Mazda 6 VS Holden Calais
- Beautiful looks
- Lengthy standard features
- New turbo engine
- Touring doesn't offer turbo option
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Warranty looking a bit short
- Plenty of cabin space
- Safety gear on-point
- Punchy V6
- Fuel use on the high side
- Four-cylinder turbo petrol unavailable
- Diesel not an option
The Mazda6 used to be just about everywhere. A classic go-to kind of car, it has been a constant presence in Mazda's stable of passenger cars. Mazda's well-timed shift to SUVs a decade ago could have seen the eventual decline and demise of the classic mid-size sedan, but here we are in 2018 and it's still going strong.
The new Mazda6 isn't a ground-up redesign, it isn't a revolution that brings with it electric powertrains or funky hybrid additions or some wacky weight-saving technology. Instead, this new 6 echoes the approach the Japanese company took with its big-selling CX-5; detail changes, and lots of them.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
If Holden had a dollar for every time someone had criticised the new and international flavour of Australia’s formerly home-grown hero, it would surely have more than enough spare cash to blow the dust of that vast South Australian factory and restart local Commodore production immediately.
Hell, there’d probably be enough left over to relaunch the Camira while they were at it. And maybe even knock out a new Gemini or two.
So we’re not going to do that again here. The all-new Commodore, in this case the Calais Tourer, is now here - granted having travelled further than the one it replaces - and so we’ll be playing this review with the straightest of bats.
Because the truth is, if you peel the badging - and thus the swirling emotion - off its elongated rump, then you’ll find this German-built Tourer is, really and truly, a very good thing.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The new 6 does exactly what's required, and that is to deliver a beautiful and refined car at a good price. The Mazda flagship is loaded with enough gear to give the Camry a run for its money, and it's hard to see why the 6 wouldn't be on your list.
Choosing a sweet spot of the range is tricky. The 2.5-litre Touring is well balanced when you consider value for money, but you can't help looking one step up to the turbo GT. That new engine really completes the transformation. So either hold out until Mazda relents and offers a turbo Touring, or live with the non-turbo 2.5.
I have always had a soft spot for the 6, but it required turning a blind eye to a range of deficiencies. Now they're pretty much gone, and I don't have to say, "But..." when asked about it. There must be thousands of changes in this new car and every single one of them has been an improvement.
What do you think? Can the 6 tempt you back out of an SUV or out of your current mid-size sedan?
A best-of-both-worlds option that should have us questioning our SUV obsession, the Calais Tourer delivers plenty of practicality perks and a higher ride height in a dynamic and car-like package. The equipment levels are spot on, including the comprehensive safety package, and it you act smartly, you'll get a hugely long warranty to boot.
It sure is thirsty, though, and we can't help but think plenty of owners would be happier with a smaller, more-efficient engine.
Mazda's Kodo exterior design is hugely successful, so a top-and-tail is enough to bring the car up to date without ruining a look that has made it famously pretty.
All the front panels forward of the doors are new, with a new bumper, headlights and a 3D grille. New 19-inch alloys on the GT and Atenza also help. The new bumper features a different front spoiler, the fog lights have moved into the LED headlight assembly and the indicators are now eyebrow-style LEDs along the top edge of the lights. The chrome (okay, plastic) grille outline is slimmer and wider, making the car look wider, but also sportier. Much of what you see came from Mazda's Vision Concept car from the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.
The rear has come in for similar treatment, with a new bootlid, bumper and bolder twin-exhaust treatment - the pipes have a bigger diameter and a more "sculpted" look.
Mazda tends to skip adding side skirts, a rear diffuser or rear wing, leaving the body kit work to the aftermarket brigade. The wagon does have a small rear spoiler over the rear window, though.
Interior photos photos show a new and lighter cabin, and you might be surprised to find that all that remains unchanged from the previous model are the steering wheel, some switches and the top of the gear selector. There wasn't a great deal wrong with the old one, but this new one seems even more coherent. The centre console is less cluttered, housing just the air-conditioning controls. Seat belt or airbag lights, for instance, are now in an overhead console which also features a sunglass holder.
Less an SUV (happily), and more a high-riding wagon, the Calais Tourer borrows a little from the Subaru XV in its exterior design, sporting the same plastic cladding over each wheel arch. Clearly there is a whole heap of shared DNA between the Sportwagon and Tourer, and so it offers similar perks; like its SUV-shaming boot space.
Elsewhere, the Tourer shares the same soft and rounded edges as the rest of the Commodore range, and while it is genuinely quite handsome from most angles, it is at its best viewed front on, where a simple front-end is bookmarked at each corner by a narrow headlight on top, and an encased fog light below. It’s all a touch understated, sure, but it looks sharp in the metal.
