Any discussion about the best mid-size car on the market must include the Mazda6. A definite CarShowroom.com.au Favourite, the ‘6’ didn’t scoop its numerous ‘Car Of The Year’ awards from cereal boxes – it scored them because it’s recognized world-wide for its design and driving dynamics.
If you put aside the Toyota Camry which sells in massive numbers to the rental car, fleet and governments sectors, the Mazda6 is easily Australia’s best-selling mid-size car. That’s an achievement in a segment including such credentialed rivals as the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40 and Kia Optima.
A big factor in Mazda6’s all-round excellence is the breakthrough Skyactiv technology for the engine, transmission, chassis and body. Better/more efficient engines, smoother-shifting and fuel-saving transmissions, lighter weight and smart tech bodies and sharper driving dynamics from a better suspension will combine to get the job done with any car company but Mazda has done it better than many in a range of cars including the top-selling ‘6’.
Mazda6 Touring Overview
Mazda6 kicks-off with the Sport model priced from $33,460 and our test car was the next model up the tree – the Touring version which starts from $37,500. Next-up are the GT and Atenza grades.
Over the Sport model, Touring picks-up extras such as leather seats (electric adjustment for the fronts), the 11-speaker, 231 watt Bose audio system and front/rear parking sensors.
Mazda6 Touring Engine
Power comes from Mazda’s ‘Skyctiv-G’ direct injection, naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine. With its 13.0:1 compression ratio and myriad mechanical enhancements, Skyactiv is a real breakthrough by Mazda to optimize performance, fuel consumption and emissions – reflecting the fact that, despite the growth in hybrid/electric power, the fact is internal combustion engines will remain the mainstay of the automotive industry for the foreseeable future…so we may as well make them as efficient as possible.
Mazda6 delivers 138kW of power at 5,700rpm and peak torque of 250Nm at 3,250rpm.
Drive is to the front wheels via Mazda’s SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission. Mazda says SkyActiv-drive provides the quick-shifting of a twin-clutch automatic with the fuel-saving of a CVT – we’ll just say it’s very smooth shifting.
Mazda6 Touring The Interior
We couldn’t recall the last time we had a test car with an interior hue that wasn’t black or charcoal and along came our Mazda6 looking gorgeous with cream-coloured leather seats contrasting nicely with black trim and carpets. A very stylish look.
And that look was enhanced thanks to Mazda’s curvaceous interior design, nice soft materials and up-scale touches like polished aluminium highlights.
Those curves were evident in the driver-focused cockpit layout which places the instruments in a curved binnacle and to the left the audio (11-speaker Bose system in the Touring grade) and Tom Tom satellite navigation screen in another recessed compartment. Mazda’s nice three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel is sized just right and adjusts for rake/reach so we’re scoring the driving position highly.
Rear seat accommodation provides good support and plenty of legroom (Mazda6 is one of the larger mid-sizers). The seat split-folds 60:40 for cargo versatility.
Pleasingly, the boot passed our golf bag test and provides 438-litres of space – very impressive.
Mazda6 Touring Exterior & Styling
As we mentioned, our Mazda6 test car looked the part inside and externally the ‘Soul Red Metallic’ paint (despite its extra cost, the most popular colour on the smaller Mazda3 range) rounded-out the story. Comprising two different base coat colours (the lower one including bright aluminium flakes and used as a reflective layer) which provide a clever contrast between light and shaded areas to really highlight the purposeful curves of the Mazda6’s flanks.
Of course the Mazda6 follows the lead of the Takeri and Shinari concept cars and fully embraces Mazda’s ‘KODO – Soul Of Motion’ design theme. Like the CX-5, Mazda3 and Mazda2, this is the new face of Mazda.
In the case of the Mazda6 the overall look is quite muscular/purposeful and combined with relatively large dimensions (4,865mm overall length and 2,830mm in wheelbase), the on-road presence is impressive. Prominently flared fenders and the somewhat set-back cabin add to the allure.
