Aim amid­ships

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - WHICH CAR? -

THE QUES­TION

I have a three-year old Mazda6 Atenza. It’s an ex­cel­lent car and per­fect for my needs. I now want to up­grade to the lat­est model but I’m just check­ing — is there any­thing bet­ter around for roughly the same price? Gayle Sargeant You are spoiled for choice in the mid-size class, with con­tenders from Citroen to VW and prices from less than $30,000 to more than $50,000 for a fully loaded semi-pres­tige Euro­pean model. There are even some im­pres­sive wag­ons, in­clud­ing the Ford Mon­deo and Skoda Oc­tavia, for the rare peo­ple who have not been bit­ten by the SUV bug. The Mazda6 usu­ally runs sec­ond in the show­room re­sults, only beaten by the Toy­ota Camry, which still leads the class in its fi­nal year of lo­cal pro­duc­tion. Then there is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, a full lux­ury car, which starts from $61,400 for a C200. If you have a bud­get that can jump by more than $10,000 then it’s worth a test drive, if only to rate the mid-sized reg­u­lars. Some will go for the ex­tra value and war­ranty in a Hyundai Sonata or Kia Op­tima but Mazda buy­ers are more likely to crossshop the up­scale brands.

CHOICES

Mazda6, from $32,490 There is much to like and noth­ing to com­plain about in the Mazda6. Fully loaded in Atenza spec, it’s $46,690. It’s a roomy car, classy on the in­side, quiet in all road con­di­tions and com­mend­ably safe. The Sky­ac­tiv 2.5-litre en­gine also makes it perky. The ba­sic de­sign is age­ing, though grace­fully.

Subaru Lib­erty, from $30,240 A rock-solid ri­val to the Mazda6 but not close to the pret­ti­est car in the class as it’s de­signed to sit along­side SUVs in the US. Qual­ity and com­fort are good, it has the ad­van­tage of all-wheel drive but it’s a bit dull in the en­gine room — it shows ev­ery time you leave the traf­fic lights.

VW Pas­sat, from $35,490 A gen­uinely top-class car in cabin com­fort, qual­ity and the way it drives. The ba­sics un­der the body are shared with the smaller Golf but that’s good, not bad, and helps keep it rel­a­tively af­ford­able. It’s a bit bland but the big­gest nig­gles come from con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors to the VW badge and on­go­ing wor­ries about DSG re­li­a­bil­ity.

WILD­CARD

Toy­ota Camry, from $26,490 There is noth­ing wrong with the Camry and prices have never been sharper. Toy­ota is keep­ing its fac­tory at Al­tona run­ning strongly through the car’s fi­nal year by max­imis­ing the value. The Camry is roomy, quiet and drives well in the worst of Aus­tralian con­di­tions. If you want to splash out on a V6, the Au­rion starts at $36,490.

VER­DICT

For now, the best bet is a switch to the Toy­ota Camry be­cause it’s such a good car and such good value. But Mazda buy­ers are very loyal to the brand and there is no rea­son not to go again with an­other Mazda6, keep­ing your car fresh by trad­ing at the end of the war­ranty pe­riod. Just re­mem­ber that very lit­tle has changed over the past three years. The model is up for a to­tal re­newal next year and will match the im­pres­sive semilux­ury stan­dard of the new CX-9 flag­ship — it could be worth wait­ing an­other year be­fore mak­ing a like-for-like changeover. It’s also im­por­tant to test drive the ri­vals, bench­mark­ing the Mercedes C200 and also driv­ing the un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated Camry.

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