Mazda six 2016 Review
Facelift is subtle, but Mazda’s mid-size passenger car introduces significant tech advances
Australian Launch Review
The current generation of Mazda six has been deservedly praised for its practical packaging, fine fit and finish, driving dynamics and awesome SKYACTIV drivetrains since its two thousand thirteen release. But time and tide wait for no mid-size passenger car, and rivals recently injecting the market have placed the Mazda six under renewed pressure. Hence two updates within a two-year period, to revive the Mazda`s market appeal.
Japanese brands love ‘Kaizen` – the art of continuous improvement. Mazda is no exception, and its Mazda six range is an excellent example of the process in activity. The latest update for the very regarded mid-size model has arrived scarcely eighteen months after the last update and you could be excused for missing the differences.
But the refreshed Mazda six introduces significant switches such as G-Vectoring Control (GVC) and a quieter diesel engine, along with digital radio (DAB+) as standard across the range.
Of those switches, the domestication of the diesel is lightly the most profound. A clever counter-vibrating damper in each gudgeon pin cancels out the pulsing combustion influence on the piston during the power stroke. This elementary but innovative concept has had a major effect on engine NVH in the Trio.5kHz range, according to Mazda. Named the ‘Natural Sound Smoother`, this system is complemented by Natural Sound Frequency Control to reduce diesel NVH in three other bands: 1.Three, 1.7 and Two.5kHz. This involves timing injection so that sound sways from pre-combustion, main combustion and after-combustion cancel each out.
The upshot is this: the engine runs under stream with the same refinement as a typical petrol four-cylinder of around the same capacity. In the rain, the only real tell-tale was the car`s power delivery, which felt slightly doughy when the traffic light turned green.
Across a range of engine speeds and fountains the Mazda six diesel is supernaturally subdued. At 5000rpm (you read that right), it even sounds sporty – and it`s still pulling hard right up to that speed. About the only time the diesel betrays its true nature is on start-up from cold… and only shortly even then.
The work Mazda has done in respect of driveline NVH suppression has to be experienced personally to be believed. With the automatic transmission by hand locked in fifth gear at 70km/h the diesel four-cylinder was hovering around 1500rpm, but with just some mild thriving evident, such as you would expect in a petrol engine at the same speed. There`s not even the slightest hint of diesel grinding present.
The car`s idle-stop system is remarkably quick to restart the engine, and with particular smoothness for a larger-displacement four-cylinder diesel. It aids fuel conservation, which averaged 8.7L/100km after a test loop, according to the tour computer. We`ve achieved better figures than that in a long-term petrol Mazda six in the past, and it`s very likely that most owners will achieve significantly better fuel consumption figures, particularly once the car has travelled a longer distance than 600km.
The six-speed automatic makes a slick playmate for the diesel. A contributing factor in the Mazda`s fuel efficiency and NVH, it switches gear seamlessly and shifts down on hills unobtrusively for extra engine braking.
Noise suppression across the board seems considerably improved from the long-term petrol model reviewed three years ago. There was some coarse-chip tyre roar noted on a section of country road, but no worse than other cars of similar specification.
Rail quality in the Mazda six remains convenient without wallowing. In fact assets control was commendable over some country roads that should have had the Mazda pitching and throwing every which way.
Most of the time the updated model corners much like any previous variant of this generation Mazda six – until you turn into a arch on moist bitumen and accelerate hard. Anyone experienced in the ways of large, front-wheel drive sedans with high-torque engines will know what to expect: some torque steer to commence, followed by some wheel spin, axle tramp and power-induced understeer. With the refreshed 6`s G-Vectoring Control (GVC) there`s no discernible torque steer, the wheel spin has no appreciable effect on the car`s demeanour, the axle tramp fails to materialise, and you find yourself easing off lock as the car tracks towards the inwards of the corner.
At lower speeds, the Mazda six still clunks when the steering is turned to total lock in one direction or the other.
Where packaging is worried the fresh model is little different from previous iterations, but there are some switches for the update model. It`s still roomy in the rear, with enough headroom for taller occupants, despite the sunroof fitted in the Atenza model tested. There are adjustable vents back there as well.
Mazda has redesigned the steering wheel and the Active Driving Display (head-up display) is now reflected in utter colour. It`s lightly adjusted for the right height to suit drivers of any physique.
The Atenza level of trim, as in the vehicle tested, has gained rear-seat heating and Nappa leather trim with Titanium piping. The black headlining features an overhead console with LEDs and the seat-adjustment controls are chrome plated, as is the glovebox release.
One of the fresh features is speed limit sign recognition, which worked to specification. And the satellite navigation system readily accepted a destination as a spoken instruction delivered while the vehicle was on the stir.
Mazda has upgraded the Clever City Brake Support (SCBS, or autonomous emergency braking by another name) to include pedestrian recognition. And the ceiling speed for Clever Brake Support has been lifted to 160km/h. Unluckily the radar-based active cruise control system only operates at speeds down to 15km/h. Once the car slows to that speed, the system will alert you with a chime that it won`t come to a finish halt.
There were a duo of issues arising during the time the Mazda six was in our possession that could be glitches. The Bluetooth connection infrequently dropped out, which may be a problem with the smartphone used rather than the car itself, but the phone has been dependable in the past.
During a drive on a rainy night, the multi-information display in the right dial of the instrument binnacle conveyed a message that the radar cruise control`s operation was affected by fog and the driver attention alert system was malfunctioning. But it only happened on that one occasion [Ed: we`ve had similar issues with Ford`s Mondeo and Subaru`s Liberty].
Other than those issues, the Mazda six affected immensely. It`s hard to conceive how this car could have been made substantively better, but Mazda has achieved that nonetheless.
And given Mazda is holding prices sustained for its medium passenger-car entrant, the Mazda six remains the segment`s leading light in the local market.
2016 Mazda six Atenza pricing and specifications:
Engine: Two.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety Rating: Five-star (ANCAP)