Who ever said that family sedans had to be dreary, humdrum and bloated looking?
There was a time not long ago when the default option for family cars in Singapore was the standard three-box sedan. Unfortunately though, perennial favourites like the Toyota Camry and Nissan Sunny lent a staid, boring image to the whole segment just as trendy SUVs started coming into play, leaving some buyers with lofty aspirations flocking to cars with lofty ride heights. Since then, several manufacturers have tried to make their conventional sedans more stylish, but none have been as desirable to look at than Mazda’s current 6.
Seriously, just look at it. The 6 is Mazda’s most successful application of its KODO design language, cutting a svelte yet muscular figure thanks to its wide grille and strong fender lines. The wagon looks even better – the first one I ever saw was on the road, resplendent in shimmering Soul Red that made me snap my head round to take a second look. Sadly though (and it truly, genuinely does sadden me), the wagon is available in Singapore only in expensive, top-of-the-range Luxury trim, making what is already a niche body style an even rarer sight on our roads.
Anyway, I digress. "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" isn’t an idiom I subscribe to all the time, but with the Mazda 6, I totally concur. So for this facelift, the changes Mazda has made are as near as makes no difference - there’s a larger chrome grille surround, the grille itself features extra slats, and there are new LED headlights and foglights. Oh, and the 19-inch rims are now painted in a gunmetal grey colour. Basically, park one of these next to an older model and you’d have to squint till you’re cross-eyed before you can pick apart the differences, but at least you’ll still be looking at probably the prettiest thing in the carpark.
In contrast, the interior is where the bulk of the revisions have been made. Like the refreshed CX-5 we tested recently, the clunky old radio and infotainment system has also been replaced with a new one called MZD Connect, which integrates music, Bluetooth and navigation capabilities onto a high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen. This system is the same as found in the 2, 3 and CX-5, which means its various pros and cons are also present in the 6 – easy to use in general,with smart graphics, but with a very convoluted Navigation function. Check out our CX-5 review for more info.
In general though, the 6’s cabin is an extremely nice place to spend time in, thanks to more widespread use of soft-touch plastics, leather and metallic-effect trim on the dashboard and centre console. On this Luxury trim level, you also get a heads-up display above the dials that shows speed and navigation instructions, as well as an electric rear sunshade, sunroof and 11 speaker Bose audio system. If you covered up all the badges, you could easily convince people they were sitting in a premium German car.
Apart from its visual style, out on the open road is where the Mazda 6 shines brightest against its rivals. Where its Japanese counterparts are generally slow, dull to look at and softer than a marshmallow to drive, the 6 is taut, planted, and properly entertaining/satisfying for the keen driver. The steering is accurate, weighty and confidence inspiring, body roll is minimal, and body movements are well controlled, with none of the pitching or wallowing found in its softer rivals. The wide, low-profile 19-inch wheels mean understeer very rarely rears its ugly head, and you just get the general feeling that the car will ’flow’ across any road you point it down. Of course, a setup like this means the 6 will never be as soft and cushy as, say, a Toyota Camry or Nissan Teana, but although the large wheels do filter some road imperfections into the cabin, the ride never feels harsh and the trade off in handling prowess more than makes up for the compromise.
Pulling the 6 along is a 2.5-litre four cylinder with 192 bhp and 256 Nm, the same unit as found in the CX-5. As befitting its poise and verve through the twisties, this engine is a thoroughly willing performer, revving quite happily to the redline and with a pleasantly growly soundtrack from the twin exhausts to boot. It’s helped in no small amount by the excellent six-speed auto gearbox, which swaps cogs seamlessly and quickly whether you’re just cruising in traffic or really hammering along.
At $147,888 (as of press time) for the highest grade model, the Mazda 6 represents incredible value for money, undercutting all the other turbocharged or 2.4L/2.5L engined models in this segment. If you can live without the sunroof, LED headlights and premium audio system, the base-spec 2.0L Standard model can be had for around $15k less, and it’ll still come equipped with the same MZD Connect system, cruise control, dual zone climate control and reverse camera. Finally – here is a family car that you can buy with both your heart AND your head!