Inside, it’s a clean and functional cabin design, with most of the touchscreen functions controlled by a simple row of four horizontal buttons, and with a gloss-black surround encasing the centre console. The thin leather wheel feels lovely under the touch, and the contrasting door trims and soft-touch materials find their way into the backseat, too.
The interior dimensions of the 6 are unchanged, but it has always been a roomy sort of place. Rear legroom is expansive but if you're 185cm, your head might brush the (new) headlining.
Boot space for the sedan starts at 474 litres (VDA) and the wagon offers 506 litres. For more luggage capacity or cargo of a larger size, the space can expand to 1648 litres, which isn't bad given the wagon's smaller dimensions. A tonneau cover is standard in the wagon.
Storage is handy rather than extraordinary. Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders with a neat cover for when they're not in use. The centre console is on the smaller side, but a decent phone cubby under the climate controls makes up for that. The fold-down rear centre armrest features a pair of cupholders, a slot to hold a phone or small tablet upright and a small lidded tray with a pair of USB ports.
Towing capacity for the 2.5-litre is 550kg unbraked/1550kg braked, and the turbo petrol and turbo diesel manage 750kg braked/1600 kg braked.
The turning radius differs between the sedan and wagon. The longer sedan (yes, really) has a turning circle of 11.2 metres, with the wagon completing the same trip in 11 metres. With ground clearance of 125mm, the 6 is not an off-road proposition.
The Tourer serves up identical storage space to its Sportwagon near-enough twin, with 793 litres of storage (to the roof line) with the rear seats in place, and 1665 litres with the rear seat folded down. That’s about 200 litres more than the regular Commodore hatchback.
Where the Tourer does differ from the Sportwagon is in its exterior dimensions, measuring 5004mm in length (versus 4986mm in the Sportwagon) and 1525mm in height (versus 1483mm). Width and wheelbase are identical, though (1871mm and 2829mm), and so the interior space dimensions - like headroom and legroom - are identical no matter which of the estate-style Commodores you opt for.
The key dimension here, though, is ride height, with the Tourer offering 20mm more ground clearance (42mm greater height overall) than the Sportwagon. That, combined with the on-demand all-wheel-drive system, allows for some light off-roading - though you won’t be conquering Everest.
Up front, expect two cupholders hidden under a gloss-black cover, as well as power and USB connections located in a central cubby. The back seat is home to two extra cupholders hidden in a pulldown divider, and there is room in each of the doors for bottles. The back seat is also home to air vents (but no temperature controls) and two USB charge points located just below the vents.
Price and features
With four trim levels and three engine options, there are fourteen different versions of the 6. Our range review features a full model comparison and price list so you know how much you'll pay and what you'll get. Prices are RRP and therefore a starting guide - your final drive-away price will be down to you and your dealer.
The range starts with the Sport in sedan and wagon forms, with just one engine choice, a 2.5-litre 140kW/252Nm naturally aspirated petrol. Mazda claims the refreshed 6 Sport has $3000 of added value for no price increase. The Sport is priced at $32,940 for the sedan and $33,790 for the wagon.
Standard features include 17-inch alloys, head-up display, LED headlights, power mirrors, a power window in each door, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, six speakers, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather steering wheel and gear shifter, sat nav, push-button start, remote central locking, active cruise control, rear parking sensors, GPS sat nav, DAB radio, trip computer, a safety package including lane assist and a space-saver spare tyre. The wagon version adds roof rails, an intermittent rear wiper, cargo cover and cargo net as standard.
Added to the Sport edition specs are leather seats, power heated and folding mirrors, electric front seats, 11 Bose-branded speakers (including subwoofer) for the infotainment system, leather steering wheel and gear shifter, smart key (keyless go and keyless entry), front and rear parking sensors and LED daytime running lights.
Next up, The GT drops the naturally-aspirated petrol and replaces it with the 2.5-litre turbo with 170kW and 420Nm. The diesel stays and prices start at $43,990 and end at $46,390.
Added to the GT are 19-inch alloys, black or white leather seats, heated front and rear seats and an adaptive front lighting system.
The top of the range Atenza features adaptive front LED headlights, white or walnut Nappa leather seats with suede inserts and wood trim. Available from $46,390 up to $50,090, the diesel versions are slightly more expensive than before.
Compared to the 2017 model year 6, Mazda says the 2018 model features extra value of between $1000 for a slight rise (Atenza) or drop (GT). The Sport and Touring pick up $3000 worth of gear, with prices either unchanged (Sport) or dropped (Touring).
There are eight colours, with Titanium Flash (grey), Deep Crystal Blue, Blue Reflex, Snowflake White, Sonic Silver and Jet Black all free, as well as Mazda's stunningly pretty Soul Red and the understated Machine Grey, both for a small extra cost. Sadly for fans of more out-there colours like yellow, purple or green, they're all off the menu.
