Mazda6 Touring sedan 2015 review
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2015 Mazda 6 Touring sedan.
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Marketing types in Australia might refer to Volkswagen's Passat badge as something of a ‘sleeper'; that is, one that does quiet, solid business without generating strong emotion, either positive or negative.
It's hard to imagine a Passat customer experiencing a night of sleepless anticipation pending the delivery of their new car, but nor is anyone going to take you for a stuffy old cardigan-wearer when learning you've bought one.
So while the Golf may outsell Passat in Australia at the rate of around four to one, globally, that's not the case. Passat is actually VW's top-selling model, making the arrival of this all-new eighth-generation model is a very big deal.
So what do you need to know about the new model? Well the B8, as it's coded, is built on what VW calls its MQB platform, which is essentially a lengthened version of the current Golf 7's underpinnings. The Passat range has been reduced to just three variants (offered in both sedan and wagon), with a super-keenly-priced entry-level model introduced.
It's also a car with a vast level of quiet competence, and in wagon form, every bit as practical as a family car as a mid-sized SUV, but offering far more dynamic involvement and general driving enjoyment.
Two key dimensional changes immediately grab your attention with the new Passat. The first is that its overall length is almost the same as the outgoing car, yet its wheelbase has been stretched by a sizeable 78mm. Pushing the two axles further apart promises not just additional interior space, but also dynamic gains in terms of ride comfort and handling prowess.
In terms of perceived quality arguably no car company does it better than VW in this price bracket
With the driver's seat set to accommodate my 185cm frame, I found ample room in the back, with good knee room, plenty of footroom, and a well-shaped rear base and backrest. All models are fitted with tri-zone climate control, allowing a separate temperature to be selected by those riding in the back.
Choose the wagon and there's a vast 650 litres of load area with the rear seats folded flat, up 47 litres on the old model. Remote releases in the cargo compartments are a welcome touch, as is deep underfloor storage for the full-size spare.
In terms of perceived quality - that is, the sense of quality materials and high standard of design and construction - arguably no car company does it better than VW in this price bracket; and the Passat is an excellent example of this. Everywhere you look – or touch – you take in elegant, restrained design aesthetic with the beautiful sense of solidity and quality.
The driving position is vastly adjustable and quickly allows you to find an ideal relationship between pedals and the fine-looking wheel. Nine airbags, navigation and App-Connect allowing full functionality of your smartphone via the multimedia system, are standard across the range.
It's impossible to discuss the option of a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine without the spectre of VW's dieselgate scandal belching its toxic breath on the subject. Suffice to say, this new 2.0-litre turbodiesel is in no way implicated. It's a newer generation than those involved in the recall, and uses Adblue urea treatment to quell the worst of its toxic emissions.
It makes a solid 400Nm, but still falls a little short of class best in terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). There's still a degree of low-level clatter audible outside the car or with the window down at idle, but on the move it pulls with real authority from around 2000rpm, and finds the closest thing that could be described as a sweet spot in the 3000 to 4500rpm zone.
In typical diesel style there's little to be gained from revving it past the point of peak power at 5000rpm, even if the six-speed dual-clutch transmission will hold your chosen ratio when manual mode is selected.
The claimed combined fuel figure is 4.8L/100km; our brisk driving in the hinterland above Byron Bay on the NSW far north coast saw the computer suggesting more like low eights. Regardless, the diesel is reserved only for those opting for the top-spec Highline model.
For anyone who enjoys exploiting a broader seam of high-rev power, and who puts a greater emphasis on smoothness and keenness from their engine, will instantly gravitate towards to the 1.8-litre turbo petrol, despite its slightly higher consumption. It's virtually lag-free, responds eagerly to throttle inputs, and revs willingly to its 6500rpm cut-out.
Similarly, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission has benefited from software updates that have helped minimise the low-speed stumbles and jerkiness that blighted earlier iterations.
In normal driving it delivers easy-sipping, early up-changes, while Sport mode does a great job of holding gears, and downshifting eagerly if you're braking later and accelerating harder. Official combined consumption from the 132TSI is 6.0L/100km; we used a little over 10 over several hours of fairly spirited driving.
It feels thoroughly sorted and in a different league to your typical higher-riding SUV
The handling improvements that have been delivered by the move the new MQB platform are quickly apparent, and help the driver to quickly bond with the Passat as a whole. The steering is light yet consistent in normal mode, damping out unwanted chatter and softening kickback on rough corners yet still delivering a clear channel of communication from the front end.
It's not brimming with feel, but does make the car effortless, almost intuitive to place accurately. Selecting Sport mode adds weight, but not much else. Thankfully Sport mode for the dampers can be selected separately, allowing great body control over fast bumpy sections, while retaining the light steering feel.
In terms of its ability to carve corners, contain body movement and limit head-toss, it feels thoroughly sorted and in a different league to your typical higher-riding SUV. Drive hard and you'll feel the rear end come into play, helping quell understeer and giving the car a terrific sense of balance.
Serving up in a base model at under $35k is a smart move from VW, as it will ignite real interest in the Passat. However we reckon the sweet spot lies with the 132TSI Comfortline, pitched in the middle. It's just under $40,000 in sedan form, or add $2000 for the wagon, which would be our choice for its versatility and style.
To this you can add a comprehensive driver assistance package for $1800, or a Luxury package for $3500. If sports is more your thing, the R-Line package ($3000) adds a faster steering rack (just 2.1 turns lock to lock) as well as 15mm lower suspension, 19-inch wheels, and a host of tasty trim embellishments. Beware, though, that the ride is noticeably less absorbent in this spec configuration.
The top-spec diesel Highland, in wagon form and fitted with the R-Line package, will be well nudging $55k on-road, and is less appealing as a value proposition.
You need only to look at decline in sales of local large cars, and the gains in the premium segment with the likes of Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series to see clear evidence of how Australians' automotive tastes have changed and moved upward. The all-new Passat may not have the brand cache of the aforementioned pair, but its all-pervasive sense of build quality, dynamic ability and safety inclusions make it a viable alternative.
So sure, the Passat badge may remain a bit of a sleeper, but the eighth generation is more than capable of delivering a wake-up call.
|118 TSI||1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$12,800 – 18,480||2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 118 TSI Pricing and Specs|
|118 TSI Special||1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$15,200 – 21,450||2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 118 TSI Special Pricing and Specs|
|130 TDI Highline||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP||$15,100 – 21,230||2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 130 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs|
|130 TDI Highline Special||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP||$17,800 – 24,750||2015 Volkswagen Passat 2015 130 TDI Highline Special Pricing and Specs|