I knew I’d have the Mazda6 on my birthday for a couple of months prior. My choice of birthday car wouldn’t usually be a mid-sized, 2.5-litre, four-cylinder hatchback with a reputation as a rep-mobile. No, I want something with tyres like steamrollers, an engine that makes old ladies want to stay indoors and wag their finger at the youth of today, and acceleration like being flung from a trebuchet.
But, while I’ve got older and started to notice that my body is in a state of mild decay, Mazda’s second-generation ‘6 has got quite a bit better. The problem for its competitors is that the first-generation was very good; almost too easy to drive, with sure-footed handling, adequate power, stylish looks and the sense that you knew exactly what it was doing on the road. This new Mazda6 is brilliant¦with one caveat: the automatic gearbox doesn’t do it justice. But, hell, I’ve got the manual Limited hatchback, and my left arm is primed for the slick shifting six-speed ‘box.
The destination was Rotorua. A quick jaunt from Auckland across to the sulphurous and smelly geothermal paradise to soothe my aging bones in the hot springs, have some time away from the computer, and spend some quality time with my other half (who is adamant she comes second to the computer during the week).
Our hotel overlooked the Whakarewarewa thermal area and the famous Pohutu Geyser. Even in the drizzling windy conditions hordes of Japanese tourists clamoured to establish the best tripod positions in front of the bubbling mud pools. A steaming, squelching mud pool with its concentric-ringed vents and conical mud volcanoes perfectly represents the first of Mazda’s Japanese three design motifs it applied to the new Mazda6: yugen (ethereality that is reminiscent of the gracefulness of nature). The other two are rin (dignity of form that communicates calm determination and strength) and seichi (exquisiteness expressed through precise craftsmanship and quality).
Despite all the nature-inspired flowing lines the car manages to be both bolder and more aggressive with its flared wheel arches and angular swept-up shoulder line. Riding on the same 18-inch alloys that the CX-7 wears, it is slightly longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, and has a 50mm longer wheelbase for improved interior room, and driving stability.
Design improvements flow through to the interior where sporty dials complement the leather seats. There’s the real sense that everything is screwed together carefully. It’s also quieter. Mazda quotes a 3dB reduction, down to 35DbA, with less vibration as well.
Driving dynamics are improved over the previous version. Performance is 0.9 seconds faster to 100kph (8.0 seconds), fuel economy has improved to 8.6l/100km, there’s 125kW and 226Nm on tap (3kW and 19Nm more), and it’s the best part of $2,000 cheaper than the equivalent predecessor.
Dynamic stability control, six airbags, ABS, electronic brake assist and active head restraints join a significant reengineering of the Mazda6’s cockpit to improve safety and rigidity (which is improved by 45%).
Because most new cars nowadays are pretty good, it can often come down to the minor imperfections in a car — what are the things that will really annoy you. I’ll assume that the vast majority won’t care that the automatic version loses a bit of the edge — it’s still a good car — and the only thing I can find that’s annoying about the Mazda is that there are no reversing sensors, something I would expect any car in this price bracket to have.
We don’t get the Honda Accord Euro until the end of next week, so I can’t claim that total domination in the segment belongs to Mazda. However, it is better dynamically than the Mondeo — its principal rival produced by part-owner Ford.
You can’t go to Rotorua without doing some extreme sports, and despite the hot pools both of our bodies felt decidedly second-hand at the end of the weekend. We drove back to Auckland in the pouring rain, looking up at the bleak sky through the power sunroof, being thankful that leather seats are comfortable, and the driving position excellent.
Reflecting on my time with the Mazda6 I came to realise that perhaps it was the perfect car for a birthday trip. Passenger comfort and space is top class; it’s quiet and economical on long journeys; and the specification is good for the price, with dual climate control, chunky-sounding 6-disc 240W Bose stereo with auxiliary input, electric leather seats, and cruise control. Unlike Rotorua, there’s nothing really stinky about the Mazda6.
Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the complete Mazda6 range.