Mazda's MZD Connect multimedia system is accessible through the dash-mounted touchscreen and a console-mounted rotary dial. None of the range feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (yet, but stay tuned, the Yanks have it already), but you can plug in your iPhone or Android device via USB or hook them, or another MP3 type player, up with Bluetooth .
The multimedia system is reasonably easy to use, the navigation system is a bit blocky but otherwise accurate, and the car's various gadgets are simple enough, so a trip through the owner's manual should be rare.
Various accessories such as a roof rack, towbar, cargo barrier and boot liner are available from a dealer. Your dealer will most likely offer you tinted windows and despite not appearing on the spec sheet, it seems floor mats are standard. As is right and proper.
Missing from the options list are a seat belt extender, homelink, panoramic sunroof, a premium package over and above the standard inclusions, 18 inch rims, 16 inch alloys, red brake calipers, performance brakes, park assist, radio-CD player combination, CD changer, xenon, projector, halogen or HID headlights, heated steering wheel, nudge bar, wifi hotspot or elegance pack.
The space-saver spare is no match for a full size tyre, but it sure beats a tyre repair kit
If you like your model statistics, then read on; Mazda expects the Touring grade to take just over a third of sales with the other three grades taking around 20 per cent each of sales. Two-thirds of all 6s will probably be sedans, and just five percent (fewer than 200 units!) will be diesel.
The Calais has long formed the most luxurious rung of the Commodore ladder, and the wagon-ish Tourer is without doubt the most practical version. It will set you back $45,990 ($47,990 drive-away) in the guise we’ve tested here, and $53,990 In Calais V specification.
Not to be sneezed at, then. But it does arrive with plenty of stuff to help justify your investment.
Outside, you’ll find 18-inch alloys, a handsfree auto-opening boot, heated mirrors, keyless entry with push-button start, a remote start function, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights with LED DRLs. Inside, expect leather seats that are heated in the front, a leather-wrapped wheel, dual-zone climate control, standard satellite navigation and a wireless charging pad for compatible phones.
On the technology front, an 8.0-inch touchscreen pairs with an eight-speaker stereo, and it’s both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped. There’s also a genuinely impressive standard safety package, too, but we’ll drill down on that under the Safety sub-heading.
Engine & trans
The 6 now has three engine options; two petrol and one turbodiesel. Both petrols are the 2.5-litre SkyActiv. The naturally-aspirated petrol is found in the Sport and Touring and generates 140kW and 252Nm (up from 138kW and 252Nm). From the same engine size but with a turbo fitted, GT and Atenza buyers score 170kW and 420Nm of torque.
The two petrols' specs include Mazda's i-eloop regenerative braking technology to help charge the battery while saving fuel. All engines feature stop-start to cut fuel consumption around town. The non-turbo also features cylinder deactivation. Mazda says that at a steady 80km/h, cutting two cylinders (one and four) reduces fuel consumption by five percent.
Other improvements to the 2.5-litre include revision of various components and a new continuous displacement oil pump.
Both of these engines drink 91RON, so no need to worry about paying for premium unleaded. Given the huge price difference between 91 and 95, that's an easy saving of around $1.60 for every 100km travelled, based on the quoted combined fuel mileage figure of the turbo.
If you were to put the thumbscrews on a Mazda engine expert, you might extract a dirty secret - run it on 98RON and you'll see somewhere in the region of 184kW from the turbo. But you didn't read that here.
The 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel's ratings come in at 140kW and 450Nm. Both power and torque are up (from 129kW and 420Nm respectively), courtesy of the diesel's variable geometry turbos and updated injector sequence.
All 6s are front-wheel drive through Mazda's six-speed automatic transmission. There is no AWD, 4x4 or rear-wheel-drive version. A manual transmission option has long since disappeared, so the manual vs automatic argument is settled for you. No manual gearbox means no clutch to worry about, so manual transmission issues are a moot point. Also unavailable is an LPG version.
Oil type and capacity are dependent on the engine type. If you're interested in whether the engines feature a timing belt or chain, it's the latter.
A really rather good 3.6-litre V6 engine Is parked under the bonnet, feeding 235kW at 6800rpm and 381Nm at 5200rpm to all four wheels as required, thanks to an on-demand all-wheel-drive system. The suspension is tuned specifically for its high-riding antics, too.
The 3.6-litre engine means a braked towing capacity of 2100kg, and an unbraked max of 750kg.
Mazda claims that the 2.5-litre petrol will drink at the rate of 7.0L/100km and the turbo petrol at 7.6L/100km, both sipping 91RON fuel and on the combined cycle. Diesel fuel economy is quoted at 5.3L/100km on the combined cycle.
Fuel tank capacity is 62 litres across all three engine options.
