How to age gracefully
A midlife update buffs the medium Mazda’s family-friendly credentials
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.
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.