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Mazda 6 2013 Review

Quiet on the commute, the petrol engine teams well with the clever auto to provide smooth cruising.
EXPERT RATING
7
Medium is now something of a misnomer when the conversation turns to the Mazda 6.

Medium is now something of a misnomer when the conversation turns to the Mazda 6. We're sampling the top-spec wagon version of the new global Mazda6, a larger proposition than the outgoing mid-sizer - longer, wider, lower and a touch heavier.

Mazda have filled the Atenza (conveniently also the 6's alias in its home market) variant to the brim with safety features and trimmed it suitably, but given a near-as-dammit $50,000 pricetag on the road you'd want it to feel worth it.

VALUE

The 6 flagship is up to the pricetag when it comes to the features list - leather trim, 19in alloy wheels (with a space-saver spare), power-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, fog lights, sunroof, roof rails, keyless entry and ignition and dual-zone climate control with rear vents.

There's also Bluetooth phone and audio link, an enjoyable 11-speaker Bose surround-sound system with USB input and helm controls, a reach'n'rake adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, a Tom Tom satnav system, electrically-adjustable heated front seats and a horde of safety gear we'll touch on later.

TECHNOLOGY

A range with two engines and not a manual in sight (sadly), we're in the Skyactiv petrol engine model - a 91RON-drinking 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre direct-injection (variably-timed) 16-valve four-cylinder powerplant.

It's equipped with a quick and smooth stop-start system that uses combustion energy (instead of a battery-powered starter motor) to re-start and the i-eloop brake energy recovery system, which stores charge in a capacitor instead of a battery.

The six-speed auto helps the 6 wagon to claim 6.6 combined-cycle litres per 100km - a 3l/100km reduction over the outgoing car; we had 9.4 at the end of our time in the car, which was mostly metro miles.

Mazda says the six-speed automatic has an extra-wide lock-up range clutch to give a more direct feel for the driver - it delivers on that but feels too keen to upshift, which is OK in the diesel model but there's not enough torque to carry it off when teamed to the petrol engine.

DESIGN

The new 6 is not the lean, lithe beast we're used to here - it's 35mm longer (25mm of that is in wheelbase), 45mm wider, 10mm lower in height and 19kg heavier. Once upon a time there were two Mazda6 models, with a porkier version headed to markets like the US, now there's one middle-sized model that we and the Yanks get.

Mazda says the lighter yet stronger body is a design inspired by the movements of animals, symbolising vitality and agility - if anything the wagon is better looking than the sedan, with some nice curves, although the nose is still not to all tastes.

The cabin has a quality feel and is comfortable - head and legroom aren't ground-breaking but it's not cramped either - most rugrats won't whine about the space but lanky adults might.

SAFETY

Mazda trots out some EuroNCAP that says 90 per cent of road accidents are caused by distracted or inattentive drivers and that vehicles with autonomous emergency braking systems have up to 27 per cent fewer accidents.

The top-spec 6 has the full Mazda arsenal - front-side driver and passenger and curtain (front and rear) airbags, anti-lock brakes, blind spot monitoring, stability and traction control, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist.

The active list of safety features includes adaptive cruise control with a forward obstruction warning system and auto-braking, automatic high beam control for the active bi-xenon headlights, lane departure warning, parking sensors (front and rear) that inform the rear cross traffic alert system and a reversing camera.

DRIVING

The outgoing car was an entertaining vehicle fit for daily use and brisker solo motoring on the right road. The up-size-me move has changed its demeanour a little, it's still a family wagon that is useful on a broad range of tasks.

Quiet on the commute, the petrol engine teams well with the clever auto to provide smooth cruising on the morning run. It's still not my favourite in the 6 - the turbodiesel is quiet and smooth as well, with plenty more shove in the back, but the 2.5-litre engine sounds enthusiastic and tries hard nonetheless.

The steering is light - over-assisted even - but around town that's not an issue, only becoming a bugbear on favoured twisting roads, although the front wheels turn into corners without complaint.

The top-spec's 19in alloys and low-profile tyres add to this equation but there's a little skittishness on smaller bumps in the payoff for handling - it's not enough to complain about ad nauseam, as the suspension overall is a good compromise.

Don't expect cavernous cargo space when you lift the tailgate - bootspace has dropped from 519 litres to 451 (the space-saver spare has also eaten some of the loadspace) or 1593 litres when the seats are folded flat, down from 1751 in the outgoing load-lugger.

That puts it at the lower end of the space spectrum for the medium segment - VW's Passat claims 603 litres, the Hyundai i40 wagon boasts 506 litres and the newby Opel Insignia claims 500 litres.

While the touchscreen is easy to see in most situations, the menu system is not always straightforward - if you move halfway through inputting a destination, the safety lock kicks in and you have to start from scratch (very annoying) and yet the phone key pad doesn't lock when underway.

The sound system takes music from the iPod function within an iPhone but doesn't always get the right title and artist, even when it's correct on the phone. It's not the first time gremlins have invaded the TomTom system in Mazda during our time behind the wheel.

VERDICT

The range-topping 6 wagon has plenty going for it - the active safety features list in particular gives it an edge over its similarly-priced competition, but quirks of infotainment system and the below-par rear cargo space dull some of the sheen.

Mazda6 Atenza wagon

Price: from $48,110
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Resale:  50 per cent (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 10,000km/6 months
Safety rating: five star (outgoing model)
Spare: space saver
Engine: 2.5 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC variable-valve direct-injection petrol engine, 138kW/250Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD
Body: 4.8m (L); 1.8m (w); 1.5m (h)
Weight: 1526kg
Thirst: 6.61/100km, on test 9.4; 91RON ULP, tank 62 litres; 155g/km CO2 

Pricing Guides

$17,990
Based on 189 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$12,800
Highest Price
$23,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Atenza 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,487 – 23,990 2013 Mazda 6 2013 Atenza Pricing and Specs
GT 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $13,990 – 21,999 2013 Mazda 6 2013 GT Pricing and Specs
Sport 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $15,990 – 19,999 2013 Mazda 6 2013 Sport Pricing and Specs
Touring 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,800 – 22,999 2013 Mazda 6 2013 Touring Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$14,487

Lowest price, based on 13 car listings in the last 6 months

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