Mazda 6 VS Subaru Liberty
- Beautiful looks
- Lengthy standard features
- New turbo engine
- Touring doesn't offer turbo option
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Warranty looking a bit short
- Great value across the range
- Safety isn't an optional extra
- Not as good to drive as rivals
- No sat nav in base model
- Ride is questionable
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|
Trust me, this is the updated 2018 Subaru Liberty. I know, it looks really similar, doesn't it?
But this is the facelifted version that has just launched in Australia with a range of changes which, despite appearances, are more substantial than you might think.
There are still three variants available, and there are still four-cylinder and six-cylinder models to choose from.
How about I stop blabbering and give you the detailed rundown on what makes the 2018 Subaru Liberty better than its predecessor... and in some ways, not quite as good.
|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?
The Subaru Liberty 2018 model is improved in plenty of ways, but the drive experience mightn't excite everyone out there. If you care more about what you're getting for your money than you do about how a car drives, it's hard to argue against a car like this. It comes well equipped across all three grades, but the smart money would probably be on the 2.5i Premium as the pick of the range.
Let us know what you think. Is the Liberty a car you'd consider? Tell us in the comments section below.
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.
Not a massive change, is it?
At a glance, there isn't much difference between this updated Liberty and the predecessor version which went on sale here in late 2014.
But in fact there have been plenty of subtle adjustments to the styling, including a new, wider grille with different styling elements, new bumpers front and rear (including a rear diffuser), new headlights including adaptive LEDs and auto high-beam on high-spec models like this one, and there are redesigned wing mirrors.
There's no sporty model bearing STI badges with a body kit, rear spoiler and side skirts - but you can get a genuine mesh front grille, some stylish 18-inch rims, and a few STI bits from the Subaru Accessories catalogue.
That last change might sound like a minor one, but the wing mirrors now sit a little closer to help cut wind noise, and there's a new LED indicator on the outer shell.
Overall, the Liberty is entirely inoffensive to look at, though some might find the current generation version's styling to be a little too focused on American buyer tastes - it is conservative and conforms to mid-size sedan norms in terms of its dimensions, without pushing the boundaries.
But this update - particularly those new headlights - adds a little breath freshener midway through the date that is a life-cycle of a car.
However, there are more important changes to talk about inside the cabin - you can check them out in our interior photos... or read about them below.
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 Liberty is already known as one of the roomier mid-size models in the class, with better backseat space than a Mazda6, for example.
And that hasn't changed this time around, as there's easily enough legroom and headroom for 183cm (six-foot) adults like me (behind my own driving position I had about five centimetres between my knees and the seat ahead, and the same between my head and the ceiling).
And if you have small children, the dual ISOFIX points and three top tether anchors will be handy.
Plus the essentials are all covered - there are cup and bottle holders where there should be (a flip-down armrest with cupholders in the back seat, a pair of cupholders between the front seats, plus bottle holders in all four doors), and loose item storage is well sorted, too.
Those spending time in the back seat will appreciate the newly-added pair of USB ports, which will make long-distance drives go by a lot easier (for parents, in particular).
Up front it all looks a big more flash, because there are some material tweaks, including piano black finishes here and there, and extra stitching as well. I particularly like the new climate control knobs, which have little digital displays in them - a bit like an Audi.
There's a new, brighter and more impressive looking media system, which measures 8.0 inches in the top two variants, and those models get built in sat nav, too. The base car has a 6.5-inch screen without nav.
All models now have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the media system is largely very good to use and simple, too... though the old one wasn't all that bad to begin with.
The boot space is a family-friendly 493 litres in capacity, which is a bit more than you get in some mid-size SUVs - yes, sedans can still be family friendly. Being a sedan there is no option for a cargo barrier, but you can get things like roof rails/roof racks with ski holders, bike holders and surfboard carriers. A boot liner and floor mats would be money well spent.
And there are some other elements that make this updated Liberty model a great choice for mums and dads, because it's packed with safety equipment. Read about that below.
