What is it?
Mazda6 is the Japanese brand’s flagship passenger car.
It’s just been updated with great new turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel engines, enhanced technology, interior and exterior styling tweaks, plus improvements to ride quality and cabin refinement.
While sedans and conventional wagon sales have declined steadily with the rise and rise of the SUV, Mazda6 continues to buck the trend with more than 130,000 sold since 2002.
The current-generation was launched in in 2012.
The four model grades are carried over to the updated model — Sport, Touring, GT and Atenza — with 14 variants to choose from.
The big, under-the-bonnet news is a new 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine for GT and Atenza and the upgraded twin turbo 2.2-litre turbo-diesel powerplant we encountered on the recent CX-5 launch.
The new so-called Skyactiv-G 2.5T turbo-petrol engine is good for 170kW of power at 5000 revs and a handy 420Nm of torque that kicks in at 2000 revs.
The engine first saw the light of day in Australia back in 2016 with the arrival of Mazda’s large SUV, the CX-9.
While it will run happily on standard 91 unleaded, spending some extra dollars on 98 will deliver a tad more grunt.
Mated with its slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, Mazda claims fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km.
While we didn’t get to drive the new turbo-diesel, but impressions gleaned from the CX-5 suggest it will be nothing short of superb.
The diesel boasts 140kW at 4500 revs and a hefty 450Nm of torque at a relaxed 2000 revs, with claimed fuel consumption of 5.3L/100km.
The engine boasts speedier rapid-stage combustion, newly designed combustion chambers and piezo injection.
It is mated with a new variable-geometry, two-stage twin turbocharger and the compression ratio is up from 14.0:1 to 14.4:1.
The naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol unit that powers the Sport and Touring models delivers 140kW of power at 6000 revs and 252Nm of torque at 4000 revs.
This engine comes with a new cylinder-deactivation system that shuts down two of the four pots under light-load driving such as freeway cruising.
Styling-wise, the proverbial man on a galloping horse would find it difficult to spot the changes — but they are actually quite significant, if subtle.
At the front there is a new-look grille and headlights with a new treatment for the rear, including a new-look combination light design.
Underneath, things are more aerodynamic and there has been almost a complete revision of the suspension setup, including new dampers, beefier stabiliser bars, new bushing as well as more-rigid mounting for the steering gear.
Inside there are more comfortable and supportive seats and subtle changes to things such as the centre stack and trim highlights.
The colour screen is now 8.0 inches wide while the heads-up display now projects directly on to the windscreen rather than a flip-up screen.
What’s it cost?
Pricing for the entry-level Sport sedan and wagon with a 2.5-litre petrol engine remains unchanged, at $32,490 and $33,790.
Moving up a rung, the 2.5-litre Touring sedan and wagon have been cut $600 to $36,690 and $37,990, while the diesel sedan and wagon is down $450 to $39,690 and $40,990.
The GT sedan and wagon with a new turbocharged 2.5-litre petrol engine are $43,990 and $45,290. While the diesel version is down $450 to $45,090 and $46,390.
The exception to the lower pricing is top-spec Atenza.
While the turbocharged petrol sedan and wagon are $47,690 and $48,990, the diesel jumps $550 to $48,790 and the wagon to $50,090.
Mazda claims additional equipment including new ventilated front seats more than make up for the increase.
The entry-level Sport has a generous standard inventory with an electric parking brake, paddle gear shifts, hill-launch assist, daytime LED lights, power mirrors with heating and folding functions, rain-sensing wipers and dual-zone climate air.
Also on the menu are adaptive cruise control, 8.0-inch colour touch screen with Mazda’s MZD Connect system, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity and satellite navigation.
Storage-wise, there’s 474 litres of cargo space in the boot and 60:40 split rear seats.
A five-star safety rating is underpinned by emergency brake-assist, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, rear-cross-traffic alert, smart brake support and smart city brake support.
What’s it go like?
We decided to focus on the GT sedan with the new turbocharged petrol engine.
On the national media launch between Melbourne and Ballarat, we encountered a range of city and country roads, including a couple of stretches of winding gravel.
The first thing you notice when you slip behind the wheel is the classy interior and with newly designed seats, dialling up the perfect driving position is a cinch.
As is the case with the big CX-9 SUV, the engine is seriously impressive, with great low- to mid-range torque and not a hint of turbo lag.
The engine is mated with a six-speed auto transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters that add to the fun.
The GT adds goodies such as 11-speaker Bose audio with a 231 watt amplifier, front parking sensors, fancier seat controls and memory, 19-inch alloys shod with 225/45 rubber, black or white leather trim, heated front seats and an adaptive front-lighting system.
While the outgoing “6” was way better than its predecessor, Mazda engineers have done even more work to make the new model better again.
Body and chassis enhancements have cut road noise noticeably and all kinds of noise suppression steps have been implemented to achieve a high level of – as Mazda puts it – “conversational clarity.”
The ride is on the sporty side, something that driving enthusiasts like me really like and the steering is precise and beautifully weighted.
What we like?
- Great new turbo-petrol engine with diesel-like torque
- Much quieter cabin
- Classy interior design and finish
- Generous standard kit
- Top line safety credentials
What we don’t like?
- Miserly three-year warranty
- Space-saver spare
- Still no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
The bottom line?
The Mazda6 deserves a place right up there with the best in the segment and that includes the Europeans.
As a long-standing fan of today’s turbo diesels, the excellent new turbocharged petrol unit makes the choice extremely difficult.
CHECKOUT: Mazda CX-9: Good drinking now
Mazda6, priced from $32,490