AUSTRALIAN customers are walking away from medium sized cars in large numbers.
Last year, sales of mid-sizers (costing less than $60,000) dropped 15 per cent, while Mazda6 sales were down by almost a quarter.
It’s a rare black eye for a brand so used to winning.
And Mazda admits it is not expecting a revival in the segment.
The company’s marketing director, Alastair Doak, says the move to SUVs shows no sign of slowing.
“People are fascinated by SUVs. They love to sit up high, they love the practicality,” he says.
The good news is that, if you’re looking for a new midsizer, it’s a buyers’ market.
The new Mazda6 is a case in point. All models have taken a price cut of between $100 and $1180, except for the diesel Touring models, which inch up by $130.
The range now starts with the Sport sedan petrol at $32,540 and it gets pretty much everything you need, including reversing camera, cruise control, satnav and 17-inch alloys. All that is missing is leather trim, which is standard in the three higher grades, including Touring, GT and the Atenza, which costs $46,420 as a petrol sedan. The cheapest diesel sedan is the Touring at $40,480 and the most expensive is the Atenza at $49,620.
All models are available with the wagon body shape for an additional $1300. Six-speed automatics are standard on all models.
There are no sheet metal changes for the update and the engines remain the same too, but there is a wide range of tweaks and additions that make a sensible family car even more appealing.
You may or may not notice the exterior changes, which include a new grille and new head- and tail-lights with LED rings.
Inside, the instrument cluster has been modernised, with all models except the base Sport adopting the heads-up display that was introduced with the Mazda3.
Mazda has also replaced the undersized information screen on the dashboard with a new larger (7-inch) high-resolution screen and upgraded the connectivity software.
A new electronic park brake
has freed up space for cupholders and a deep storage area below an armrest.
Some colour and trim combinations have changed, and there is an eye-catching new white leather trim.
Mazda says it has also put a lot of work into road noise suppression.
Its cars have been fairly noisy in the past and the engineers have been working hard to reduce it.
Mazda claims it has reduced the cabin noise by 10 per cent on rough roads and 25 per cent on highways.
The company has fiddled with the suspension, altering the dampers and bushes in a bid for a more comfortable ride.
New adaptive LED headlights, which run on high beam and dip for oncoming cars are available for the first time on the Atenza.
Another new safety feature is the active lane assist, which detects when your car leaves the lane and gently moves the wheel to guide it back into the lane. Other active safety gear is standard on some cars and optional on others.
ON THE ROAD
The Mazda6 could well be the perfect family car, unless your heart is set on an SUV.
Both sedan and wagon are more fun to drive than an SUV, have more interior space and (in my opinion) are better looking.
It was already a good car when it landed in late 2012, but the updates make the Mazda6 even more appealing.
Surprisingly, the most impressive model is the base Sport petrol model. The interior has an upmarket feel and the only hint it is the entry level car is the cloth seat trim. The new centre screen is a welcome addition. The suspension tweaks have also improved ride comfort.
The carry-over petrol engine is perky enough (138kW/250Nm), but does have to be pressed hard sometimes. The smooth revving diesel (129kW/420Nm) is super strong and really is the pick, if you can afford it. Mazda’s claims about reducing cabin noise are hard to verify without a backto-back test, but the new car’s cabin refinement is at least now acceptable.
I’d put my family in one.
The Mazda6 was already a great family hauler and now it’s just that little bit better.
Makeover: Mazda’s great family hauler has been
made a little better