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 price list for the 2018 Subaru Liberty hasn't moved very much. There are still three variants available, and below is a comparison of the models in the range - our version of a price guide as to how much you should expect to pay (prices before on-road costs).
Opening the range is the entry-level model, the 2.5i. It lists at an identical point to its predecessor, at $30,240.
The 2.5i has a 6.5-inch touchscreen without satellite navigation, but it has Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (so you can use your phone as your navigation system), CD player, a sound system with six speakers, dual front USB ports and a pair of rear USBs for backseat passengers - ultra handy for keeping devices charged up on long roadtrips.
Other specification highlights include dual-zone climate control, a leather steering wheel with paddle-shifters, auto headlights and auto wipers, front fog-lights, seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver's knee) and rear tinted windows. The wheels are 18-inch alloys on this spec, and every one in the range, and the Liberty 2.5i has two drive modes - 'Sport' and 'Intelligent'.
The next step up is the 2.5i Premium, a fairly sizeable jump up the money ladder at $36,640. But you get quite a bit more stuff for the extra expenditure.
The 2.5i Premium adds LED headlights with steering responsiveness and adaptive high-beam lights, as well as LED daytime running lights (DRLs). Those LED DRLs are on the entry-grade models too, but the main headlights are halogen units.
In the 2.5i Premium you get an 8.0-inch screen with integrated GPS/navigation (and still with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), plus leather seats, heated front seats, electric front seat adjustment (driver's seat with adjustable lumbar), an electric sunroof, powered and heated folding side mirrors, front wipers with de-icing function, keyless entry with push-button start, electric boot opening and closing and piano black interior trim highlights.
The flagship model is the 3.6R, which is listed at $43,140. As well as getting a bigger six-cylinder engine, the 3.6R has a few unique items when compared to the 2.5i Premium.
The 3.6R model includes a three-mode drive select system (Sport# - sport sharp – mode added), and it also gets chrome side sill garnishes and a 12-speaker haman/kardon sound system (with subwoofer).
There is no digital radio on any Liberty model.
I've already covered a few of the options you can choose from the accessories list - it's pretty extensive, but you won't find a bull bar or nudge bar on there.
As for colours? There is one new hue to choose compared to the pre-facelift model - 'Crimson Red Pearl' - and you'll still have the choice of black, blue (x2), white, silver, grey (x2), brown (x2), and Subaru doesn't ask buyers to splurge any more cash for the colour they choose.
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.
Outputs of the two petrol engines remain the same as they were before.
The entry-level 2.5-litre four-cylinder 'boxer' horizontally-opposed engine produces 129kW of power and 235Nm of torque. It can only be had with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto, which has a seven-speed manual mode. Those engine specs are unchanged.
The 2.5-litre drivetrain have been tweaked for better response, and the CVT auto has seen some changes, too.
At the top of the range is the single 3.6R model, for those who like their engine size in XL.
It isn't on its own in that regard - Toyota reintroduced a six-pot to its Camry model for 2018 because the Aurion was axed - but the specifications haven't changed for the 3.6-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder in the Liberty, which still has 191kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It also has a CVT.
Both the 2.5 and 3.6 models come with a timing chain, not a timing belt.
Every Liberty remains all-wheel-drive (AWD, as opposed to 4x4 or 4WD), which gives it a unique selling proposition in the segment. But if you prefer a manual gearbox and a clutch, you're out of luck - every Liberty has a CVT automatic transmission. Likewise a diesel - no dice.
Towing capacity is rated at 750kg for a trailer without brakes, and 1500kg for a braked trailer for the 2.5i. The 3.6R can deal with 1800kg of weight for a braked trailer.
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.
The 2.5i model still uses 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, so the changes made to the engine and transmission haven't affected its claimed fuel consumption - we can't vouch for what it'll use in the real world, as our time was spent in the 3.6R.
