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Mazda 6 Atenza 2013 Review

Mazda sends its turbo Atenza on a coast-to-coast economy trial - who needs a big six?

“You know they have planes to do that trip now, don't you?” was the first response when I mentioned my coast-to-coast road trip. It's a five-hour trip on a plane and you can get out of your seat for a pit stop without coming to a standstill.

The keys to a Mazda6 sedan are in my mitts, however, and we set off to cover 4423km over five days, a real-world test of fuel economy claims, seat comfort, cabin refinement and boredom threshold.

The maker has assigned four- and five-door versions of the 6 - in 2.2-litre turbo diesel Atenza spec - for the Brisbane to Perth trip to show off its long-distance touring abilities and fuel economy claims (5.4L/100km on the combined cycle, 4.8L highway and 6.5L city).

DAY 1

From the home of the reigning State of Origin champions, the route takes us 900km south-west to Bourke, along the Cunningham Highway and through grazing and cotton country.

Eventually, with the turbo diesel rumbling along on the coarse-chip road, barely troubling the gearbox to kick-down from sixth gear, we amble through outback NSW. Ride quality is up to dealing with sub-standard bitumen but the suppleness of yesteryear's big Aussie sedans is absent. 

In a tense two-hour stint in darkness for our little convoy, the local kangaroo population does its best to commit suicide by Mazda.

Brisbane to Bourke: 928km

DAY 2

On the dawn run to Cobar the 6 quickly settles into a canter on the open road, one of the quieter diesels around yet with 420Nm of overtaking urge. Vegetation is getting scrubbier as we head for the SA border, via Wilcannia and Broken Hill. The trip computer stays staunchly in the 6-ish L/100km as we average 80km/h. The three-stage heating for the seats is a welcome rump-roaster on such a crisp morning.

Complaints are few. The infotainment system is far from happy with my iPhone's music player, and the speed readouts on the instruments and the satnav screen disagree - set the cruise control to 120km/h and the satnav (and the speedo GPS app on my phone, in the centre console) show something closer to the posted 110km/h limit. Adding to the above frustration, the active cruise control steps up only in 5km/h increments.

Bourke to Port Pirie: 1011km

DAY 3

The final 1000km day is chilly, with rain and solid cloud cover - hardly the image of the Outback. But the green tinge of the Eyre Peninsula - with grain crops and roadside growth - carries on for 466km to Ceduna, where the Nullarbor Plain begins and the Great Australian Bight starts to show its teeth.

The variable rain-sensing automatic wipers deal well with the intermittent rain, which also assists the washers in ridding me of the bug splatter in my line of vision. My posterior and lumbar regions remain unfussed by the 2000km-plus in the saddle.

The vegetation, though well-watered, shrinks to knee-high as the convoy starts the 500km run from Ceduna to Eucla, just a dozen clicks over the WA border. Untold treeless kilometres give way to the spectacular, breathtaking scenery of the Bight as the Eyre Highway and the coast converge.

Port Pirie to Eucla: 1051km

DAY 4

Eucla, according to an informative signpost in the “main street”, is a long way from anywhere. A brief tourist stop delays the inevitable - tackling the longest straight piece of bitumen in the country, the 90 Mile Straight. Only a Saudi highway pips it for the longest straight on the planet.

But the road is in good condition, despite constant truck traffic, and our plush ride continues. A highlight is the friendly crew at Cocklebiddy, where a local Tiny Tim busks at the store-cum-servo. We arrive in the dark yet again.

Eucla to Norseman: 710km

DAY 5

The goldfields roads are full of SUVs, motorhomes, a few mad cyclists and the odd sedan pulling a caravan. The Mazda6 has 1600kg braked towing capacity with a 120kg ball download, so towing anything of considerable girth would be its downfall.

Recent rain has covered the red dirt in a blanket of green and the constant cloud cover makes driving into the setting sun much easier. We stop briefly to look at the big toys at the Kalgoorlie Superpit, our largest open cut gold mine.

The rolling hills give way to the ranges outside Perth and we wrestle with the Friday peak hour traffic to reach Kings Park, 400 hectares in the city centre and a spectacular backdrop for pictorial evidence of our arrival. Further evidence comes from the bug spatter and an odometer that shows this sedan is well and truly run in.

Norseman to Perth: 723km

VERDICT

Mazda's passenger flagship completes the cross-country jaunt in good shape, cruising at the posted limits, averaging 6.6L/100km and needing no tyre changes. Mission - to show the great Australian road-trip no longer requires a “big six” sedan - accomplished.

Mazda6 Atenza sedan

Price: from $49,660
Warranty: 3 years
Engine: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel 4-cylinder, 129kW/420Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, FWD
Thirst: 5.4L/100km, CO2 141g/km

Pricing guides

$16,823
Based on 154 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$10,220
Highest Price
$22,950

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Atenza 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,888 – 21,990 2013 Mazda 6 2013 Atenza Pricing and Specs
GT 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,900 – 18,700 2013 Mazda 6 2013 GT Pricing and Specs
Sport 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,220 – 18,488 2013 Mazda 6 2013 Sport Pricing and Specs
Touring 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,800 – 21,950 2013 Mazda 6 2013 Touring Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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