The Mazda 6 is a study in ageing gracefully.
Now more than a decade old, it’s been upgraded constantly throughout its life to keep it fresh in the face of new competition from rivals, and from the steady stream of SUVs stealing away buyers from wagons and sedans.
When this car debuted in 2012 the VF Holden Commodore was brand new, the Ford Falcon still had three years left, and the locally assembled Toyota Camry was comfortably outselling the RAV4 SUV. How times have changed.
Rather than a big-selling rival to the popular Camry, the Mazda 6 has evolved into a luxurious sedan and wagon for the true believers who aren’t willing to make the leap to an SUV just yet. It takes on a tiny pool of competitors, led by the Camry but also including the Skoda Octavia… and that’s about it.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Mazda 6 has nothing to offer, though. It’s feeling a bit old in places, but the old-school approach to family cars still has appeal in 2023.
The Mazda 6 G25 Touring sedan on test here is priced from $40,210 before on-road costs, sitting it towards the bottom end of the range.
It’s priced in line with the Toyota Camry Ascent Sport ($39,620 before on-roads), along with the Skoda Octavia 110TSI Style ($40,990 before on-roads).
The 6 is a much bigger, more luxurious proposition than those SUV alternatives.
2023 Mazda 6 pricing:
- Mazda 6 G25 Sport Sedan: $35,540
- Mazda 6 G25 Sport Wagon: $36,840
- Mazda 6 G25 Touring Sedan: $40,210
- Mazda 6 G25 Touring Wagon: $41,510
- Mazda 6 G35 GT SP Sedan: $48,440
- Mazda 6 G35 GT SP Wagon: $49,470
- Mazda 6 G35 Atenza Sedan: $51,840
- Mazda 6 G35 Atenza Wagon: $53,140
- Mazda 6 20th Anniversary Sedan: $53,635
- Mazda 6 20th Anniversary Wagon: $54,935
All prices exclude on-road costs
If it weren’t for the screens, you could convince people the Mazda 6 is a new car. It’s still handsome to look at, and it still has plenty of space for people and all their stuff.
The seating position is accomodating for a wide range of body shapes, and the front seats do a decent job blending long-haul comfort with firm padding and bolstering.
A bit more under-thigh support wouldn’t go astray if you have long legs, but otherwise the 6 is a nice place to spend long periods of time.
It feels reasonably expensive, too. The clean dashboard design is modern, the climate control dials make a satisfying click when you operate them, and all the places you rest an elbow or knee are nicely padded.
Moving up the range does bring some more interesting materials and finishes, but even this Touring looks and feels more luxurious than its $40,000 price would suggest.
What really ages the cabin is the technology. The driver’s display is simple but serviceable, but the central infotainment screen looks and feels at least two generations behind what’s in the new CX-60 and CX-90.
On the plus side, it has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But they’re slow to connect and prone to dropouts on the move, and look washed out relative to what’s on offer elsewhere.
Even when you aren’t using smartphone mirroring, the blocky graphics and sluggish responses aren’t really in keeping with the 6’s pitch as a luxurious-ish family hauler. The reversing camera makes it hard to place the car, too.
Rear seat space is par for the class. The sedan actually has a slightly longer wheelbase than the wagon, which means there’s decent legroom in the rear for adults or taller teenagers, although the sloping roofline does eat into headroom for taller passengers.
Rear air vents, map pockets, and USB ports in the fold-down central armrest all feature, along with ISOFIX points on the outboard rear seats and a trio of top tether points.
The sedan has 474L of boot space with the rear seats in place. It’ll happily take a set of golf clubs, although the traditional bootlid isn’t quite as practical as a liftback like that offered on the Skoda Octavia if you want to carry bulky or awkwardly-shaped items. Mazda does offer a wagon for anyone who’s into antique collecting.
The G25 badge means this Mazda 6 is powered by a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine making 140kW and 252Nm.
It’s mated with a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive as standard.
Claimed fuel economy is 7.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. There’s a 62L fuel tank, and 91 RON regular unleaded is all that’s required.
Towing capacity is 1500kg (braked) and 550kg (unbraked).
There’s no learning curve here.
With no turbochargers, and no dual-clutch transmission or CVT to wrap your head around, the 6 is as close to an arrive-and-drive experience as you can get in 2023.
Although it’s not what you’d call fast, the 2.5-litre petrol engine in the Mazda 6 does have enough punch for day-to-day driving in town. It’s smooth off the mark, and provided you aren’t trying to win the traffic light grand prix it’s quiet enough.
Vision is decent, although the sloping roofline at the back means it can be a bit hard to see over your shoulder – not helped by the magnified mirror on the driver’s side. It’s a Mazda staple, but it’s probably time to let it go.
Put your foot down a bit harder and it gets a bit shouty though, chasing the redline in search of more performance. With one person on board in the city it’s fine; with a family on board and all their junk on the highway it feels a bit breathless.
If you are planning to do a lot of touring, it’s worth looking at the more powerful G35 turbocharged engine offered further up the Mazda 6 range.
Beyond the engine, the smaller wheels on our 6 Touring tester make for a comfortable ride. Even though Mazda has clearly tried to make the car feel sporty, it does a good job keeping occupants isolated from potholes and sharper speed bumps in the city.
The larger wheels fitted to more expensive models look flashier, but they do undermine the ride quality.
It’s settled on the highway, and noise from the tyres and mirrors is kept nicely at bay. Mazda used to struggle with refinement on rough Australian country highways, but it’s made big strides over the past decade.
The brand has also made sure the 6 doesn’t lag behind newer competitors when it comes to driver assists. Adaptive cruise and lane-keeping assist are both on hand to lighten the load on long drives, and both work as advertised.
Despite its age, the Mazda 6 is still a very nice car to drive. It makes you wonder what a new, rear-wheel drive 6 built on the CX-60 architecture would be like…
Mazda 6 G25 Sport highlights:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Heated, power-adjustable mirrors
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Automatic LED headlights
- Automatic high-beam
- Cloth upholstery
- Keyless start
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- DAB+ digital radio
- Satellite navigation
- 6-speaker sound system
- Head-up display
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment
- Paddle shifters
- Dual-zone climate control
- Electric parking brake with auto hold
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- 2 x 12V power outlets
- 3 x USB outlets
Mazda 6 G25 Touring adds:
- Auto-folding exterior mirrors
- LED daytime running lights
- Keyless entry
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
- 11-speaker Bose sound system
- Leather upholstery
- Powered front seats
The Mazda 6 wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2018 tests, 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.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Forward, Reverse
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Driver attention alert
- Intelligent Speed Assistance
- Lane-keep assist
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Rear parking sensors
- Traffic sign recognition
- Tyre pressure montioring
G25 Touring and up get front parking sensors; while G35 GT SP and up get Cruising & Traffic Support; and G35 Atenza and up get a surround-view camera.
The Mazda 6 is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
The first five services are capped at $334, $505, $395, $505 and $334 in G25 models.
The Mazda 6 might feel a bit old in places, but it still has something to offer families.
It offers more luxury and space inside than equivalently priced SUVs, especially in the case of the lower-end Touring on test here, and the way it drives still stacks up 11 years after the car debuted.
You don’t see all that many family sedans on the road anymore, but that’s not because they don’t work as family cars.
Drawbacks? If you want the latest technology, you’ll need to look elsewhere – and there will be some people who are opposed to the idea of spending $40,000 on a new car that’s built on old bones.
We’d say those people should drive the Mazda 6 before writing it off. The old way of doing things still stacks up.
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MORE: Everything Mazda 6