That six-cylinder version has a claimed consumption figure of 9.9L/100km, and - pleasingly - I saw a 9.8L/100km economy rating displayed on the trip computer during my time in the car, which consisted of highway commuting, urban to-and-fro and some country sprints, too.
The fuel tank capacity is 60 litres.
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.
I'm not saying it's not good to drive - in some situations it's entirely fine - but the Japanese brand says it tweaked the suspension so it doesn't rebound as abruptly after a bump, which will in turn improve the way it handles. To me it felt a lot clumsier than before.
Ride comfort on the highway is fine, if a little boaty, but it's when you hit a section of potholes, or roll over a sharper-edged speed-hump that you notice the suspension attempting to move the 18-inch wheels over the surface, but failing to do so without feeling utterly flummoxed.
There is longitudinal and lateral wobble, the front-end will crash and send a harrowing thump sound into the cabin, and the worst bit is that it still feels fidgety at times.
Let me just say this: it isn't unbearable, but I sure didn't find it pleasantly comfortable or particularly controlled.
In contrast to the suspension, the steering - which has been tweaked for more linear response, particularly at higher speeds - is good, assuring the driver most situations. There is some kickback over mid-corner bumpy sections, but it's never violent.
The brakes have been improved with better pedal feel, which further adds to the peace of mind offered from the Liberty.
As for the powertrain, the 3.6-litre engine is a delightfully refined and reasonably punchy thing. You won't break any land-speed records with its acceleration, but with a 0-100 time of about 7.2 seconds, its performance is brisk enough.
It can be caught out a little when you stand on the throttle from a stop and that has more to do with the transmission than the engine itself, but it is manageable, and once you hit about 2000rpm it starts to sing. In the most aggressive drive mode, S# (Sport Sharp, which is reserved for the six-cylinder in the Liberty range), it is properly fast, yet remains quiet.
The vast majority of buyers choose the more affordable 2.5i models, which makes a lot of sense. And while we haven't tested the updated 2.5i drivetrain in the Liberty, it is vastly improved in the Outback.
While the Liberty has AWD, it doesn't have terrific ground clearance (150mm), and while you could fit it with air suspension and head off road if you wanted, it wouldn't be advised.
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.
The Subaru Liberty retains the same five-star ANCAP score it managed back in 2015, with a reverse camera as standard in all models, plus the fitment of seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver's knee). There are no parking sensors on any model, though.
Plus the entire range has Subaru's 'EyeSight' safety kit, which uses a pair of cameras mounted on the windscreen and can warn the driver of pedestrians or cars, braking the car if it needs to - now up to 50km/h, where it used to be 30km/h.
There is also lane-keeping assist (which will warn the driver if they are straying from their lane), adaptive cruise control with brake light recognition and forward vehicle move-off alert (handy if you take your eyes away from the road), and the 2.5i Premium and 3.6R models get a forward-view camera and side-view camera, which help when parking.
Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert is fitted to the top two models, along with adaptive LED headlights with auto high-beam.
Despite the extensive equipment list, there are a couple of notable omissions - no model comes with parking sensors or automated parking assistance, and while the smaller Impreza and XV models have been updated with a reverse auto-braking system with obstacle detection, the Liberty hasn't got that.
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.
Service costs for the Liberty is dependent on the model you choose. The 3.6R model requires a check-up at 5000km that will cost you just over $250, where the 2.5i doesn't need that.
After that, servicing is due every six months or 12,500km, which is quite frequent by modern-day standards - especially for cars that don't have turbochargers. And the service costs aren't that good, either, with the brand's capped-price coverage - three years/75,000km - costing you $2281.66 if you buy the 2.5i and $2711.42 for the 3.6R.
That's more than a lot of luxury European cars. But it may be best to get those stamps in your owners manual from a Subaru specialist if you're worried about resale value.
The Subaru warranty program doesn't set any benchmarks, either, spanning three years/unlimited kilometres.
Check out our Subaru Liberty problems page for issues relating to faults and reliability concerns.