Since the 626 became the Mazda6, it has been a very pretty car. It hasn't always been the best, the cleverest or the most up to date, but like many of our favourite products and brands, it's been good at a lot of things.
The current 6 has been around for nearly five years but still looks as fresh and pretty as the day it landed. It seems almost a shame to tell you there's a new one on the way later this year, but it still looks terrific because Mazda has left the styling alone.
Every year since its release, the 6 has changed under the skin, with a number of running changes made to quieten down the classic Mazda road noise bugbear, while improving the drive experience with new technology like G-Vectoring.
Mazda 6 2018: Atenza
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
The prices presented here are all RRP and are merely a guide - most models have drive-away prices at the dealership or as part of regular promotions. How much you can twist your dealer's arm will depend on which of the trim levels you choose from the range. For a detailed model comparison, check out our snapshots of the individual models.
The 6 is available in either sedan or wagon forms, depending on the spec level, as well as offering a choice of diesel or petrol engines.
The first is the 2.5-litre petrol Sport, leading off at $29,700 for the sedan and $30,900 for the wagon.
Standard features include 17-inch alloys (no 6 has 16-inch wheels), a six-speaker stereo with radio CD player, reverse camera, central locking with push button start, trip computer, bluetooth, rear parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, sat nav, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, cloth trim, projector halogen headlights, space-saver spare tyre, power windows for all, leather steering wheel and gear-shifter, sunglass holder, power folding mirrors and a comprehensive safety package.
You'll find a space-saver spare tyre under the boot floor of the Mazda 6. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Step up to the wagon and you can add a cargo cover and net to the list.
The next model up the range is the Touring. Available in sedan and wagon as well as petrol and diesel, the pricing starts at $34,100 for the petrol sedan and up to $37,900 for the diesel wagon.
Over and above the Sport edition, the Touring has five more speakers including subwoofer, 17-inch rims, LED headlights and daytime running lights, front parking sensors, leather seats and electric front seats with memory on the driver's side.
Mazda considers the 11-speaker sound system a premium package, with Bose branding liberally applied.
Moving on to the GT ($39,100 - $42,000), additions include 19-inch alloy wheels (Mazda clearly has something against 18-inch wheels), sunroof, keyless entry and start (aka smart key or keyless go), heated seats both front and rear, colour LCD screen between the dash dials and active headlights.
The GT and Atenza come with 19-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
The top of the range Atenza is available from $41,500 for the petrol sedan through to $45,300 for the diesel wagon.
On top of the GT spec you get adaptive cruise, adaptive front lighting system and nappa leather, interior (which you can have in black and white if you like).
The head-up display is excellent - instead of the dodgy flip up glass blade found on some Mazdas, it's projected onto the windscreen and looks terrific.
Mazda's own multimedia system, MZD Connect, is available across the range and is accessed via a 7.0-inch touch screen and console-mounted rotary dial. As such, you get the same multimedia options across every car, with GPS, USB connectivity for your devices (including iPhone) and DAB.
Mazda's own multimedia system, MZD Connect, is available across the range and is accessed via a 7.0-inch touch screen. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Along with the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there is no DVD player, specific MP3 connection, CD changer, panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, or xenon headlights, elegance pack, park assist, full size spare or tyre repair kit.
Also missing are a seat belt extender, side skirts, rear diffuser, body kit, front spoiler, rear wing, wifi hotspot, nudge bar, tonneau cover, cargo barrier, roof rails, homelink, red brake calipers, performance brakes,
As is now traditional with Mazda, most of the colours are 'freebies.' Some cars in this class will offer just one or two non-premium paint colours and sting you upwards of $1500 for white or silver with a fancy name.
The no-cost option colours include 'Jet Black', 'Blue Reflex', 'Deep Crystal Blue', 'Titanium Flash', 'Sonic Silver' and 'Snowflake White Pearl'. For just $300 the achingly pretty 'Soul Red' and fetching 'Machine Grey' are extremely reasonably priced.
For fans of more vivid colors, yellow, purple and green are no longer on the menu.
The 6 has an extensive dealer acessories list, including floor mats, boot liner and a lip-style rear spoiler and roof rack. Your dealer is sure to offer you tinted windows and various holders and stands for your gadgets.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
Mazda's exterior design team did a cracking job with the 6, applying the highly successful Kodo design language now common in every Mazda passenger car and SUV. Low and long, even the top-spec Atenza is light on the chrome, which itself is subtle rather than blindingly blingy. It's a fine-looking car and if you get it in Soul Red, it continues to turn heads years after its launch. The subtle twin exhaust treatment at the rear is a nice touch, too.
The subtle twin exhaust treatment at the rear is a nice touch. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
The cabin is identifiably Mazda. It could do with a little more colour, especially in the Sport and Touring models, but it is very well laid out and expertly assembled. Materials are mostly pleasant to the touch. We had no complaints from any passenger who came riding with us. The newer-style steering wheel with the compact airbag boss is good to touch and use, too, which can make or break a car.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
Our interior photos show generously proportioned interior dimensions. Mazda has squeezed a lot of room into what looks like a very slim cabin without sacrificing rear legroom or headroom.
The 6's cabin provides reasonable storage, a cup holder each for four passengers (two up front, two in the rear), bottle holders in the doors and slots and bins for front front seat dwellers.
A child will be perfectly happy hopping in the back, even one as tall as ours at 182cm.
A child will be perfectly happy hopping in the back, even one as tall as ours at 182cm. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Boot space obviously depends on whether you choose sedan or wagon. The sedan swallows 474 litres, providing reasonable luggage capacity. The wagon's load area adds just 29 litres for a minimum of 506 litres, but you can drop the seats for a big increase to 1648 litres.
