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End of an era: Australia's final affordable family wagon is set to join the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon as a relic of the past

Now entering its 12th year, the current Mazda6 has the honour of being Australia's last affordable family wagon.

This is nothing less than an end of an era.

Australian consumers are set to lose the traditional, affordable family station wagon this year with the anticipated demise of the Mazda6 range.

It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but with reports out last month stating that production in Japan will cease in mid-April, it seems likely that the model line that stretches all the way back to the Capella of 1970 via the 626 in 1978 and original Mazda6 in 2002 in Australia looks set to end.

As one of this market’s last affordable medium sedans – and very last sub-$40,000 station wagon – this has implications for consumers who do not want a heavier and higher-riding crossovers or SUVs like a Subaru Outback, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sorento.

Right now, a Mazda6 Sport sedan retails from $36,290 before on-road costs, while the wagon version kicks off from $37,590, or about $42,000 driveaway – although a few dealers are advertising $39,990-driveaway deals for remaining stock of MY23 models at the time of publishing.

The 2015-2019 Mondeo wagon was Ford's last attempt at a traditional big family wagon.

If you want one at those prices, you'd better act fast.

In contrast, the next-cheapest wagon is the Skoda Octavia Style from $43,990 driveaway, though its price is expected to jump once the facelifted versions arrive sometime this year.

Beyond these, it is a sizeable step up to the smaller Peugeot 308 GT Premium wagon from $50,490 before on-road costs, followed by the Subaru WRX Sport Sportswagon from $50,900.

Yet it is the impending demise of the Mazda6 wagon that resonates hardest, given that – unlike the Volkswagen Golf small-car-derived Octavia – the Japanese model’s wider tracks and longer wheelbase reveal it as a proper medium-sized family wagon. That’s despite the Czech car’s substantially higher cargo capacity. And the WRX and 308 are also from a class size below.

The Hyundai i40 Tourer tried to break its maker into a new segment in Australia, but failed.

To refresh, the Mazda6 has been in its third-generation guise (with only minor changes to keep it fresh) since late 2012. The badge was introduced 10 years earlier to strong acclaim, after five iterations of the preceding 626 that dated back to 1978. The original Capella of 1970, by the way, ushered in the company’s first volume-selling rotary-engined model, the RX2, after the toe-in-the-water exercise that was the smaller 1300/Familia-based R100 the year before.

According to Mazda Australia Senior Manager for PR and Corporate Communications Angus Thompson, the status quo is not changing for the time being, so it’s business as usual for now.

The Mazda6's lineage dates back all the way to the Capella of 1970. These are the legendary rotary-powered RX2s.

“Mazda Corporation will continue to build Mazda6 in Japan for Australia and some other markets,” he told CarsGuide earlier this month. “This also remains unchanged for its local assembly in Vietnam.”

Whether Mazda would take up the Vietnamese supply option is debatable, given the small volumes and expected Australian Design Rule certification and other processes that making a vehicle for this market would require.

This is especially so for an ageing vehicle in a segment that – Tesla Model 3 apart – seems to be in terminal decline, slipping from 5.2 per cent of total vehicle sales a decade ago to just 1.2 per cent last year.

The Mazda6 wagon has an 80mm shorter wheelbase than the sedan version.

While Mazda6 sales were actually up by 1.1 per cent last year compared to 2022, at 1528 registrations versus 1511, it’s a far cry from the 7700 units sold in 2013 and 12,700 cars shifted in 2003.

But it wasn’t always like this. Mid-sized wagons, in particular, were as aspirational as well as part of the national cultural fabric as SUVs are today.

This is the classic Aussie setting for the traditional family wagon - but it's from a bygone era.

A post-war phenomenon as a result of the baby boom during an especially prosperous time in our nation’s history, Australians consumers really turned on to wagons after Holden introduced its first so-called ‘Station Sedan’ in 1956, alongside the then completely redesigned FE sedan.

Mazda has continuously refined the current Mazda6 range over the years, to help keep it fresh.

The buying frenzy that followed helped push the brand to an astonishing 50 per cent market share within three years, and created an immediate new segment of family car in the process. This prompted Ford to follow suit with the Falcon wagon in 1960 and Chrysler soon after with the Valiant version, meaning that the wagon continued to thrive throughout the next 40 years.

The Mazda6 wagon was designed to be a bit smaller than the US-focused sedan, as per European consumer tastes.

It wasn’t until the advent of the Toyota RAV4 compact SUV in the mid-1990s, along with the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester that followed not too long after, that wagon sales really started to wane.

Toyota was quick to spot the shift in consumer tastes and discontinued the Camry wagon in 2002, shadowed three years later by Mitsubishi, ending Magna wagon production for the sedan-only 380.

When production ceases later this year, this will be the final affordable midsized family wagon.

And while there were many attempted wagon comebacks with models like the Holden VE Sportwagon (2008), the Ford Mondeo (2009-2019) and Hyundai i40 (2011-2018), only the Mazda6 has kept the concept of the affordable wagon alive….

For how much longer, though? Will we see an MY25 6 wagon? Only Mazda knows the answer to that. But the end is surely nigh.

Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC...
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