Most soft-road SUVs are front-wheel drives with on-demand 4WD systems of varying fallibility. The impression of extra space they convey is illusory. Their styling is usually unfortunate, and dynamically they range from acceptable to execrable. They combine the shortcomings of legit four-wheel-drives and proper cars. And none of their virtues.
Whereas increasingly, wagons are where it’s at – none more so than the up-tarted Mazda 6 Touring Wagon, which enters showrooms shortly. This cow-upholstered petrol auto version features the various virtually negligible tweaks common to the rest of the range which has copped its mid-lifecycle upgrade (next to no improvements were required).
Oh alright, I’d like another 500 revs, a bit more power and a lot more down low torque – something direct injection and forced induction would address – but then I’d also like a land of autobahns, first class secondary roads and German standards of driver training for all license holders.
The point is, the Mazda6 has more than enough of what it has. And if your driving life is typical, there are dynamic dimensions to this family lugger that you’ll never chart. But if you do go there, the 6 will – as ever – go with you all the way. If only Audi did steering that was this meaningful all the time. If only all cars in which the front wheels do both the steering and the driving handled so superbly.
Yet it’s functional to a fault with a rear seat-down storage capacity that at more than 1700 litres is sufficient to stack several sumos. And, to these jaded rheumy eyes, the Wagon is the best looker of the 6 range.
The slightly smaller Mazda3 has become the favourite of private buyers in this wide brown land – yes, a car from Hiroshima, not elsewhere in Japan. And certainly not Melbourne or Adelaide.
The bigger 6 starts in the 3’s price range and is a better family device. Mazda doesn’t aspire to the prestige label, but the 6 slays any number of European imports that hide their glaring deficiencies behind their ‘aspirational’ badges. It’s priced against the Camry but is degrees of magnitude superior to that duller-than-ditchwater device.
And if you want an antidote to Camry Hybrid hype, try the Mazda6 diesel wagon with its 400Nm and 5.9l/100km. These wagons do everything a soft roader purports – and much that it can’t.