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Mazda6 GT sedan 2018 review
Moving Well | Greg Hill | Posted on 01 October 2018
Mazda's performance-focused mid-sizer has a new-found maturity via updated styling, beefed-up safety and a powerful new turbocharged engine.
Already considered one of the best in its class, the Mazda6 sedan and wagon range has undergone a make-over resulting in some significant improvements. A nip and tuck to the styling, more standard equipment and some mechanical tweaking; all designed to refresh the car and revitalise sales.
The highlight is undoubtedly the introduction of a spirited 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, available in the GT and Atenza models – but that's not all, as the entire range has a new-found maturity.
Over the week we drove the GT sedan, we received a surprising number of unsolicited, positive comments about its appearance, which suggests Mazda has the styling right. A new grille and redesigned front lights create a fresh face; while at the rear, the sedan's reshaped boot lid and larger, repositioned exhaust pipes emphasise the car's width. New alloy wheels, now customary with any upgrade, round out the exterior overhaul.
Continuing to raise the bar, the all-new interior has an integrated, premium-quality look and feel, with a clean, straightforward presentation adding to the driving ease. The front seats are larger, and reshaping of both the front and rear seats – together with the use of high-density urethane foam – improves the support and overall comfort.
Although Mazda6 is officially classified as a medium-sized vehicle and the overall dimensions have not fundamentally changed with this update, it has grown over the years and is now better described as a medium-to-large family-size car. Adults of average size will find sufficient leg and head room in the rear, but it is by no means class-leading. Likewise, boot space is useful rather than abundant.
Spoiled for choice
Mazda6 is available in 14 variants with the choice of sedan or wagon body styles and four model grades: Sport, Touring, GT and Atenza. All employ a smooth-changing six-speed automatic and are front-wheel-drive. Prices start from an attractive $32,490 plus on-road costs through to $50,090 plus ORC.
Emphasising Mazda's premium approach and focus on safety, even the entry-level Sport is relatively well equipped with a long-list of standard features including Mazda’s i-ActiveSense advanced technologies, LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, head-up display and eight-inch colour touchscreen with MZD Connect incorporating satellite navigation, Bluetooth® phone and audio capability.
The Touring adds leather and a few extra creature comforts, while the highlights of the GT, apart from the turbo-petrol engine option, are bigger wheels, heated front and rear seats, the option of black or pure white leather trim, and Mazda’s adaptive front lighting system (AFS).
The Atenza steps further into the luxury market with high-quality Nappa leather seats (in Pure White or Walnut Brown) that have ventilation as well as heating (a first for Mazda), suede door and dash trims with wood inserts, adaptive LED headlights, sunroof and a 360-degree monitor.
The reversing camera plus blind spot warning and cross traffic alert systems, which are standard across the range, do a good job to help overcome minor blind-spots caused by the thick B and C pillars.
A technically sophisticated turbo-petrol engine brings an exciting new level of driving enjoyment.
Engine refinements are noticeable in each version. The naturally aspirated 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G petrol engine found in the Sport and Touring models features cylinder deactivation for improved fuel efficiency.
The upgraded 2.2-litre SkyActiv twin-turbo diesel engine, which enters the range from the Touring grade up, employs a variable geometry twin-turbo to help lift the maximum power to 140kW, while peak torque jumps to 450 kW. Both engines are shared with the recently updated CX-5 and the diesel is also used in the CX-8.
It is Mazda’s technically sophisticated SkyActiv-G 2.5T turbo-petrol engine from the CX-9, however, that brings an exciting new level of driving enjoyment. Maximum power is a healthy 170kW at 5000rpm with robust peak torque of 420Nm at 2000rpm. A broad spread of torque from relatively low in the rev range and smooth, progressive delivery gives the GT a strong but very civilised feel that's well tailored to everyday driving. The six-speed auto, which is Mazda's SkyActiv version of a conventional automatic, makes good-use of the turbo engine characteristics.
It is now a much quieter and more refined drive.
Acceleration is rapid when it's called upon, as our performance figures show. Drivers have the option of selecting Sport mode, which holds the transmission in lower gears for longer and gives the car a more spritely feel.
The cost of this plentiful performance (and the way it's used) is fuel use. On test, our GT sedan averaged 9.5L/100km – but there was a noticeable variation, with a best of 8.3L/100km, while the highest was 11.2L/100km. The fact it runs on regular 91 RON petrol, rather than the more expensive premium grade that's required by many turbo-petrol models, is a big plus.
Fine tuning of the chassis, steering and suspension delivers a smoother and more compliant ride, with responsive steering and composed, surefooted handling. Equally impressive was the braking, which under our emergency stopping tests pulled up quickly and maintained an excellent pedal feel. It is now a much quieter and more refined drive.
The value-for-money proposition looks even better now that Mazda has lengthened the warranty to five years with unlimited kilometres.
The MY-19 evolution of Mazda6 takes this well-respected mid-size model to the next level in terms of quality and refinement, while a new 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, available in the GT and Atenza versions, adds a good dose of strong, flexible performance for everyday drive ease and enjoyment.