The new Mazda6 Sedan Sport.
The new Mazda6 Sedan Sport.

Road test: Mazda6 has European feel with Japanese quality

I HAVE yet to meet anyone who doesn't love a bargain. There is a thrill in believing you have gotten more than you paid for, a satisfaction of sorts in thinking you have just hoodwinked the seller into a better deal.

The new Mazda6 sedan with its delightful curves and sleek lines, its performance-driven engine and innovative fuel-saving technologies delivers more than just a good ride. It delivers more value for money too, with European-type style and inclusions to complement a rich Japanese history.

Comfort

The interior of the Mazda6 is all about sweeping lines and curves without a boring bit in sight.

The dash is both practically laid out and nice to look at using well-loved features and modern touches in a comfortable fashion. The steering wheel and gear stick are wrapped in leather and feel nice in the hand with a generous use of soft materials throughout the cabin.

It is quite stylish really, evidence that the Japanese giant has taken excellent cues from its European competition and for the most part you certainly feel as if you are riding in a car that far exceeds this price.

Perhaps that is the reason the poor quality plastic surrounding the infotainment system is so noticeable, almost like someone slotted it in like an afterthought.

The seats of our entry-level Sport were covered in thick springy fabric which is soft to the touch but marks easily so is perhaps not the best choice if you have small children.

The seats themselves, as seems to be the case with Mazdas, could do with a bit more support and bolstering while the finicky manual adjustments made it difficult to find the ideal driving position. Leg room is abundant both in the front and back although occupants over six foot may not find much space above their heads.

On the road

Our test car, powered by a 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G petrol engine mated to a six-speed auto transmission, delivered a smooth, comfortable drive with just enough of an edge to keep you interested. It is well-balanced and sturdy with suspension that adequately absorbs imperfections, the tuning obviously aided by a body that has increased in rigidity. The electronically assisted steering can sometimes feel a bit dull but is quick to action when pushed hard through corners.

This petrol model is quite loud on start-up rattling around until it has warmed up with the throaty protests again quite vocal when negotiating steep hills or when surprised into acceleration. Yet it remains rather more than just a competent performer showing both will and execution around town or on the open road.

It is an easy unencumbered drive which you would have no difficulty getting used to.

What do you get?

The Mazda6, even at entry-level, is packed with all the modern delights you could wish for and at a much more forgiving price than some of its European competition.

Push-button start, heated wing mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, reverse camera, sat nav, cruise control and rain-sensing wipers are standard on all models.

The Touring adds powered seats, leather upholstery, 11-speaker sound system and parking sensors while the GT is also equipped with LED running lights, sunroof, keyless entry, 19-inch alloys, heated seats and bi-xenon headlights.

The safety suite includes front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD and emergency brake assist, stability control, traction control and hill-launch assist. The range-topping Atenza boasts a host of additional safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring and collision-detection system.

Other contenders

This is a segment teeming with a range of good options but the Mazda6 will be able to hold its own against the Toyota Camry (from $30,490), Ford Mondeo (from $31,490) and Honda Accord (from $31,490) with buyers in this category also looking at the Hyundai i40 (from $31,990) and Kia Optima (from $30,690).

Practicality

The Mazda6 has the space, inclusions and performance to suit a varied demographic. Its cutting edge i-stop and i-eloop technologies work in an efficient non-intrusive way and are another string in an impressive bow. There are a few things that irk.

The sat nav system could do with a bit of angling as it is often difficult to see especially at night and the graphics are far from exciting. The storage pockets in the doors may look stylish but are small, fiddly and impractical and the angles and size of the side mirrors hinder vision. The latter is negated in the range topping Atenza with its blind spot monitoring but if you opt for the cheaper models then you may have to get accustomed to some neck craning.

At 438-litres the boot is big for a mid-sized sedan growing to an even handier 1593 litres with the rear seats folded. It is not deep though so loading bulky objects may be tricky.

Running costs

Mazda's Skyactiv system has allowed the manufacturer to improve fuel usage with official figures for the petrol offering at 6.6 litres/100km. Our figures were closer to 8L/100km but admittedly that included much frenzied use of the accelerator.

Funky factor

With an abundance of curves, sleek lines and a cheeky nose the new Mazda6 makes for some excellent eye candy. It has great kerb appeal, looks much more expensive than it is and is available in a variety of hot modern colours. The rear does bear a striking resemblance to the i40.

The lowdown

Mazda's popularity here is reflected in its high sales figures and this latest '6 has all the components to help further entrench its position in the top three.

Having sampled the power and vroom of the 2.2-litre diesel engine in the Mazda6 wagon recently that would be our engine choice over the petrol.

It is an excellent all-round package, an easy drive with a real value-for-money price-tag.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Mazda6 Sedan Sport.

Details: Four-door, front-wheel drive medium sedan.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Engine: 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC SV-T petrol generating maximum power of 138kW @ 5700rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 3250rpm.

Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km (combined average).

Bottom line: From $33,460.

What matters most

What we liked: Easy drive, curvy looks, excellent inclusions.

What we'd like to see: Better seats, power seats for entry models, funky graphics.

Warranty and servicing: Mazda offers a three years/unlimited kilometre warranty. Service intervals are at 10,000km/six months.


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