As far as model-year updates go, the 2017 Mazda 6 is as subtle as we’ve seen in recent times. Already a popular car in Australia – the Mazda 6 sits behind the Toyota Camry at number two in the segment – these latest changes are aimed at adding value, safety, and strengthening the connection between driver and vehicle. The latter is, of course, in line with Mazda’s Jinba Ittai philosophy.
One theory as to why the Mazda 6 trails the Camry in sales here, is the sharp pricing Toyota is able to offer on its medium sedan as part of the local production benefits. Whether Toyota’s pencils can remain that sharp when production ceases in Australia next year, though, remains to be seen.
At that point, the Mazda 6 might give the Camry a mighty run for the number-one slot in the medium sedan segment.
For now, and despite stronger driver engagement in an all-round more dynamic package, the Mazda 6 can’t quite get to the top of the pile.
You can see the list of changes in our pricing and specification guide, but a quick recap on the pricing spread, before on-road costs, is worthy of mention here. The revised Mazda 6 Sedan range starts from $32,490 for the Sport and rounds out at $48,290 for the Atenza diesel sedan.
The Wagon range starts from $33,790 for the Sport and tops out at $49,540 for the Atenza diesel.
It’s a relatively simple range spread, too, with both the 2.5-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel engines available across both body styles, four specification grades within the petrol range (Sport/Touring/GT/Atenza) and three within the diesel range (Touring/GT/Atenza).
On top of that basic pricing, there’s a $250 premium for either the Soul Red metallic or Machine Grey metallic paints – extremely reasonable compared to many other manufacturers.
At launch, we drove the top spec Atenza petrol and diesel sedans, although Melbourne’s torrential and unrelenting rain – welcome to Spring in Victoria – doesn’t properly allow us to ascertain whether the improved cabin refinement is as good as we hoped. That’s especially the case with road noise at speed on the freeway, which we’ll have to report back to you on when we spend some more up-close-and-personal time with the new 6 soon.
One factor we can report on, though, is the incredible refinement of the diesel engine. The Mazda’s petrol engine has always been smooth, but the diesel is now almost as accomplished.
One tiny component (Mazda is calling it a Natural Sound Smoother) that is mounted inside each piston of the diesel engine, absorbs microscopic vibrations as the piston travels up and down through its stroke, which in turn removes almost all of the chatter and knocking you’d be used to from other diesel engines.
The result, at any speed, is a remarkably quiet and refined experience behind the wheel of the diesel. You’d easily pull the wool over your passengers' eyes, too - even at start up, such is the insulation. Most will easily believe they are in a petrol model. It makes for a much more pleasant experience as a driver, although there was never anything intrinsically wrong with the previous Mazda 6 oiler.
As always, the petrol engine retains its smooth, effortless nature, and is still the go-to choice for buyers who don’t cover bulk highway kilometres. The petrol engine works beautifully with the gearbox, too, to deliver a refined drivetrain package that befits the luxury angle of the Mazda 6 without the luxury price tag.
Both engines are flexible and engaging around town, and effortless on the highway. Likewise the automatic transmission, which is smooth and precise regardless of the speed. The steering is a perfect compromise between sharp precision once moving and easy weighting at low speeds, such that you wonder why other manufacturers sometimes get it so wrong.
We also appreciate the throttle pedal feel, a vital cog in delivering on the promise of engagement between driver and vehicle.
A standout upgrade to the Mazda 6 this year, one that Mazda is touting as something of a revolution, is the company's new G-Vectoring Control (GVC).
Designed primarily to reduce fatigue over long trips, GVC works by detecting every tiny steering input and then cut torque to the wheels - ever so briefly - shifting the vehicle's weight to improve balance and grip while quietly cutting the impact on your body.
Don't expect to notice a clear difference when you first roll out, though. And, in reality, you may never notice it at all, designed such as it is to work almost imperceptibly. We couldn't pick up on the benefits over the course of the launch day's driving, but you can catch our reports on the technology right here.
We'll have a better chance to review GVC's capabilities when we get the new 6 into the CarAdvice garage for a full week-long review.
Externally, the Mazda 6 retains the same classy street presence as it has for some time – even dripping wet as it was for the duration of our launch drive. There’s no doubt it’s a stylish design, perhaps even more so in wagon form. On the road, the wagon cuts a dashing figure that leaves me wondering why more families don’t opt for a wagon as opposed to an SUV.
Design changes are minor obviously, so if you already own a Mazda 6, your current model won’t be looking old anytime soon.
The interior still delivers that genuine feeling of premium quality that Mazda has been nailing for a while now, despite the far-from-premium price tag. New Nappa leather for the Atenza grades we drive at launch help even more here, but the quality of the infotainment system, switchgear design and layout, seating comfort and general ambience remain a carryover from the previous model.
A quick peek inside the cabin of a base model grade, illustrates that there’s nothing ‘cheap’ about the way even the most affordable Mazda 6 is executed, either. It's this factor, perhaps more than any other, that really sets Mazda apart from the competition and should continue to do so.
There’s an intangible benefit from feeling like you’ve got more than you paid for, and it’s something that should keep bringing buyers back to the dealership whenever they need a new vehicle.
The infotainment system continues to be the centrepiece of the interior’s quality and continues to be among the best in the industry, with clear, easy to access controls, a quality screen mounted high up in the right viewing range and solid Bluetooth functionality. Calls are crystal clear, likewise audio streaming, which always works once the initial connection is established.
While we didn’t enjoy the drive ploughing through torrential rain as much as we would have in the dry, the Mazda 6 cruised through the worst Melbourne could throw at it unruffled. The added refinement in the cabin means you’ll enjoy every minute you spend behind the wheel.
We’ll be more definitive when we pit the managed Mazda 6 against some of its competition, but, on face value, it looks to remain safe as the segment leader, with an excellent blend of value, quality, insulation and comfort.
The fact it’s such an engaging sedan to drive is a bonus. The Mazda 6, for some time now, has been an exceptional vehicle in the class - and that continues to be the case.