Who can pass on value for money? The idea that we are getting a bargain is what makes us drive ten extra kilometres for cheaper fuel, or add yet another two-for-one item to the shopping trolley.
It is also how I justify that new shoe purchase to my husband. And the dress and the bag…
That’s what Mazda is hoping will boost sales of its mid-sized sedan – presenting buyers with a premium proposition for an affordable outlay. To that end, the new Mazda6 has been packed with more technology, inclusions and comforts for the same old prize.
We put the top-of-the-range Atenza to the family test.
The Mazda6 turned heads when it was launched here in 2012, the bold new design quite unexpected from a manufacturer not renowned for deviating from type. The sweeping lines, sculpted stance and trendy grille caused quite a stir amongst competitors in the medium segment market and apart from a few tweaks along the way, things have remained pretty much unchanged.
This time around, the interior has been given a slight refresh, with a new steering wheel and Nappa leather trim the most noticeable changes.
At first glance the interior feels quite dark with the occasional silver highlights unable to cut through the black on black palette. The controls and dials are logically placed, close enough to hand to not be a distraction, and instrumentation, too, is clear and unfussy.
Fit and finish appear to be high quality but flaws soon make themselves known including easily marked plastics which can be annoying for families with young children.
Seats are pretty comfortable with adequate support and side bolstering, the electronic adjustments allowing the driver scope to quickly find the optimum position.
The cabin, itself, is roomy offering good legroom front and rear, although the sloping roof can impact the comfort of taller rear seat passengers.
Lodgings back there are helped by climate controls options and deep door bin storage with cup holders hidden in the fold-down armrest a nice bonus. There are two ISOFIX points and top tether anchors should you need them.
The boot (474 litres) is not class leading but will easily hold a couple of suitcases or the weekly shop and schoolbags. It is long rather than deep though, so you make have trouble with bulkier items.
Given its value-for-money commitment, one would expect an extensive list of standard inclusions and Mazda doesn’t disappoint. Your cash will get you 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, auto headlights and wipers, adaptive LED headlights, sat nav, reverse camera, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, electronically adjustable and heated leather seats just as a starting point.
A 7.0-inch tablet-like colour touchscreen fronts Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment system, an effective unit that is controlled via a rotary dial in the centre console. This is your window to the sat nav system and reverse camera as well as digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Graphics are good and it is easy enough to operate except you can’t choose a destination on the run – safe but frustrating.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
All Mazda petrol variants are serviced by the same 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine that manages 138kW of power and 250Nm of torque. It is paired with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission which seems to value economy above performance.
Improvements have been made to the autonomous emergency braking and rear-cross traffic alert systems with radar cruise control also a valuable feature. Interestingly, many of these safety features are only available in the range-topping Atenza and can’t even be optioned in the lower specced variants.
Mazda’s safety suite is hard to fault and this top-of-the-range ‘6 comes with all those electronic aids that not only offer comfort but also save lives.
Six airbags, front and rear parking sensors and reverse camera is standard fare as is blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and smart city braking.
The big news for this model update is the G-Vectoring Control system. Plainly speaking, it means the system reduces the amount of torque sent to the front wheels based on steering and accelerator inputs. The idea is to produce a more balanced ride at speed and around corners.
To be honest, the difference is difficult to detect unless you drive the old and new models back to back and given that the ‘6 already offered one of the better rides around, one would be forgiven for giving the new technology a bit of a shoulder shrug. If you are like most drivers, you will be happy that the car is driving well and less concerned with how the manufacturer achieves it.
And this Mazda6 does drive well. It is uncomplicated and comfortable, doing what it says on the box and without complaint. Sometimes that’s all you need.
The ride is refined, the steering offers great feedback and it is easy to manoeuvre in city confines and wide open spaces.
The extended use of sound deadening materials – more efficient seals, thicker glass and cabin insulation – has all but eliminated the NVH bugbear so you can settle in for an enjoyable cruising drive.
It did feel, however, that the Mazda6 could do with a little bit more shove especially around the mid-range when things can feel a bit lacklustre until it picks up its skirts and tootles along.
Regenerative braking and stop-start technology helps with fuel efficiency with our test car using around 8L/100km with a fair bit of highway driving thrown in.
Mid-size sedans offer a great alternative to buyers who don’t want to be a part of the SUV juggernaut and the Mazda6 with its mix of price, performance and comfort makes for an appealing picture. A little more oomph wouldn’t go astray but it doesn’t detract from this value-for-money proposition.
AT A GLANCE
Price: from $45,390 (plus on-road costs) Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol delivering 138kW/250Nm Transmission: Six-speed automatic Fuel: 6.6L/100km (ADR Combined) CO2: 153g/km (ADR Combined) Safety Rating: Five-star