FAMILY ROAD TEST: Wagon gets turbo and top tech
The updated Mazda6 arrived in the middle of 2018, finally adding a 2.5-litre turbo to the top-grade GT and Atenza versions. More technology and safety complemented an already strong package. Will our family of four be impressed with the flagship Wagon version for school and weekend sport duties?
IAIN: I can tell I'm settling into middle-age well. I massively covet a wagon and the Mazda6 is up there with the big-bummed Skoda Superb and BMW 3 Series on my list.
JULES: Pipe and slippers, old man? The Mazda6 Wagon is attractive but this one's $50,000. Think of the SUVs you could buy for that.
IAIN: Ah, the perfect mum-of-two stereotype. Wagons trump medium SUVs for value, driveability, ease of cargo loading, space and, in this case, loading bikes on the roof.
JULES: Talk about stereotypes. You'll be the MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra) with our Mazda's bike racks then?
IAIN: Got me there. The Mazda6 Wagon is a really smart choice though. OK, it's nearly $50K before on-roads but this is the range-topping Atenza with its new and rapid turbo petrol engine.
JULES: Stylish - but dare I say boring?
IAIN: Maybe it's a male thing. The fairer sex might want high-riding SUVs but I prefer a low-slung sporty wagon, and the Mazda6 has understated class from every angle.
JULES: Plenty of rivals at this price.
IAIN: True. Think Ford Mondeo Titanium Wagon ($49,840), VW Passat Comfortline Wagon ($45,790), Skoda Superb 162TSI Wagon ($42,390), Holden Commodore Sportwagon RS-V ($49,190). Or those less practical SUVs you mention.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: You can see where your money's going inside. It feels really premium. Not sure about the brown leather.
IAIN: I love it. Walnut brown nappa leather seats, there are genuine wood accents and gorgeous brown suede for the dash and doors. Executive class.
JULES: Suede should be for race cars not family cars. Grubby, food-encrusted children's fingers and suede don't mix.
IAIN: Fair point. Seats are sink-in comfy, storage is ample for phones and drink bottles, and dash instruments are displayed digitally on a seven-inch screen.
JULES: Love how the seats are ventilated too. It's been ludicrously hot, so having boosts of cold air has been a lifesaver.
IAIN: As slick and modern as the cabin is, the infotainment and non-touchscreen display are behind many rivals.
JULES: No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto? These operating systems are unbeatable right now, so the Mazda's feels inferior.
IAIN: Mazda can retrofit Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for $495, which is cheeky when the tech is near universally included on rivals.
JULES: Positively, highway cruising is beautiful. Really comfy, radar cruise control works well and the head-up display shows your speed, speed limits and navigation. That's brilliant technology.
IAIN: The boosted 2.5-litre is good for an impressive 170kW and 420Nm. You get up to highway speeds rapidly. Despite all the cabin luxury, road noise is quite noticeable, unlike pricier German exec sedans and wagons.
JULES: Turn the volume up, Mr Fussy. The Bose audio is fantastic for traffic jam sing-alongs.
IAIN: Being the range-topper, there are sensors front and rear, plus a 360-degree camera to prevent car park bingles.
JULES: OK, you win. Wagons are best for loading. Really long and wide boot here, helpfully low for lifting in heavy bags or kids.
IAIN: Versatility. That's what makes this Atenza Wagon stand out. With Thule bike racks fitted, I could secure three racing bikes on the roof for a triathlon weekend, leaving endless space for our equipment, spares and food and drinks inside.
JULES: The roof's so low you can lift bikes up there without needing to stand on the door sill. Can't do that with SUVs.
IAIN: I enjoyed a back road dash too. The Mazda6 errs on the side of comfort but the wagon grips well, has lovely balance and the gearbox is a gem. But lots of turbo power through the front wheels means you can't stand on the throttle or there'll be inelegant wheel spin and chirping rubber.
JULES: Great rear space for the two kids in car seats but no room for an adult between them.
IAIN: If the kids were older, they'd fit. You could manage two or even three teens or adults.
JULES: Excellent safety kit. Cameras and sensors everywhere but the lane keep assist is quite aggressive at times.
IAIN: Mazda now gives a strong five-year warranty, servicing is reasonable, but this turbo motor drinks unleaded if you get heavy on the right foot. We returned 8.6L/100km, even with the aero-sapping bikes on the roof.
JULES: Little things like noisy, clunky electric seats show the Mazda6 isn't a proper premium item but the included features show it's good value for money, and it is lovely to drive. I still prefer an SUV.
IAIN: I can't believe you'd look past an excellent wagon like this for an SUV. Better to drive, more real-world practicality and a classier, less sheep-like choice. The Atenza grade may look expensive but, boy, it's a loaded package. I love it.
MAZDA6 ATENZA WAGON
PRICE $48,990 plus on-roads
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/unlimited km; $1956 for 5 years/50,000km
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB forward and reverse, 360-degree view monitor, extensive safety kit
ENGINE 2.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 170kW/420Nm