The sedan has 474 litres of boot space. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Boot space can be increased by folding the rear seats down. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Obviously the wagon wins for overall size and packages of larger dimensions will be much easier to get into the liftback.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The Mazda6 range offers two engines, a 2.5-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel, both four cylinders and badged SkyActiv.
The petrol motor clocks in at 138kW with 250Nm of torque and the diesel 129kW and 420Nm of torque. All 6s are front-wheel drive with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sport is petrol-only while the diesel features on the rest of the range as an option.
The petrol motor clocks in at 138kW with 250Nm of torque. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
All cars feature Mazda's clever i-Eloop or regenerative braking technology, which, along with stop-start, helps cut fuel use.
The highest kerb weight across the range is the Atenza diesel wagon, with just 1607kg to pull along.
Towing capacity for the diesel is 1600kg braked and 750kg unbraked, while the petrol falls to 1500kg braked and 550kg unbraked. If towing is important, the diesel vs petrol decision falls towards the turbodiesel, despite the deficit in engine size. Maximum towbar download is 120kg.
As to the question of timing belt or chain, both engines feature a low-maintenance chain.
If you like your gearbox with a clutch, you're out of luck, so the manual vs automatic argument is settled for you.
Mazda doesn't supply acceleration or performance figures, but both should dispatch the 0-100km/h dash in under 10 seconds.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Fuel-economy ratings will probably play a part in engine choice. Diesel fuel economy is a well-known advantage, with the claimed combined cycle figure of 5.4L/100km vs the petrol's 6.6L/100km.
The real-world gap is wider, however, with the diesel time and again providing good mileage (if a bit over the claimed figure) while the petrol's fuel consumption is regularly over 10.0L/100km. If your cost metric is km/L, the diesel wins.
Fuel-tank capacity is 62 litres. One upside to the petrol engine is that it doesn't require premium unleaded.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
Mazda is developing an excellent reputation for safety features. All cars carry six airbags, stability and traction controls (aka DSC), tyre pressure monitoring, ABS, brake assist and brake force distribution.
Added to the usual package, Mazda offers low-speed AEB front and rear and reverse cross traffic alert as standard across the range.
As you work up the model list, you'll find further advanced safety features like lane assist, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitor, forward obstruction warning, and traffic sign recognition. The Atenza also adds high-speed (up to 145km/h) AEB and distance warnings on the head-up display.
If you need to fit a baby car seat, there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor points.
No matter which 6 you guy, the ANCAP safety rating is the same five stars awarded in November 2013.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
The 6, like the rest of the model range, is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty. Service intervals are spaced at six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.
Service costs are reigned in with Mazda's capped price servcing regime. Pricing differs between petrol and diesel but are in line with Mazda's reasonable approach to pricing.
Roadside assist is available for around $70 per year for basic cover and $83.50 for premium. A dealer will no doubt offer you an extended warranty.
While Mazda obviously won't supply the statistics, a quick trip around the internet forums suggest that Mazda's early diesel-engine problems largely have been solved, while transmission issues seem rare.
Check out our Mazda6 problems page for further information on common problems, faults or defects. Genuine complaints seem to be few in number in Australia, with good durability and high reliability ratings from customers.
The early oil pump problems appear to have been sorted and nothing of note came up in our searches related to injector issues. If you do see black smoke from the diesel, that could indicate a problem with the diesel particulate filter, so check with your dealer.
The oil type differs between fuel types, so check your owners manual should want to change the oil yourself or work out the capacity. Mazda doesn't charge much for oil changes, though.
The battery is located under a plastic cover on the left side of the car.
Where is the Mazda 6 built? Glad you asked - it comes from Mazda's Hofu and Hiroshima plants in Japan.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
Over the years, the 6 has continued to improve. Mazda seems to have adopted a policy of continuous tweaking, with all the changes rolled up and announced for the next model year. Every time I drive a 6, it feels better than the last.
While neither of the engine specs promises great speed, there's enough horsepower to get you moving without fuss and to keep up with the traffic. The electric power steering has gotten better over the years, too, and try as I might, I could't pull off my old party trick of quickly changing direction and finding the assistance suddenly dropping off.
Driving around the city is a pleasure - the old bugbear of road noise is gone and out on the highway it cuts through the air with just a little rustling from the wing mirrors. While it could be quieter still, compared to the older cars, it's blessedly silent.
Both engines are good, but the diesel is a strong, smooth unit.
The front wheels seem well planted, with the G-Vectoring system improving turn-in with judicious application of braking pressure to help pull the nose in the direction you want to go. It feels really good and has made an already capable car even better.
Rear passengers sometimes get a rough ride in cars like this, but with a supple rear suspension, our test dummy was perfectly happy in the back, the rears riding the bumps with ease while maintaining composure on what are big wheels in any spec, but particularly on the Atenza.
Both engines are good, but the diesel is a strong, smooth unit. When cold it's a bit noisy but it quickly quietens down. The petrol can't hope to match its pull in the gears nor its relaxed manner in urban environments.
The 6's ground clearance is 160mm, so it clearly isn't an off road proposition. The turning radius is 5.5m (total turning circle of 11m), so even though it's front drive, it isn't too hard to park or u-turn.
The pick of the bunch has to be the Touring as far as specfication goes - spending another several thousand to move to the GT just gets you bigger wheels and keyless entry which isn't exactly good value for money unless you're also desparate for a sunroof.
While the range is bereft of a manual transmission (it's not worth Mazda's while) to maybe knock a few dollars off the asking price, the 6 is a good value, supremely competent and beautiful car. It's under-appreciated rather than underrated. It's a pity there aren't more like it.
Can Mazda's 6 tempt you back to sedans from an SUV? Or is the idea of a "normal" car just old hat?