Like many mid- and large-sized sedans and wagons, the Mazda 6 is a dying breed and something of a rarity on Australia’s SUV-ridden roads.
That’s not due to a lack of competence, far from it actually – it’s spacious, comfortable, stylish, and well-specified for the money. It also drives beautifully, and handles itself in a way no SUV can.
But the buying public has spoken. As more people move to crossovers for chunky looks and higher driving positions, rivals of the Mazda 6 have been killed due to slowing sales – the Ford Mondeo and Kia Optima being prime examples.
Mazda isn’t giving up on its flagship passenger car, though. For 2021 it has tweaked its range slightly, bringing more equipment and technology as well as the sporty new variant we have on test here – the 2021 Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon.
Should it still be on your family car shopping list?
Pricing for the 2021 Mazda 6 range is as follows:
Mazda 6 Sedan
- 2021 Mazda 6 Sport: $34,590
- 2021 Mazda 6 Touring: $38,890
- 2021 Mazda 6 GT SP: $46,690
- 2021 Mazda 6 Atenza: $50,090
Mazda 6 Wagon
- 2021 Mazda 6 Sport: $35,890
- 2021 Mazda 6 Touring: $40,190
- 2021 Mazda 6 GT SP: $47,990
- 2021 Mazda 6 Atenza: $51,390
All prices exclude on-road costs
The vehicle you see on test here is the Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon, which is priced from $47,990 plus on-roads, or about $52,582 drive-away according to Mazda’s website.
Our tester’s Polymetal Grey metallic paint is one of three cost-option colours, demanding an additional $495.
The most direct rival in terms of size and price is the Volkswagen Passat 162TSI Elegance wagon, priced from $53,790 plus on-road costs.
Other mainstream medium or large wagons with a more sports/premium bent include the Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon ($59,490), the Skoda Superb 206TSI Sportline ($64,990 drive-away).
From the premium brands, there’s also the soon-to-be-defunct Volvo V60 T5 AWD ($57,990), the Mercedes-Benz C200 wagon ($69,500), the Audi A4 Avant 45 TFSI quattro S line ($71,000) and the BMW 330i Touring ($81,900).
When compared to rivals, the Mazda actually represents impressive value for money, particularly at the higher end of the range.
As the penultimate variant in the Mazda 6 line-up, the GT SP grade on test gets the following equipment items over the Sport and Touring grades:
- Metallic black 19-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 tyres
- Front and rear seat heating
- Burgundy leather upholstery
- Adaptive Front Light System
Specifications carried over from said lower trims includes:
- LED daytime running lights
- Exterior mirrors with auto-folding function
- Front seats with two-position memory function (driver), 10-way power adjustment (driver) and 6-way power adjustment (passenger)
- Advanced keyless entry
- Front parking sensors
- LED headlights
- Heated/folding electric side mirrors
- LED tail lights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- 8.0-inch MZD Connect touchscreen
- Satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Bluetooth phone and audio streaming
- Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents
- Electric park brake with Auto Hold
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter
- Steering-mounted paddle-shifters
- Black cloth upholstery
- Active Driving Display
- Push-button start
- Autonomous emergency braking (forward and reverse)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Driver attention alert
Should you opt for the range-topping Atenza grade, you can deck out your Mazda 6 with the following features:
- Bright finish 19-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 tyres
- Power sliding and tilt glass sunroof
- Front seat ventilation
- Walnut Brown or Pure White Nappa leather upholstery
- 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-function driver display
- LED ambient lighting
- Black headliner
- Frameless rear-view mirror
- Genuine wood door and dash trim inserts
- Ultrasuede door and dashboard trim inserts
- 360-degree camera system
- Adaptive LED headlights
- Heated steering wheel
The Mazda 6 wears a five-star safety rating based on 2018 testing, achieving 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 91 per cent for child occupant protection, 66 per cent for vulnerable road users and 73 per cent for safety assist. This rating applies to all variants.
Standard safety kit includes dual frontal, side chest and side head (curtain) airbags, as well as:
- Autonomous emergency braking (forward and reverse)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Driver attention alert
- Auto high-beam
- Intelligent speed assistance
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Rear parking sensors
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Reverse camera
- Traffic sign recognition
- Tyre pressure monitoring
Like just about al Mazdas, the 6 has an interior that’s been designed with a focus on upmarket materials and overall comfort.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re riding in a Lexus should you miss the badge on the steering wheel – the materials, clean layout, and solid build quality are typical traits of Toyota’s luxury arm.
One of the first things you’ll notice in this GT SP’s cabin is the gorgeous burgundy leather adorning the seats and door inserts, which is perforated on the seats.
It adds a really nice splash of colour to the cabin, though the old GT and the top-spec Atenza also offer brown and white interiors as a point of difference.
Comfort and space up front is very good. There’s a sense of airiness in the first row and there’s a good range of adjustment in the (electric) seats and (manual) steering column to help you find the optimal driving position.
Storage up front is pretty good too. There’s a smallish shelf under the centre stack ahead of the shifter, as well as cupholders under the sliding lid and decent door bins that can hold an average-sized bottle.
A storage cubby also lives under the squishy front centre armrest, which is where the USB port for Apple CarPlay is located, joined by an additional USB charging port for your passenger’s device.
Speaking of media, the 8.0-inch MZD Connect touchscreen sticks out like a sore thumb against the rest of the cabin. The interface is dated, load times can be inconsistent and the display isn’t as crisp as competing models. The Bose premium audio system is a highlight though, with clear sound and thumping bass.
