Medium well done
ROLLING updates rather than revolutionary changes seem to be the hallmark of Mazda’s model plans. So far, it’s working.
The Mazda6 mid-sized sedan and wagon launched here in 2012 and was comprehensively refreshed in 2015 but it has just come in for its second update of 2016.
While the changes appear relatively minor, they improve the 6’s safety and comfort without adding to the price.
It is a value-add designed to keep the Mazda6 as the most successful imported mid-sized sedan.
The range starts at $32,490 for the Sport sedan equipped with the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission and winds out at $49,540 for the Atenza wagon with a 2.2-litre turbodiesel. The changes should be enough to keep sales ticking at about 380 vehicles a month, marketing boss Alastair Doak says.
Those numbers will keep the Mazda6 ahead of the Subaru Outback and Ford Mondeo in second place outright in the segment, though a mile behind the locally built Toyota Camry.
Mazda expects the mid-sized segment to continue to shrink as buyers turn to smaller cars and SUVs.
Mazda Australia boss Martin Benders says the end of local Camry production next year should shake-up the market, given “I don’t think they (Toyota) will be able to price the import quite as sharply as they have the local car”.
At the other end of the price spectrum the Mazda6 Atenza is being pushed as a fully-laden mainstream alternative to the base prestige sedans — and now has the nappa leather upholstery and interior bling to show off with the premium set.
All updated 6s have thicker front glass and improved seals around the doors to cut road noise, which has traditionally been a Mazda bugbear.
ON THE ROAD
The headline act of the new range is a torque-vectoring program that adjusts the engine output to optimise the weight load on each wheel, depending on what the car is doing.
In essence, the engine will decelerate when it detects a change in steering angle, which has the effect of loading weight onto the front axle to improve turn-in grip. If a constant lock is maintained, the torque is reinstated, transferring weight back to the rear wheels to optimise tyre contact. It’s not something you can detect in normal driving.
The engines and transmissions carry over, though the 2.2-litre diesel has been tweaked to improve engine knock and rattle. It is a great diesel to drive, with virtually no lag and it seems quieter than before, though we can’t say how much of that comes down to the mechanical revisions and how much to the improved cabin insulation. Shame then, that only about 10 per cent of buyers will end up owning the turbo diesel.
The drive itself is as good as it gets in this class. The 6 is light on its tyres, responds quickly to steering inputs either via the wheel or the pedals and has a decent set of brakes. Back seat head room isn’t great but will be fine for kids, or shorter trips for adults.
If the driving experience matters, the Mazda6 needs to be in the mix if you’re buying a new sedan. And if you drive one after testing an SUV, expect a revelation.