Mazda's 6 sense
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The reason for getting behind the wheel of a Mazda6 again after
a couple of years was to sample the upgrades introduced in late 2016.
On the surface, not all that much has changed. But immediately the Mazda6 began signalling reminders it's the polished performer we first saw in 2013 with subtle enhancements.
It probably helped a little that I was in the flagship Limited wagon powered by the SkyActiv-D diesel engine.
The wagon has always been my favoured Mazda6 configuration and, in the current generation, it rides on a shorter wheelbase than the sedan — giving an agility advantage.
And choosing diesel is the Mazda6 performance option, with a muscular 420Nm of torque that makes easy work of overtaking and uphill runs while delivering impressive fuel efficiency.
It's primarily a case of detail changes across the Mazda6 range — the line-up of seven models and the price structure are unchanged.
The styling has been tweaked with a new door mirror design.
Inside, there is a new steering wheel, revised instrument layout and changes to the metallic trim inserts.
Content added to Limited models includes heated rear seats and the full-colour Active Driving (heads-up) Display.
And the Limited grade offers the latest generation of Mazda’s active driving assistance technologies.
These include a wider range of speed operation for the radar cruise control, the addition of pedestrian recognition to its Smart City Brake Support low-speed collision mitigation system, and a Traffic Sign Recognition feature.
Mazda’s 2191cc diesel engine develops 129kW at 4500rpm and its strong performance comes from 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
Mazda has made changes to the diesel engine to improve responsiveness and refinement.
There’s more precise control of boost and injection pressures to provide a more linear acceleration feel and a damper added to the piston pin reduces vibration.
The diesel engine settles into a low-effort, open-road pace with 100km/h needing just 1700rpm in sixth gear with downshifts to 2100rpm in fifth.
It’s a diesel with a little more willingness to rev than most. When the transmission kicks down two gears and the tachometer nudges 3000rpm, it still responds smoothly.
Claimed combined cycle fuel consumption is 5.4L/100km. My road test averaged 6.3L/100km, with the potential to coax 1000km out of the full 62-litre tank.
The main change to the dynamics is the introduction of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control technology.
The electric power steering and engine controls communicate with each other so that when a steering input is made, there is a small reduction in engine torque, creating a forward shift in weight distribution and increased load on the front tyres.
Mazda says the benefits are improved stability and turn-in.
The Limited grade rides on 19-inch dark gloss finish alloy wheels and the 225/45 R19 Bridgestone Turanza T001 radials put plenty of rubber on the road.
It has nicely weighted steering — and a suspension tune that copes well on uneven surfaces — making it a comfortable and responsive drive.
At a quick glance the Mazda6 Limited could be one of those cars on which the pricetag seems a little steep. The Limited wagon with the 2.2-litre diesel engine is $58,245.
But sample the driving dynamics, muscular diesel performance and technology features, and it can be considered as a worthy rival to premium brand cars with higher price tags, as well as upper-level mainstream cars.
Certainly the Mazda6 embraces the sport-wagon theme with a design that blends versatility with stylish proportions.
The Soul Red metallic paintwork and 19-inch alloy wheels might be where the eye is first drawn, but the other sharp details of the wagon include the bold LED lighting signature and winged frontal motif, rear spoiler, roof rails, dual chrome exhaust finish and a shark fin antenna.
In Limited grade, the Mazda6 boasts a luxury specification with the heads-up Active Driving Display and the 7.0-inch MZD Connect display with satellite navigation.
A now familiar Mazda Limited grade highlight is a Bose audio system — in this case with 231-watts and 11 speakers — while a powered sunroof, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with two-position memory, leather trim, three-stage heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and rear privacy glass are all Limited appointments.
The Mazda6 hits the sport wagon target with right-sized dimensions and stylish design. There is decent rear seat legroom and headroom while plenty of footwell space is provided.
Load space starts out at a useful 506 litres and release levers in the load area flip the 60/40 split rear seats forwards to create up to 1648 litres of space.
It’s a versatile layout and practical touches include a load separation net, four load-securing hooks and a 12-volt outlet.
Mazda has delivered a detailed upgrade of an already accomplished car with its 2017 Mazda6 refresh.
It’s a mainstream wagon suited to hitting the Kiwi highway with some gear aboard.
It has torquey performance and long-range diesel efficiency, sure-footed road holding and a high level of comfort and technology.