How to age grace­fully

A midlife up­date buffs the medium Mazda’s fam­ily-friendly cre­den­tials

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

THE Mazda6 is one of the cars that gives you ex­actly what you see on the badge.

It’s not the flashiest, fastest or funki­est but it gets the job done. And does it well.

The 6 has al­ways been re­laxed and com­fort­able and now it’s more pleas­ant and a touch safer — even for peo­ple out­side the car — after a midlife up­date that mir­rors work ear­lier this year on the smaller Mazda3.

The up­date is im­pos­si­ble to pick from the out­side. There are a new steer­ing wheel and up­dated dash­board de­tails, while the flag­ship Atenza comes with Nappa leather on the seats, black roof lin­ing and some up­mar­ket de­tail­ing on switches and trim. Did I men­tion its heated rear seats?

The Mazda6 also comes with the G-Vec­tor­ing cor­ner­ing tech I first drove and liked in the Mazda3, even if some peo­ple think it’s a lot of noise about noth­ing much.

Its safety package has been up­dated with pedes­trian recog­ni­tion in the city-brak­ing set-up, higher trig­ger speeds for the smart brake sup­port and traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion.

The Mazda6 now starts at

$32,4290, which is more than a Toyota Camry but less than a Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat, and is still avail­able as ei­ther a sedan or wagon. There is also a diesel model, from $40,140 as a sedan and $41,440 with a wagon tail.

It’s the No. 3 medium-sized car in Aus­tralia, although 3635 sales by the end of Oc­to­ber are nowhere near the Camry’s 18,678. It’s also out­paced by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is the sleep­ing gi­ant in the pack, based on size but not price.

Still, con­sid­er­ing there are 19 re­al­is­tic ri­vals in the medium class priced be­low $60,000, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial VFacts sta­tis­tics, it’s do­ing well to run ahead of Cars­guide favourites in­clud­ing the Ford Mon­deo and Kia Op­tima.

ON THE ROAD

My driv­ing time in the Mazda6 passes just as I ex­pect. It’s quiet, com­fort­able, pleas­ant to steer and works well for fam­ily du­ties.

There is no chance to test the safety brak­ing up­dates, which are still a worth­while tweak, but thanks to the speed sign recog­ni­tion I can stay up­dated on the limit. It looks for the signs in­stead of re­ly­ing on sat­nav map­ping as some cars do, so it never gets tricked.

The cabin is a lit­tle more wel­com­ing in the Atenza I’m driv­ing and I en­joy the Nappa leather on the seats. My son has fun play­ing with the seat heaters on one cool Satur­day night drive.

But the Mazda6 is spoiled, for me, by a re­cent run in the sta­ble­mate SUV, the new CX-9.

The flag­ship sets new stan­dards for the maker on quiet­ness and re­fine­ment, as well as rat­tling its SUV ri­vals with a plush feel that’s wor­thy of cars with much fat­ter pric­etags.

Com­pared with the CX-9, the 6 is just a touch harsh, not as cos­set­ing as the full-fat SUV.

But this drive is about its real ri­vals, not friendly fire from the fam­ily.

In the Mazda6, the 2.5-litre Sky­Ac­tiv en­gine puts its 138kW to good use and the chas­sis bal­ance is good in all driv­ing con­di­tions. The G-Vec­tor­ing seems to make it a lit­tle more sta­ble in tight turns with none of the nasty torque-in­duced tug on the steer­ing wheel that comes with some ri­vals.

Mazda says the Al­tenza will surge from rest to 100km/h in 8.2 sec­onds, which is fine for its job de­scrip­tion, and the tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 1550kg should be fine for tak­ing the trailer to the tip or the jet­ski to the beach.

But I’m not a fan of ser­vice in­ter­vals as fre­quent as 10,000km and a lot of Cars­guide read­ers will com­plain about a space-saver spare in a car that is pitched for long-dis­tance fam­ily travel.

THE TICK

Time is catch­ing up with the Mazda6. It’s head­ing for a to­tal makeover that will lift it to the stan­dard of the CX-9 and Mazda is cur­rently only work­ing around the mar­gins to keep it fresh-ish and add some showroom bait with the likes of the ex­cel­lent speed-sign recog­ni­tion.

It’s still a very good car from a brand with plenty of ku­dos in Aus­tralia but the de­sign is not as mod­ern as some of its ri­vals. What’s more, the Camry is win­ning lots of friends in its fi­nal year with pric­ing from just $26,490.

Even so, I would take the Mazda over the Toyota and I’d want back-to-back test drives be­fore elim­i­nat­ing it in favour of a Mon­deo, Op­tima or even a Pas­sat.

So the Mazda6 still com­fort­ably clears the bar to en­sure it gets The Tick.

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