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Mazda6 2010 review

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  • fantastic front styling
  • manual transmission
  • improved steering, suspension
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  • cramped digital readout
  • tyre and engine noise
  • blander rear styling

Like people, cars sometimes go through a mid-life crisis that sparks extreme changes. But for the Mazda6 – which is about halfway through its second generation – it seems to be less crisis and more just a case of mild angst.

It’s more an evolution than a revolution, with main changes being the adoption of the Mazda face already seen on the CX-7 and Mazda3, upgrades to trim, and the arrival of a leather-clad fit-out for the wagon.

But it’s not all cosmetic. There are improvements to the fuel economy, and the steering and suspension have been revised to give better stability, feel and ride comfort.

When it first arrived here in 2002, the Mazda6 zoom-zoomed the badge’s sales and helped lift its profile.

While sales have long fallen back from their best month of more than a 1000, the medium-sized sedan, hatch and wagon have held fairly strongly in the private sector, and Mazda hopes to see around 700 of them move per month with the new arrival.

Appearance

There is different grille treatment – with a larger badge -- to set the top spec versions apart, but basically the dynamic lines of the ‘Nagare’ design that is spreading across the Mazda stable have been blended into the 6’s nose.

There’s extra visual spark from strong character lines and sharply angled light clusters, but the excitement dilutes a bit by the time you get round to the rear of all three bodies.But those who opt for the new 17-in and 18-in wheels won’t be disappointed, with the larger choice particularly looking sharp and expensive.

Interior and equipment

Mazda has revised the trim choices and materials – even talking up a different dimple pattern for the primary plastics – but says they’ve also made the gauges and centre display easier to read. However the red digital read-out is still cramped on the narrow horizontal screen, and it takes your eyes off the road for a little too long until you become familiar with it.

Standard equipment starts with the usuals at Limited spec level, but includes cruise control, audio auxiliary jack, tilt and reach steering column and a comprehensive safety fit-out, with front, side and curtain airbags, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and brakeforce distribution for emergencies, stability and traction control, and hill start assist on the manual versions.

From the next level and further up you start adding in Bluetooth, CD stacker, rain-sensing wipers, leather, dual-zone airconditioning and similar goodies.

Drivetrain

Both the petrol and diesel drivetrains carry over from the outgoing model, with some refinements. While it’s still some weeks away from our shores and wasn’t available at the launch, the manual-only 2.2-litre four-cylinder common-rail diesel has a smaller turbocharger, which reduces turbo inertia to improve both engine response and fuel economy.

It’s dropped the power 4kW to 132kw at 3500 revs, but Mazda says there’s no loss in performance and that there’s been an improvement in mid-range power ‘where most people live’ – most notably in the 80-120km/h area used for overtaking. Fuel economy has improved 0.1L/100km on the wagon, which joins the hatch at 5.9L/100km, while a revised exhaust system has brought emissions to 154g/km and tweaking at low engine temperatures has reduced engine knock. And it still has a whopping 400Nm of torque, which leads the class.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit has unchanged outputs, developing 125kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4000rpm. And it’s mated to the same six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. However a number of revisions have resulted in fuel consumption also dropping 0.1l/100km with the manual box, now starting from 8.3L/100km depending on body type, with the auto coming in at for 8.7L/100km.

Driving

The first thing that struck us in the new Mazda6 cabin was how quiet it was. Despite there being some noticeable tyre noise over rough-chip bitumen, the interior was hushed enough to speak in low voices.

But that changes when you start using either the manual shifter – or the manual side of the automatic – to punt the little car up hills and around trucks.

The 2.5-litre petrol engine we tested certainly still makes its presence felt to your ears. But it takes a bit of effort to have it make an impact on some of the harder tasks. It muttered a little when we tried to encourage it up a steep slope, and we couldn’t help wonder how it would fare it joined by another pair of adults.

While a five-speed is starting to look a bit under-slotted these days, the auto box is smooth and easy to use. But it was the little manual we warmed to, with its tractable shifts and happy little snicking feel. Most people won’t be happy to deal with it in stop-start traffic, but outside town on our test drive it added a bit of fun to the day.

We aimed at a few potholes to test out the suspension improvements and came away impressed at its compliancy, but still able to get it through corners without any sense of marshmallow. And the promised improvement in steering feel has resulted in a ‘not too heavy, not too light’ middle ground that is expected in the medium car segment.

And that middle ground sums up most aspects of the Mazda6 – and admittedly all its rivals in the segment. They’re inoffensive and pleasant. And they’re meant to be exactly that. Noice. But at least the 6, with its new styling, looks a little edgy.

Pricing Guides

$10,984
Based on 106 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$4,526
Highest Price
$16,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Classic 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $11,999 – 13,888 2010 Mazda 6 2010 Classic Pricing and Specs
Luxury 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $8,999 – 16,990 2010 Mazda 6 2010 Luxury Pricing and Specs
Luxury Sports 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $9,888 – 13,990 2010 Mazda 6 2010 Luxury Sports Pricing and Specs
Sport Diesel 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $7,599 – 7,990 2010 Mazda 6 2010 Sport Diesel Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$5,490

Lowest price, based on 11 car listings in the last 6 months

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