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.
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.
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.
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.