Not so good, I’m afraid. The offical number is on the high-side at 9.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle (though that's less than the equivalent Subaru Outback), but we were averaging a smidge under 14.0L/100km after what was admittedly quite a lot of city driving. Still, that’s high.
Emissions are pegged at 212g/km or C02, and the Tourer’s 61-litre tank will accept cheaper 91RON fuel, or an E10 blend.
The 6 has never been a bad car to drive - far from it - but earlier models and the early iterations of this current 6 (before the facelift, obviously) suffered from reasonably high road-noise levels. This new 6 finally puts all that to bed.
Mazda has focussed a lot of attention on what they call conversational clarity. Luckily they don't mean what is actually being said - my blathering would instantly ruin their KPIs - but the ability to hold and hear a conversation. There must have been hundreds of individual changes just to address noise.
A huge number of components have been changed, right down to the undercarpet floor lining, to reduce the racket from the outside getting in. Now only a poor, coarse surface lets in tyre noise. Wind noise is down due to a variety of measures, and at speed the conversational clarity goal is well and truly achieved. The sound system doesn't struggle to cover what's left.
The updated petrol and diesel appear quieter and the 2.5-litre turbo (which we already know from the CX-9) is indeed very refined. You can barely hear a peep.
Performance figures for the two updated engines are unlikely to be substantially different, if at all. The new turbo petrol, while plenty powerful and seriously torquey, is no fireball. What it does is make those who aren't content with the standard 2.5-litre engine much happier with the way the car drives. It's far more relaxed; you don't need to work the engine at all hard and the in-gear performance is probably better than the diesel when you consider the weight difference. The extra horsepower calms the driving experience, particularly when out on the freeway.
The electric power steering won't set keen drivers on fire, but it's well-weighted and accurate.
Competent, secure and relaxed - those are the best three words to define the 6 experience, and even more so with the turbo petrol engine.
Really very good. That 3.6-litre engine (why they haven’t offered the Tourer with the smaller and smarter turbo engine is something of a mystery) might be a touch old-school and a touch thirsty, but it’s a rich and powerful thing, and it gives the Calais-stamped Tourer a perky personality that defies its dimensions.
The Calais Tourer was built in Germany, and fitted with an engine and transmission from the USA, before undergoing local tuning here in Australia (think bespoke steering and suspension tunes calibrated both at the company’s testing facility and after a 200,000km test on Aussie roads), and it’s the last of those Dr Frankenstein ingredients that have had the biggest impact here.
The Tourer’s ride is fantastic, perfectly poised between firm composure and everyday comfort, and - like most good wagons - it will honestly leave you wondering why so many people are clamouring aboard the SUV train when you can all the space with better dynamics in a humble estate.
The nine-speed ‘box is smooth and sharp in its operation, too. But the fuel use is a concern. Sure, we spent the bulk of our time in the city, where stop-start traffic naturally uses more fuel. But then, surely so would most owners?
Mazda has certainly carved itself a niche when it comes to offering advanced safety features up and down all the cars in each model range, and the 6 is no exception. From the entry-level Sport up, the 6 has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction control systems (aka DSC), high beam control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitor, radar cruise control, forward and reverse AEB, reverse cross-traffic alert, reverse camera and traffic sign recognition.
For all your child seating needs, you have three top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX points.
The Mazda6 scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in November 2013. It seems unlikely a retest would see any issues scoring another five-star result. There's just one curious omission; a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
You’ve got to hand it to the Lion for the standard safety package here, which includes the Holden Eye camera system as standard, adding auto emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist, lane departure warning and forward collision warning. You’ll also find semi-autonomous parking, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
The Calais Tourer adds blind-sport monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert to that pretty comprehensive package. All of which helps the Commodore range qualify for the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Finally, you can add six airbags and two ISOFIX attachment points to the mix.
Service intervals are the same for each engine type, arriving at 12 months or 20,000km. Mazda offers capped-price servicing for the ongoing maintenance of the vehicle and service costs are listed on the Mazda website, along with any extras.
Diesel engine problems appear to be a thing of the past, with few recent complaints of merit in the usual internet forums. Common problems tend to set these sort of places on fire with reports of faults and defects, but over the last few years, the 6's reliability ratings and general durability seem strong.
Where is the Mazda6 built? All Australian cars arrive from Japan.
Holden has recently relinquished the initial warranty offering, now including the Commodore in its seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty program, meaning it mixes with the very best in the aftercare business. For now, at least; normally, the Commodore carries the brand's standard three year/100,000km warranty. But be on the lookout for the return of this deal if you miss out this time.
Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 12,000kms, and the Commodore falls under Holden’s extensive capped-price servicing program, and it will cost between $259 and $359 for each of the first seven annual services.