Mazda continues to keep the pressure on the rest of the mid-size class by enhancing its Mazda6 yet again.
Last year the medium-large car received the usual mid-life makeover and recently it has been treated to another round of tweaks to improve refinement and safety. Outwardly it’s unchanged, though subtle detail updates inside help lift the cabin quality; stitching, materials and finishes have been enhanced, and there’s a revised steering wheel. The driver displays have been improved, including the head-up gizmo. This is still projected onto a screen rather than the windscreen proper, and as such isn’t as effective as the one in the CX-9. It does however include more info, including blind spot alerts, which is handy. The addition of a new forward-facing camera improves the performance of the city brake function, now able to work over a higher speed range and detect pedestrians. It also enables sign recognition with speed limits and warnings relayed to the head-up display. What’s not included is the enhanced active cruise; the system still disengages at speeds below 30km/h and it misses out on the handy traffic jam function too.
The 2.5-litre petrol remains unchanged, other than coming into line with EuroV emissions regulations but if you prefer the diesel, the 2.2’s operation has been quietened and smoothed with some tricky mechanical enhancements. Overall the car is a little quieter thanks to added sound insulation in the headlining, thicker glass and better door seals. Despite the updates the price remains the same, the Limited 2.5 sedan, which we drove, in at $55,995 or, if you want the diesel, it’s $58,245. And there’s the five-year/unlimited-kay warranty to go with Mazda’s three years/100,000km servicing deal as well.
The company’s G-Vectoring Control makes a debut in Mazda6 too. According to Mazda this ‘delivers unified control over the steering and chassis system by finely controlling engine torque based on the driver’s steering and acceleration inputs.’ G-vectoring is subtle to say the least. It’s best appreciated when dissecting an S bend, where the software function helps smooth your steering inputs as you swing the wheel from left to right. You’re less likely to put too much lock on when you turn the wheel back the other way and then have to correct it, helping take the jerk out of the transition. We did a back-to-back comparison in the Mazda3 with and without G-vectoring at a Mazda event, taking both cars through a series of cones simulating quick lane changes and a slalom course and found it did help smooth quick steering actions but it’s intended to go about its business largely undetected.
The software tells the engine ECU to cut engine torque for a fraction of a second when you turn the wheel and this initiates a minute weight transfer onto the front tyres – they are talking like 0.05 of a G – and this gives the front a fraction more bite for the turn, and also helps smooth out that steering transition. The main point is that it hasn’t corrupted the steering in any way. The 6 is still an engaging drive with a good personality at the wheel. The chassis has a decent feel buzzing through it yet also a high degree of refinement. It’s not too sporty, trading some roll stiffness for better bump absorption but it still turns well. You’ll unearth some understeer if you’re going too hot but generally the grip is sound and so too the steering with no weirdness off centre and a consistent weighting.
Despite a lack of turbos and cylinders, the 2.5 four has enough low down torque to suffice; it starts pulling from 2000rpm, goes better from 3000 and then spins nicely to 6000rpm, well, for a long stroke engine design anyway. The overall consumption is rated at 6.6 but eights are more likely with a mix of commuting and motorway miles. Figure on high nines in the city, while it can spike into the teens when given the beans. The six-speed auto can be left in D if you’re in no hurry, or you can activate the sport button which can be quite racy. You can also shift it manually, which is rather satisfying.
The sedan doesn’t look quite as good as the wagon, the four-door longer in the wheelbase and overall, making it look a little stretched. Styled for the American market, its fastback roofline doesn’t impinge on interior headroom in the rear, where it’s quite comfy and spacious. While never as practical as a wagon, this sedan does have a large luggage hold, being long and wide with an easily folding rear seat too.
The Mazda6 still makes perfect sense in a market overrun by SUVs, and is still the pick of the class, even ahead of the likes of the VW Passat if you’re after a mid-sized sedan with personality.
|Model||Mazda6 2.5 Limited||Price||$55,995|
|Engine||2488cc, IL4, DI, 138kW/250Nm||Drivetrain||6-speed auto, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||6.6L/100km||C02 Output||153g/km|