Fam­ily-sized fun

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@news.com.au

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.

VER­DICT

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

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