PASSENGER cars from Mazda do not come much better than the Japanese carmaker's latest release.
The all-new Mazda6 has been redesigned from the ground up and the result is an outstanding package.
It arrives in showrooms with arresting good looks and fun driving dynamics, with base models starting at $33,460 (plus on-roads) while the book-end is a diesel wagon that retails for just under $52 grand.
The entry-level price represents a $2000 rise on the previous '6 but buyers will be happy with a longer features list and the standard automatic transmission.
Officially launched in Adelaide this week, the new Mazda6 has a choice of two engines - a 2.2-litre diesel and a 2.5-litre petrol - and four trims.
While we didn't get a look at base models this week, the up-spec derivatives have raised the bar with styling and finishes.
Hard plastics have been used sparingly and the stylish new layout provides crisp designs along with gauges which are easier to read.
A central dial, similar to what we have seen from BMW, controls the sat nav and audio. There are two cup holders in the centre console, along with bottle holders in the doors, and there is also a good spot for phones and keys in front of the gear shifter.
The leather-trimmed pews offer good support, although we found the seat bases a little short.
Dual zone climate control is standard, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel which feels great in your hands.
Design changes have resulted in the A-pillar being moved and that has delivered greater visibility.
On the road
The Mazda6 can walk the walk. Dynamic good looks are matched once you hit the start button.
Quiet and smooth around town, the Mazda6 is equally adept once you find twisty terrain.
The chassis is lighter and stronger than the outgoing model - rigidity has improved 30% in the sedan and 45% in the wagon - while suspension changes have delivered more grip as well as a great balance between performance and refinement.
Testing tight corners through the Adelaide Hills saw the Mazda6 come up trumps.
Direct and responsive steering inspired unwavering confidence. You can push both engines high in the rev range, with the diesel's greater torque providing more mid-range punch. Not that the petrol lags far behind - most drivers will find it more than capable.
Paddle shifters to take manual-style control of the six-speed automatic transmission are handy when you really want to push the sporting envelope, but mostly the self-shifter can look after things well.
The giant in this category is the Toyota Camry (from $30,490), while
there is also the Hyundai i40 (from $29,990), Volkswagen Passat (from $38,990), Ford Mondeo (from $31,490), Honda Accord Euro (from $30,340) and the Subaru Liberty (from $32,990).
What do you get?
Standard kit across the range includes push button start, dual zone air con, sat nav, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, CD stereo with AUX and USB inputs, cruise control, alloys and five-star safety credentials which includes the likes of stability control and anti-lock brakes.
Get into the Touring and it adds leather trim, parking sensors front and rear as well as a Bose sound system and an automatic tailgate on the wagons. On top of that, the GT has larger 19-inch alloys, LED rear lights, keyless entry and heated front seats.
The new range-topping Atenza gets the lot, along with the full suite of the latest safety equipment that we've primarily seen on European models with double the price-tag, including blind spot warning, radar cruise control and automatic brakes which can slow the vehicle if it detects and accident is close or avoid an impact altogether.
A special "Soul Red" paint job costs an additional $200 which is designed to feature significant changes in the hue between illuminated and shaded areas to better show off the Mazda6 lines.
Both the diesel and petrol won't drain your bank balance at the pump. The petrol runs on 91 unleaded, and averages under seven litres for every 100km. During our test with some liberal use of the accelerator we achieved about 8.4.
You pay $2250 more for the diesel variants, but they sips less with a combined average of 5.5L/100km.
There is also a "capacitor" system called i-Eloop which uses braking energy to help power the electronics that also helps cut fuel use.
Insurance and servicing should be reasonable.
Boot space in the wagon has been reduced slightly compared to the old model, while the full-size spare impedes on the sedan trunk.
Child seat anchorage points are simple to access, while the 60-40 back seats fold easily by a pull of handles in the back.
Smooth and alluring, the new Mazda6 is well proportioned and wonderfully sculpted. The sedan is the beauty pageant winner up against the wagon, and the entire mid-size segment.
From the back quarter there is a hint of Jaguar…which is a fine achievement given what the big cat is turning out nowadays.
No hatch is available - but considering the sedan's good looks that shouldn't matter.
The writer was Mazda's guest in Adelaide.
Details: Four-door sedan or five-door wagon.
Engine: 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 138kW @ 5700rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 3250rpm; 2.2-litre in-line four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 129kW @ 4500rpm and peak torque of 420Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km; 5.4L/100km.
Bottom line: Sedan Sport petrol $33,460; Sedan Touring diesel $40,350; Wagon Sport petrol $34,760; Wagon Touring diesel $41,650.
What matters most
The good stuff: Modern styling and cabin finishes, strong engines, upmarket feel, awesome handing characteristics.
What we'd like to see: Longer seat bases, more rear space in wagon variants.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year 100,000km warranty with servicing every 10,000km.
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