Like we noted earlier, the perception of quality is up there for the mainstream segment, and could be compared to premium rivals. The upper and middle levels of the dash and doors are trimmed with soft-touch and padded materials, with some sections having a stitched effect – though as you can see the dashboard section has some crooked stitching. Hand-made feel, perhaps?
Anyway, all the buttons and switchgear feel upmarket, with a nice damped feel or pleasingly clicky dials (in the case of the climate control) to reiterate that sense of solidity.
In the second row the Mazda 6 will easily accommodate two adults, two large child seats (ISOFIX mounts on outer positions) or three smaller people across at a pinch.
There’s decent head- and legroom though taller passengers behind a taller driver may be a tad tighter here than in some rivals. With that said, there’s a nice set of amenities including map pockets behind the front seats, rear air vents, a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, as well as heated outboard rear seats.
Bottle holders in the doors add to the rear storage options, and the soft-touch materials extend to the rear doors as well. Nice.
Further back, the boot space measures 506L with the rear seats in place and 1648L with them folded. While more accommodating than the similarly-priced CX-5 SUV, the Mazda 6 is a little down on the space offered by the Volkswagen Passat (650L/1780L) – something to consider if outright practicality is a priority for you.
Under the boot floor is a full-size spare wheel.
For 2021 the Mazda 6 is petrol only. The 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel previously available has been culled from the local line-up.
Entry-level versions feature a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol developing 140kW and 252Nm, driving the front wheels via a six-speed auto.
Our Mazda 6 GT SP wagon gets a more powerful 2.5-litre turbocharged version of this engine shared with the CX-5 and CX-9, which makes a far healthier 170kW (@5000rpm) and 420Nm (@2000rpm), again driving the front wheels via a six-speed automatic. Unfortunately all-wheel drive isn’t offered locally.
All models feature idle stop/start technology, with combined fuel used quoted at 7.0L/100km for the atmo 2.5-litre petrol and 7.6L/100km for the turbo. We saw the trip computer sitting in the mid-eights to low-nines with mixed driving.
Further, both versions of the 2.5-litre petrol are able to run on 91 RON regular unleaded.
The fundamentals of the Mazda 6 haven’t changed too much since this generation launched globally way back in 2012.
Sure, the mid-life refresh brought a redesigned cabin and significant improvements to on-road refinement, but the bones are still the same.
Having now driven the bulk of Mazda’s current range, there’s nothing quite like a well-calibrated passenger car compared to an SUV.
The 6 is more enjoyable to drive than a CX-5, and also feels like a more substantial car given the added length and wheelbase (4800/2750mm v 4550mm/2700mm).
You also sit much lower in the cabin, which is more in line with sports cars and luxury sedans. I prefer the feel of the 6’s cabin compared to the CX-5.
This translates to a sportier, more engaging drive on the road.
As is promised with the ‘zoom zoom’ philosophy, the 6 drives with a hint of sportiness and handles like a much smaller car, balancing engagement with comfort well.
Our week of testing saw a mix of peak-hour commuting mixing freeway and city driving as well as some open-road country environments, and the 6 was more than up to the task.
The steering is on the lighter side but is direct and well-weighted, giving you enough feedback to know what the front end is doing without making driving it a chore in day-to-day commuting or when navigating tight car parks.
It turns in with enthusiasm and rolls ever so slightly into corners – sort of like an MX-5 – but it feels super natural and progressive. Additionally, the well-damped ride strikes a fine balance between comfort and engagement.
On the open road the Mazda 6 is a comfortable, quiet place to be. The controls are fluid and progressive, the ride is pliant and well sorted, and insulation from wind and road noise is on par with competitors.
Taking its 19-inch wheels and 225/45 Bridgestone Turanza rubber into account, the GT SP won’t be as quiet or comfortable as Sport and Touring versions running 17-inch rims, but it’s an improvement over pre-facelift iterations and isn’t shamed by rivals.
The 2.5-litre turbo four can be a little gruff and noisy under load when cold, but performance is smooth and muscular right from low in the rev range, settling into a comfortable cruise on the highway.
The six-speed auto is well calibrated and shifts intuitively most of the time, but having a seventh or eighth cog for freeway stints would benefit refinement and fuel economy at 100km/h and above.
In terms of assistance tech, the Mazda 6’s active safety suite came in handy in everyday use, namely the all-speed adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring/rear cross-traffic alerts.
The standard lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning are more passive than systems offered by the new Passat, which will appeal to some but also mean the 6 doesn’t quite have the semi-autonomous highway capability tech heads might be after.
Mazda Australia covers its range with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty which also includes five years of roadside assistance.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
Turbo models are slightly dearer at $347, $378, $347, $378 and $347 for the first five years or 50,000km. Sport and Touring grades cost $335, $366, $335, $336 and $335.
Mazda also charges some additional items at specific intervals, including the cabin air filter ($80) every 40,000km and brake fluid ($76) every 24 months or 40,000km.
The Mazda 6 has long been my favourite car in the company’s range as it is something of a premi-ish sedan/wagon bargain.
Our GT SP tester is a whole $2000 cheaper than the CX-5 GT with the same engine (albeit with AWD) yet offers more space, a better drive and arguably a more upmarket cabin bar the lack of Mazda’s latest infotainment system.
It, like most mid-size and large sedans and wagons in Australia, is an under-appreciated offering in the market that proves in many ways the family wagon is still relevant and deserves your attention in today’s SUV-hungry world.
No, it’s not perfect and it’s also getting on a bit. But considering its age, the Mazda 6 is still a fantastic car. I can only imagine what’s to come from the next-generation model, with its inline turbocharged six and rear-wheel drive.
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