Once upon a time, sedans were the choice for a family car. The low driving position, good rear space, and a deep boot were just some of the reasons why my mum bought a 2002 Mazda 6 when I was a teen.
Nowadays, the humble sedan has been replaced by the SUV to haul the kids around, as it provides a higher driving position and there is just more choice in that segment.
All that shows in the numbers. The Mazda CX-5 has sold a whopping 16,116 units year-to-date (July), while the Mazda 6 has had 1744 cars trickle out of showrooms. But it doesn’t necessarily mean sedans aren’t a good car. Quite the opposite.
The 2019 Mazda 6 GT is priced from $45,990 before on-road costs, and sits below the top-of-the-line Atenza. The GT has a $5300 premium over the Touring and gets 19-inch wheels, heated seats, and more importantly, a 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Standard driving technology features include radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and reversing camera.
The Mazda 6 has a graceful and stylish design, and doesn’t have a bad angle. The LED daytime running lights, headlights, and tail-lights look clean on the Deep Crystal Blue paint, which is complemented beautifully by the brushed 19-inch alloy wheels and pure-white leather interior.
Let’s be honest, a white interior is suited to a certain owner, and you certainly wouldn’t choose it if you had a pet dog, for example, but it is perfect to be used by business people or a couple. Plus, after nearly 4000km on this car, the white leather is showing no signs of jean marks or grime. The heated seats took just 60 seconds to start warming up on the highest setting, and were comfortable over a 2.5-hour drive with lumbar support and a long seat base.
The cabin quality has a lot of nice touchpoints and is mostly padded throughout, including the side lower centre console where your leg rests. Good for long journeys. There’s also smart brushed-aluminium-look trim on the dash and door trims. Choose the black leather, however, and it can look a bit bland.
The central armrest isn’t long but can comfortably store a wallet and phone. Also situated in there are two USBs, one AUX and a 12-volt. We noticed it took 90 minutes to charge an iPhone to about 70 per cent.
Storage continues to a drop-down compartment to the right of the driver, in which to keep any spare change so it doesn’t all end up in the two deep cupholders. Two 500ml bottles can fit into the door pockets, too. Head room and leg room are very good, as is vision out of the side windows.
A head-up display can be seen with polarised sunglasses, and is now integrated into the dash and not through a pop-up glass screen anymore. It can also show speed-sign detection, but can prove unreliable on the rare occasion.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen with MZD Connect is sadly not the update the Mazda 3 gets, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. It took 18 seconds to connect Bluetooth for the first time, and another 39 seconds to import contacts, but it instantly reconnects after starting the car. The premium Bose stereo with 11 speakers is clear but can sound lifeless at times.
Blind-spot monitoring can remain on longer than it needs to when the car beside you has passed. The reversing camera is fine during the day, but can be very grainy at night. It doesn’t come with a 360-degree top-down camera, though as seen in the Atenza, it’s no loss. The lane-keep assist works very well, gently pushing the car back into its lane, and we never switched it off during the long-weekend road trip.
Over in the rear, passengers will be happy with vents and heated seats, though the buttons are bizarrely placed next to the cupholders in the fold-down armrest. We did notice there is no pull-down strap for the armrest, which your fingers will struggle to budge. Two USBs with room to sit the phone and close the lid in the armrest is all very handy, and two map pockets provide more storage options.
The padding for the middle seat is pretty good, but the wide transmission tunnel invades on foot room. Otherwise, leg and toe room are adequate. Two ISOFIX points and three top tethers are fitted.
The rear seats can be folded by levers in the boot, but because the boot is so deep, you can’t reach the seats to push them forward, so you need to go back around to the rear to finish the process. The 474L boot is large enough to fit two people (yes, we tried it), and under the floor is a 17-inch temporary wheel. While there isn’t any underfloor storage, two side storage trays can keep the likes of bottles from rolling around.
We tested the solitary halogen boot light at night and found it to be almost useless – a phone torch proved brighter. But it was nice to see a grab handle to pull the boot closed to prevent dirty fingers.
So, how does it drive? Comfortably, while doing it with that classic Mazda buzz. All of its 170kW of power can be had at 5000rpm with 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm, and can reach 100km/h in 7.3 seconds. You can feel that torque, especially when you’re after that extra bit of squirt when overtaking. However, engine response can be slow when your right foot is planted. The power won’t be enough to blow your socks off, but it’s certainly adequate to put a smile on your face.
The 6 has the Sport driving mode that you can use with the paddle shifters if you wish, but apart from feeling sharper throttle response and revving high, it’s not really all that fun.
Mazda’s combined fuel reading is 7.6L/100km, and on the freeway we achieved 7.4L/100km, while around town saw it increase to 10.2 litres. It won’t cost too much to fill up the 62L fuel tank as it can take 91RON unleaded, which is quite good for a turbocharged engine.
It rode very nicely on the 19-inch wheels, and soaked up the worst of what Melbourne and Shepparton roads threw at it. The turning circle is 11.2m – 1.1m tighter than the Toyota Camry. Noise suppression has improved immensely over previous generations and is pleasant at 110km/h on the freeway.
On the way to the country for the weekend, we twice noticed the driver-attention alert loudly sounded about 40 minutes into the trip, even when the driver was alert. It was quickly turned off in the MZD infotainment settings.
The Mazda 6 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and was last ANCAP safety-tested in 2018, when it received a five-star rating. Servicing comes at every 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. The first, third and fifth services are at a cost of $314, and the second and fourth at $342. Still a long way from the Camry at $195 a service, but it’s still reasonable.
Even though the Mazda 6 is starting to get on a bit, it still represents a solid offering for those who are after a comfortable business chariot, or if you’re old school like my mum, a more than capable family car. Its turbo engine is its standout, and might just be worth the extra dosh.