, though the sedan is also better.

Standard equipment for the GT grade is pretty vast and offered at good value - a culmination of the Mazda6 entering its rainbow years and simmering sales - meaning there’s a good deal to be had compared to new-gen rivals.

The GT comes equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic swivelling LED headlights, automatic on/off wipers, auto up/down high-beam, leather trim electrically adjustable seats, front and rear seat heating, head-up display on the windscreen, keyless entry with electric-fold door mirrors, dual-zone climate control and a 7.0-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, digital radio and an 11-speaker Bose audio system.

It also comes with comprehensive safety gear, such as forward and reverse automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, active lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors.

What does it miss out on the top-spec Atenza has? An electric sunroof, adaptive-auto high-beam, 360-degree camera and the aforementioned Nappa and timber trims.

THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.0/5

Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start, adaptive cruise control, automatic on/off wipers and LED headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, head-up display, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats, and dual-zone climate control.

Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB/SD connectivity, digital radio, satellite navigation, ‘one-shot’ voice control and 11-speaker Bose audio.

Options Fitted: None.

Cargo Volume: 474 litres

The interior is large and spacious but filled with just the right amount of design flair that is doesn’t feel bland. Compared to the wagon the sedan doesn’t have the same feeling space - separating its 474-litre boot from the cabin entirely - but the rear-seat offers a touch more legroom thanks to the divided layout.

That makes it an inviting alternative for a family as there are also air vents and USB charging ports on the rear centre console. The headroom is generous too, so teenagers will enjoy the backseat retreat.

Sure, it’s a hard sell to move most buyers away from the popular SUV, but would you believe the boot is over 30 litres larger than the ‘bigger’ CX-5?

Upfront both pews are afforded extra padding and comfort but lack some bolstering to feel completely snug. The Nappa leather in the Atenza is better here too, but the GT isn’t a poor man’s hide, and both are complemented by 12-way electric adjustment with seat memory function and heating.

If comparing the two top models, the GT’s restraint in trim finish is a winner. The Atenza tends to feel over the top and the suede across the dash in that model is prone to picking up grime – particularly in the light cream colour on test.

Both share the same infotainment system and it’s intuitive to use thanks to the well-placed rotary scrolling dial, but it’s also showing a few cracks of old age. The lack of contemporary connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – available in the updated US-spec Mazda6 – wouldn’t be such an omission if the Bluetooth was better. Instead, the Bluetooth was buggy with the latest iPhone device, requiring a tap into the settings to disconnect and reconnect the phone numerous times to stream music and make calls. There is a chance Mazda will update the Mazda6 with CarPlay and Auto as it begins to put the technology into all models.

ON THE ROAD | RATING: 3.5/5

Engine: 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbo-petrol 4cyl

Transmission: Six-speed automatic, FWD

Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear

Brakes: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes

Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering

The obvious enhancement in this updated 6 is that brand new engine. In short, it plugs the lethargic hole the old naturally-aspirated engine has yet misses the sporty character of some rivals, despite a respectable 170kW of power and large 420Nm of torque.

Expectations might rightfully be otherwise, as the front-wheel-driven CX-9 which harnesses the same engine is not afraid to chirp its tyres and tramp for traction. There’s a little of the later if dropping the right-foot like a boat’s anchor but it’s an overall refined and less frenetic response, suggesting a thoughtful engine mapping has been instilled that gives a more polished result.

There still plenty of ‘zoom-zoom’ though, and the overseas 0-100km/h sprint time of under 7.0sec is close to what testing of the local unit produced. But it doesn’t have the sharpness of something like the Holden Commodore RS or Kia Stinger 200 and lacks the playfulness that can be extracted from those cars.

That feeling is carried into handling that’s very good for cruising, confident around sweeping bends but less stable when pushing into corners as the steering is disturbed by jittery response. It’s just not the Mazda6’s forte. Instead, it is a compliant ride with better noise insulation than before, improving refinement and the overall feel that the 6 could be a competitor to the best from Japan – the likes of Lexus and Infiniti that indeed fall behind in some areas.

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: 5 stars – this model scored 35.44 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2012.

Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, collision warning alert. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) not available on some variants.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Five years/unlimited km

Servicing: With annual or 10,000km intervals, Mazda’s capped price servicing program costs $312, $341, $312 and $341 for the first four check-ups respectively.

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

If shopping for a sporty sedan, the Holden Commodore RS will feel like a more athletic car. The engine is eager and the extra three gears round out a tight driveline. It’s also improved via local tuning performed by Holden that give it the edge for on-road manners.

The Camry V6 SL drives the front-wheels but with a larger V6 motor, providing a heap of pull throughout the rev range, but it’s also a smooth cruiser. The interior design is slick but doesn’t try to be as posh as the Mazda, and its ride is on par with this Japanese rival.

Older than the previous two contenders here is the Ford Mondeo Titanium Ecoboost, a pragmatic rival with a larger interior from head to toe and an engine that exhibits plenty of pep down low. Along with the Commodore, it has the best smartphone connectivity of these four, but the interior feels a bit dated.

  • Holden Commodore RS
  • Toyota Camry V6 SL
  • Ford Mondeo Titanium Ecoboost

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5

The new turbo motor makes for a much more rounded car that could have conquered rivals if introduced earlier. Instead, it simply joins a pack of good options that spoils shoppers for choice.

But the GT shines in some areas, such as the well-presented interior and, subjectively, good-looking exterior, using quality materials on a well-appointed equipment list and, importantly, all at a good price. And for sedan upgraders on the fence about a like-for-like replacement or maybe an SUV, the wagon is a very fine compromise of both.

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