Price: from $46,695
What we like
- Great styling
- Good Bose stereo
- Quiet and composed
- Relatively frugal for a 2.5-litre engine
- Manual gearbox is fantastic
- Cheaper than its predecessor
What we don’t like
- If you must buy the auto ‘box, you’ll find performance is dulled
- No reversing sensors
Features & Specifications
|2.0L GLX||2.5L GSX||2.5L LIMITED||2.5L GSX||2.5L LIMITED||2.0L GLX||2.5L GSX|
|Overhang — Front/Rear||mm||980/1,050||980/1,050||980,1080|
|Track — Front/Rear||mm||1,570/1,570||1,550/1,550||1,570/1,570|
|Ground Clearance — laden||mm||122||122||122|
|Cargo Volume — rear seats in use (VDA)||L||519||510||519|
|Transmission Availability||6MT/ 5PS. EAT||5SP. EAT||5SP. EAT||5SP. EAT||6MT/ 5SP. EAT||6MT/ 5SP. EAT||5SP. EAT|
|Engine Type||MZR I4 DOHC 16-valve||MZR I4 DOHC 16-valve||MZR I4 DOHC 16-valve|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||L||64||64||64|
|Recommended Minimum Fuel Type||91RON||95RON||95RON||91RON||95RON|
|Fuel Economy — EC Combined (MT/SP.EAT)||L/100km||7.7/8.2||-/8.7||-/8.8||-/8.8||7.8/8.5||-/8.9|
|Emission Standard — Target||Euro 4||Euro 4||Euro 4|
|Emission Output — CO2 Value (MT/SP.EAT)||g/km||182/194||206||206||208||208||185/201||211|
|Suspension Type – Front/Rear||Double Wishbone/ Multi Link||Double Wishbone/ Multi Link||Double Wishbone/ Multi Link|
|Brake Type – Front/Rear||Ventilated Disc/Solid Disc||Ventilated Disc/Solid Disc||Ventilated Disc/ Solid Disc|
|Brake Diameter — Front/Rear||mm||299/280||299/280||299/280|
|Gear Ratios — MT/SP.EAT||1st||3.454/ 3.620||-/3.620||-/3.620||3.454/ 3.620||-/3.620|
|2nd||1.842/ 1.925||-/1.925||-/1.925||1.842/ 1.925||-/1.925|
|3rd||1.310/ 1.285||-/1.285||-/1.285||1.310/ 1.285||-/1.285|
|4th||0.970/ 0.933||-/0.933||-/0.933||0.970/ 0.933||-/0.933|
|5th||0.795/ 0.692||-/0.692||-/0.692||0.795/ 0.692||-/0.692|
|Reverse||3.198/ 3.405||-/3.405||-/3.405||3.198/ 3.405||-/3.405|
|Final||4.388/ 3.863||-/3.863||-/3.863||4.388/ 3.863||-/3.863|
|2.0L GLX||2.5L GSX||2.5L LIMITED||2.5L GSX||2.5L LIMITED||2.0L GLX||2.5L GSX|
|Tyre Size||205/ 60R16||215/ 50R17||225/ 45R18||215/ 50R17||225/ 45R18||205/ 60R16||215/ 50R17|
|Full Size Spare Wheel||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Front Fog Lamps||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Fixed Intermittent Wipers||Y||-||-||-||-||Y||-|
|Variable Adjustable Wipers||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Auto Rain Sensing Front Wipers||-||-||Y||-||Y||-||-|
|Auto On/Off Headlamps||-||-||Y||-||Y||-||-|
|Dual Exhaust with Chrome Extensions||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Sports Appearance Package (Front and Rear Sports Bumpers, Side Skirts, Rear Spoiler)||-||-||Y||-||Y||-||-|
|Body Coloured Exterior Mirrors||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Body Coloured Exterior Door Handles||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Rear Window Print Antenna||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Power Windows — Front/Rear||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Manual Air Conditioning||Y||-||-||-||-||Y||-|
|Front Dual Zone Climate Control||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Driver Seat Adjust — Slide/Lift/Recline||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Passenger Seat Adjust — Slide/Lift/Recline||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|8-way Powered Driver Seat Adjust||-||-||Y||-||Y||-||-|
|Adjustable Headrests — All Seats||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|MP3-compatible CD Audio||Y||-||-||-||-||Y||-|
|MP3-compatible 6CD Audio||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Premium BOSE audio system||-||-||Y||-||Y||-||-|
|Number of Speakers||4||6||8||6||8||4||6|
|AUX audio connector for MP3 players||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Remote Audio Control||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Trip Computer with Speed Alert Warning||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Keyless Entry with Retractable Key||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Leather Steering Wheel||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Cloth Seat Trim||Y||Y||-||Y||-||Y||Y|
|Leather Seat Trim||-||-||Y||-||Y||-||-|
|Tilt and Telescopic Steering Wheel Adjust||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Sunvisor with Vanity Mirror||Y||-||-||-||-||Y||-|
|Sunvisor with Illuminated Vanity Mirror||-||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||Y|
|Lined, Lockable Glove Box||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|60:40 Rear Seat Split||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Karakuri Seat Release||-||-||-||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Roof Moulding for Rails/Carrier||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||-||-|
|Rear Roof Spoiler||-||-||-||-||-||Y||Y|
|4-Wheel ABS with EBD and EBA||Y||Y||Y|
|Dynamic Stability Control||Limited Models||Limited Models||Limited Models|
|Front, Side & Curtain SRS Airbags||Y||Y||Y|
|3-point Seatbelts — Front/Rear||Y||Y||Y|
|Front Pretensioners and Load Limiters||Y||Y||Y|
|ISOFIX Child Seat Anchors||Y||Y||Y|
|Seatbelt Warning System — Front/Rear||Y||Y||Y|
|High Mount Stop Lamp||Y||Y||Y|
|Collapsible Brake Pedal||Y||Y||Y|
|Mazda Genuine Scheduled Servicing (3 years/100,000km)||Y||Y||Y|
|Mazda Genuine Factory Warranty (3 years, unlimited kilometres)||Y||Y||Y|
|Mazda On Call Roadside Assistance (3 years, unlimited kilometres)||Y||Y||Y|
Words and photos Darren Cottingham