Had the new Mazda6 been here a little earlier, we feel sure it would have taken every Car Of The Year accolade - it's that good. Even though the 6 inhabits a segment that's for the most part "yawn-worthy" - medium size passenger cars, the new car sets a benchmark that will take some time for its competitors to match.
The Mazda is a step up in every area including style, features, performance, ride, handling and most important, refinement. We are talking near Lexus levels of silence and smoothness in a mainstream passenger car that sells from a starting point of $33,460.
And the Sport petrol (no Sport diesel) is far from a boned-out cheapie as all models in the new 6 lineup score TomTom satnav, a six-speed auto transmission with sequential mode (paddle shift on some), reversing camera with front and rear park assist, touch screen controller, multi function trip computer, cruise control and wide multi-media connectivity. Four grades are available; Sport, Touring, GT and Atenza in sedan and wagon body styles.
Two engine choices are offered, both with Skyactiv efficiency technology. There's a 138kW/250Nm, direct injection 2.5-litre petrol four cylinder with variable valve timing and a 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel with twin turbo technology. The petrol uses a claimed 6.6-litres/100km while the diesel dips to just 5.4.
Both EU4 emissions rated engines are twin cam with the petrol having a high 13.0:1 compression ratio and the turbodiesel a low 14:1 compression ratio. Idle stop/start is featured on all models together with Mazda's clever i-Eloop capacitor based engine boost system momentarily using regenerative electricity.
On top of all this, the new Mazda6 is a stunner to look at inside and out featuring Mazda's new Kodo design language already on the CX-5 and CX9 and coming on a revised Mazda3. It is a sophisticated, modern look with striking curved panels and razor highlight lines. Inside is arguably the best Mazda interior yet and is up there with VW in terms of design, function and quality.
Mazda has also integrated various safety systems and technology to avoid collisions, recognise hazards and reduce the severity of a crash. Optional kit, standard on the top of the range cars includes radar cruise control, smart brake system, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, emergency stop signal, auto high beam and hill start.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and in this regard, Mazda6 owners will not feel short-changed. It's a cracking good drive for what is a family sedan or wagon. The ride is just right - not too soft or too firm and handling characteristics that verge on sporty.
It's stable and confident on fast bumpy corners and wafts along the freeway in near silence - and that's the diesel wagon. Funny enough, both engines deliver a satisfying drive feel - in different ways. The petrol is happiest revving out while the diesel has oodles of grunt from low up to near the 5000rpm redline.
Both get going in a hurry when you want it. The paddle shift works a treat. Complaints - lack of headroom with the sunroof equipped models.
Which one would we choose? Too hard to call, possibly the diesel wagon - possibly mid-spec....but a Mazda6 of some sort definitely.
Price: from $33,460
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Resale: 54% (outgoing model, Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 10,000km/6 months
Safety rating: five stars (outgoing model)
Engine: 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre 16-valve DOHC 4-cyl; 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre 16-valve DOHC intercooled turbodiesel 4-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD
Body: 4.8m (L); 1.8m (w); 1.5m (h)
Thirst: 5.4-6.6 1/100km, tank 62 litres; 155-141g/km CO2
Price: from $30,490
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cyl petrol, 133kW/231Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Thirst: 7.8l/100km, 91RON, CO2 183g/km
Price: from $31,490
Engine: 149kW/300Nm 2-litre turbo direct-injection EcoBoost or 118kW/208Nm 2.3-litre petrol 4-cyl; 120kW/340Nm 2-litre 4-cyl direct-injection turbodiesel
Transmisison: 6-speed automatic or twin-clutch automated manual, front-wheel drive
Thirst: 5.9-9.5l/100km, CO2 157-227g/km
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Honda Accord Euro
Price: from $30,340
Engine: 2.4-litre, 4-cyl petrol, 148kW/234Nm (auto 230Nm)
Transmission: 6-speed manual (5-speed automatic), front-wheel drive
Body: 4-door sedan
Thirst: 8.7 (auto 8.5l)/100km, 95RON, CO2 207 (auto 202) g/km