At the front, the new family ‘face’ of Mazda (the distinctive grille with ‘wing’ highlights) and complex headlight design is both modern and reinforces the purposefulness of the overall look. Sweeping bonnet contours inject further power.
Side profile is coupe-like with a sweeping roof, curved C-pillars and a short, powerful deck lid and tail-lights which mirror the look of the headlights and blend with a chrome strip to accentuate width. The boot itself has a raised lower edge which is an aerodynamic enhancement.
Those slippery good looks – and a cleverly shaped underfloor – pay dividends for reduced fuel consumption with the Mazda6 providing a very handy drag co-efficient of Cd 0.27.
Mazda6 Touring On The Road
Thanks to Mazda’s SkyActiv chassis and body the current ‘6’ is 30 per-cent lighter than the previous generation but provides torsional rigidity which is 45 per-cent higher. Combine that with a cleverly designed MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension and a development focus on cornering agility and straight-line stability and the result is a sporty driving dynamic which sees the Mazda6 match the German Ford Mondeo for the title of ‘best-in-class’.
This wasn’t the first time we’d driven the Mazda6 over our high-speed mountain roads test loop so we knew what to expect and this Mazda6 Touring didn’t let us down. Sure, the Touring model runs 17-inch alloy wheels to the 19-inchers on upscale GT and Atenza models but still the response and balance in the twisty stuff was excellent.
Mazda6 turns-in very competently with just a hint of the predicted understeer when you stray over the limit but we noticed and enjoyed some nice feedback from the rear-end when balancing with the throttle - a sure sign suspension calibration is the work of enthusiast drivers. And there’s good bump control from the struts so mid-turn road imperfections don’t unsettle the Mazda6 even at high speeds.
And we again congratulate Mazda engineers for their work on refinement. Thanks to developments such as new engine mounts and noise suppression materials behind the dashboard and under the floor (Mazda calls it ‘pathway blockage’) we’d go as far as saying the Mazda6 leads the mid-size segment for on-road refinement.
So, around town the Mazda6 is very peaceful with even noise from the trucks which populate Melbourne’s Monash Freeway was nicely isolated.
And part of that refinement story is the marriage of the 2.5-litre engine to the six-speed automatic transmission – very well matched with a nice ratio spread delivering handy mid-range acceleration for freeway merging. Parking too is easy with good all-round visibility, the standard reversing camera, front/rear parking sensors (Touring model as tested) and an 11.2-metre turning circle.
Mazda6 Touring Issues
As we said, Mazda’s Skyactiv technology package is a genuine breakthrough and the excellent road manners of the Mazda6 are for us, one of its highlights. However some buyers might find the ride a little too sporty/firm.
Mazda6 Touring The Competition
Consumers shopping a mid-sizer are spoilt for choice with lots of great cars worthy of consideration. Lots of value to be had as well.
The Mazda6 is a CarShowroom.com.au Favourite as is the Ford Mondeo (although it’s a hatchback) which matches the Mazda for providing the segment’s best driving dynamics. You’ll need $37,740 for the Mondeo Zetec which delivers specifications close to the Mazda6 Touring. 149kW/300Nm gives Ford’s excellent turbocharged 2.0-litre Zetec engine an advantage over the Mazda6 and while we still love the looks of Mondeo’s German-origin styling, there’s no denying the Mondeo isn’t the newest car here (all-new model due 2015) and hence the Mazda is in front in that department.
It’s a similar story for the Kia Optima – again not the newest car, but those standout looks still look…well, standout. $34,990 buys you the Kia Optima in SLi grade and with lots of kit, value is strong point. Kia’s 148kW/250Nm 2.4-litre engine matches the Mazda on performance but fuel consumption of 7.9l/100kms is a bit heavier that Mazda’s Skyactiv 2.5-litre.
Kia’s sister company Hyundai has some serious ‘skin’ in the mid-size game with its European-origin i40. The Elite grade i40 is stickered at $36,990 and the i40 delivers not only slick exterior style, the interior and spacious and good-looking.