Gather ’round children, for I have a story to tell.
I over-analyse. I research to the nth degree. I angst. But most of all, I observe a tight wallet when it comes to ‘me’. All these seemingly logical things are bad traits when I also take the emotional route of lusting after cars I cannot justify buying nor afford and spend obscene amounts of time on CarAdvice, and perhaps more dangerously, websites showing car classifieds. This wasn’t helped by a co-worker who, in a space of two years, has had at any one time a few of the following: XC90 D5 R-Design, XC90 Excellence, RR Sport, RR Evoque (convertible!), G Wagon and previously a slew of everything else in that category. I don’t tend to ‘keep up with the joneseseses (or event try to achieve 20% of it) but the heart is a funny thing when contending with a head.
Two years ago I posed a simple question to myself: “At this stage of my life, what can I genuinely justify buying and still be able to live with myself?” In my price bracket, combined with desired features and dynamics, I came up with a short list which was made quite an easy task by cutting German marques that were almost out-of-warranty, and ‘go fast’ versions that were a year or two further along (there goes my head overriding my heart). I settled on the VW Passat R, Skoda Superb (both 206TSI) and Mazda6 Atenza (please don’t laugh). I also wanted a bit of go about the car, so having had Mazdas in the family for some time, the Mazda6 was an unlikely choice, given the naturally-aspirated petrol engine and my not wanting another diesel in the garage. After a year of procrastinating, I disgraced myself and even started to consider a new Camry SL/SX given the impressive value for money and decent power plant!
Then came the introduction of the new 2.5L turbo to the Mazda6. Whilst by all accounts it wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire, I was swayed by the extra power combined with previous brand loyalty to Mazda as a result of very impressive out-of-warranty service (another story) and the introduction of a 5 year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The Passat and Superb, with their archaic 3 year warranty and customer service, extra costs and horror stories of reliability etc. just didn’t stack up. Although not experienced first hand, I did not want to run the risk (there’s my head speaking).
Long story short, a couple of months ago I bought a Mazda6 GT 2.5T. After a bit of negotiation I got a fantastic deal on a demo that was already bloody good value, and I just couldn’t justify the extra outlay for the Atenza or a brand new version of either. I couldn’t be happier! Well…I could…but that’s for later.
Tech-wise, for the money it’s brilliant. The HUD is clear and easily adjustable with a great array of information displayed in a sensible layout. The active driver assistance features seem to be very well calibrated, although the lane departure has been turned off (remember that annoying review a while back where someone complained about it?!) given my propensity for a nice driving line. For those who scream “but does it have CarPlay or Android Auto”, yes, yes it does. The Mazda Connect system may a little antiquated compared to others but I find it easy to navigate and the rotor dial a pleasure to use in both rotary and joystick guise. The inbuilt GPS is adequate and there are settings a-plenty for those who are like me and enjoy buttons, settings and general “oooo, what does this do?”. Also, the radar cruise control is as good as any I’ve used.
I have two complaints though (more minor annoyances really) – the screen sometimes goes blank and will remain that way if I attempt to start reversing while the system is still booting up – admittedly I should just wait and let it do it’s thing (and investigate the possibility of a firmware upgrade), but hey…rushing and stuff. The other complaint is I have the HUD adjustment dialled all the way to the right and it still doesn’t seem quite perfectly horizontal (we’re talking mere millimetres here). Admittedly I forget about it after a short time and my wife doesn’t notice it, but it’s still there…I think…
The cabin is a pleasant place to be; a joy even. Although only having owned it for a short time, I’ve managed a couple of 500+ km stints with no complaint. It’s possible to dial in, for me, a perfect driving position. The interior lighting and USB ports are thoughtful (the latter being 2.4 amp from memory and in the rear too) and four seats are heated with the passenger’s seat being electrically adjusted like the driver’s. Unfortunately the air-con could do with more oomph. At the equivalent settings, I feel my previous Mazda6 and my wife’s CX-5 is slightly superior – I’m nitpicking, but it’s a chink in the armour nonetheless. I’m thinking it might just be the low-profile design and obstruction of surroundings when adjusted at certain angles, but that then is a design flaw as opposed to mechanical shortcoming, although either reason results in the same annoying outcome.
Ride-wise it’s certainly more compliant than, say, a Camry (not hard admittedly) but not so taut that it loses its touring ability. There is torque steer when giving it beans, especially in second which seems to be where it really gets up and moving when going from standing/low speed start, but that’s to be expected and is a lot better than what I’ve experienced in other FWD cars. With mountains of torque (420Nm), overtaking has added joy, even if sometimes the gearbox decides to drop back to fourth to hit the sweet spot, and then in to fifth and settling back to sixth (yes, still only a 6-speed).
I could keep going but the moral of the story remains the same – this is a bloody good package, and for the money, I can forgive the shortcomings.
What would make me happier? Three letters – MPS. If the power plant was increased to circa 220kW/450Nm (currently 170/420), tightened up the ride a little with more supportive seats and gave it AWD, I’d have a deposit ready at the drop of a hat. But then again, that would be a completely different car.
What I’ve got is a refined and capable tourer that has the ability to put a smile on my face, and you know what?! That’s all (my head tells me) I really need. But then again my heart says otherwise. And now I’m angsting. And over-analysing.