Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue could be the equation for the 2018 Mazda6 GT.
This generation of Japanese medium sedan and wagon came out in 2012, but there are old dynamic delights that have hopefully been retained with what is its most significant update yet. But there is also a whole new, and wholly luxurious cabin added to the barely changed exterior, plus a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine borrowed from the CX-9.
There is no doubt that medium passenger cars are a declining class, but the upside for buyers is that mainstream manufacturers players are generally throwing everything at this segment.
This blue-hue 6 GT wagon is no exception, and something tells us it might even be a better option for families than the CX-5 medium SUV that costs the same yet sells up a storm.
How much has Mazda thrown at the 6? Well, the Sport sedan, at $32,490 plus on-road costs (or wagon in all cases for $1300 extra), now includes automatic on/off wipers and LED headlights, auto up/down high-beam, forward/reverse autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, active lane-keep assist, head-up display, dual-zone climate control, plus satellite navigation and a digital radio.
The Touring at $36,690 (plus orc) then adds LED daytime running lights, front parking sensors, keyless auto-entry with electric-fold door mirrors, leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats, and 11-speaker Bose audio. Buyers can also swap out the 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine and its claimed combined-cycle fuel usage of 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres, for a 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel with 140kW/450Nm plus 5.3L/100km consumption, for $3000 extra in sedan or wagon.
But it takes this GT model grade from $43,990 (plus orc) to lob in the borrowed 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder with 170kW/420Nm but gulping 7.6L/100km of 91RON. Here, the previously-standard electric sunroof is no longer available, but 19-inch alloy wheels (up from 17s), swivelling headlights, front and rear seat heating, and black or white leather all step up.
Mazda is clearly giving the Atenza sedan, from $47,690 (plus orc), some room to breathe. The electric sunroof returns, while Nappa leather, real wood trim, adaptive-auto high-beam, ventilated front seats, a 7.0-inch colour driver display and 360-degree camera are added. For the GT or Atenza, the diesel can also be added for just $1100 extra.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.0/5
There is a reason why all 6 wagons cost only $1300 more than the sedan, and that is because the former isn’t necessarily more spacious. The wagon targets the size-averse European market, with a body length of 4800mm and wheelbase of 2750mm, whereas the sedan hones in on the size-loving US with measurements of 4865mm and 2830mm respectively.
Even so, the Mazda6 wagon offers 506 litres of boot volume compared with 474L for the longer sedan. But the difference, as with the pre-facelift model, is all in the back seat, with this option being squeezier – and below average – for rear legroom (if not headroom).
The bench itself is comfortable, and although lankier teens may feel the pinch, they will at least enjoy twin-rear USB ports and air vents. And despite this deficit, the Mazda6 still offers about the same legroom as a Mazda CX-5 while trumping its boot space of 442L. The seat-folding mechanism remains superb in either, though, allowing the rear backrest to fold flat via a flick of a lever – although that backrest is split 60:40 and not 40:20:40, as per CX-5.
However, while most of that remains unchanged, almost everything up front is new.
As a GT model grade the Mazda6 doesn’t hit premium highs, with extra suede and wood finishes reserved for the Atenza. That said, only the average grade of leather and hard plastics surrounding the lovely, knurled-silver climate controls are obvious reminders that this is not the flagship.
The same lovely knurled-silver is also used for the rotary dial controlling the 8.0-inch screen (which is also a touchscreen at standstill), and it remains effortless and easy to use.
Mazda’s voice control is also the benchmark among mainstream rivals, allowing destination entry for navigation via a ‘one shot’ remark incorporating house number, street, suburb and state. Along with the superb resolution of the head-up display and the booming (if not crisp) Bose audio, the GT still mostly feels terrific up front … with only two further exceptions.
Firstly, the lack of storage including a tiny centre console bin continues to grate. And secondly, the switch to softer, flatter front seats creates a still-comfy but less supportive place to sit than before; perhaps indicating the once-sporty 6 is moving into luxe-cruiser territory.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 3.5/5
It isn’t just the carry-over chassis that gives this tester the feeling of ‘something old’ mentioned in the introduction. Indeed, the Mazda6’s 420Nm of torque even exceeds the 391Nm of the former-family-favourite Ford Falcon 4.0-litre six-cylinder, and to accelerate in this GT really is to be reminded of a brisk family car rather than an overt sports wagon.
Instant response from the superb six-speed automatic, plus a smooth and crisp sound that is anything but sporty, really does create the impression that the 6 is like a classic ‘big six’.
Quite likely it’s the 170kW of power that prevents this engine from stepping up into a racier role. The new Commodore RS Sportwagon with a 2.0-litre turbo-four makes 191kW/350Nm, yet along with a kerb weight of 1535kg, it feels far edgier than the 1613kg model tested here.
Incidentally, this 6 GT wagon also weighs 60kg more than the 6 Touring with a non-turbo engine of the same size, a difference of which contributes to a heavier front-end here. It certainly feels that way, with this Mazda feeling agile through corners only up to a point.
The Bridgestone Turanza tyre used is essentially touring-type rubber, and the energetic engine can quickly overwhelm the front pair. Around town, in the wet especially, careful modulation of throttle must be used to avoid significant wheelspin and axle tramp. Meanwhile through corners, so much patience is required that this driver wondered whether the non-turbo – although slower in a straight line – would be just as fast on spaghetti roads.
On the same test loop, both a Commodore RS liftback’s Continental ContiPremium Contact tyres, and a (sedan only) Kia Optima GT’s Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, proved better able to harness the low-rev, high-torque characteristics of their 2.0-litre turbo engines.
Mazda’s revised suspension claims to be both ‘suppler’ and ‘more stable’ than before, and indeed before the Holden arrived the 6 was up there with the Ford Mondeo as the ride and handling pick of the class. Not so much age, but rivals, have wearied it a bit now.
While ride quality is generally very good, some jittery behaviour is regularly present, owing to the lower profile 19s. This GT wagon is also quieter than we previously remember, thanks to thicker floor panel and wheelarch lining, but again it’s still no class stand-out.
The dynamic highlight is the steering, which is beautifully crisp and linear at all times. Perhaps the lowlight is fuel consumption, which never dropped below 10.0 litres per 100 kilometres on test, even when urban was then combined with extra-urban running.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, forward/reverse autonomous emergency braking (AEB), front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera, blind-spot monitor and active lane-keep assistance.
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
The Mondeo Trend is the pick for sheer size and ride quality, but its cabin feels dated.
Holden’s Commodore RS Sportwagon is by far the driver’s pick, with a superb petrol engine and nine-speed automatic transmission, though it does lack standard equipment for the price.
More expensive than the above pair, the Passat 132TSI Comfortline requires further options and it remains smaller in terms of rear-seat room. It is a classy all-rounder, though.
- Ford Mondeo Trend wagon
- Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon
- Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5
In a way the Mazda6 GT attempts to become both luxury cruiser and sporty wagon, but it really takes the $3700 extra spend to the Atenza to achieve the former aim – while the new turbo engine doesn’t quite nail the latter goal despite the extra turn of speed.
In other ways, though, for the $45K ask the GT wagon doesn’t need to be all things to everyone, and it still provides intuitive technology up-front, and big cargo area at the back, plus good ride and handling.
Even so, while it may have borrowed a turbo engine, we wish for better tyres or the option of all-wheel drive, because even the CX-5 feels more supple yet playful.
Also, as it turns out we found both something old and something blue … oval … it turns out that the wagons best suited to Australian conditions are the (imported) Ford and also Holden.
- Interested in buying Mazda 6? Visit our Mazda 6 showroom for more information.