Mazda 6

Subtly sweeter, slightly quieter

ANNA KANTILAFTAS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

FOUR years old and counting, the Mazda 6 refuses to fall behind the pack. Barely 18 months after 2015’s mid-life update, Mazda’s flagship passenger car has scored more improvements.

Playing catch-up to the excellent new CX-9, the changes focus on improving refinement, updating technology and making the topspec Atenza’s cabin more special.

But there’s also G-Vectoring Control (GVC), which is of greater interest to Wheels readers than a new satin-chrome glovebox latch.

Mazda claims that GVC reduces fatigue and delivers smoother steering and less roll movement.

And the updated 6’s steering indeed flows smoothly, with enough feedback to be both relaxing and entertaining for the keen driver, suggesting GVC achieves what it set out to do.

There’s a linear and controlled feel to the way the 6 turns into corners. Gone is the vagueness and moments of disconnection of the previous model, replaced by crisp consistency as you apply throttle through corners.

But you’ll need to look hard to spot the MY17 6. Redesigned side mirrors that electrically fold when you lock the car (except on the base Sport) and a new high-flake Machine Grey Metallic is about it.

Inside, a new wheel features more intuitive switches, while the Atenza gets Nappa leather with contrasting piping, black headlining and titanium-effect inlays. All models get digital radio and full-colour ‘Active Driving Display’ while GT and Atenza score heated front and rear seats.

The remaining MY17 changes come down to the bits you can’t see. As well as GVC, the new 6 includes several NVH measures: improved rear door sealing, thicker front door glass (a ‘soundproof’ type on GT and Atenza) and more sound deadening in the roof.

The turbo-diesel receives a High Precision DE Boost Control system that improves the engine’s torque delivery in light throttle situations, while a Natural Sound Smoother (a damper in the hollow part of the piston pin) reduces diesel knock, particularly from standstill. Finally, ‘Natural Sound Frequency Control’ monitors injection timing to ensure sound waves from different stages in the combustion process cancel each other out, reducing vibration.

We drove a petrol 6 and the NVH improvement is marginal at best. On some road surfaces, noise still manages to find its way into the cabin, which isn’t helped by the firm ride on the Atenza’s 19s.

So while the 6 carries on in much the same fashion as last year, it’s now a more driverfriendly experience. Kudos to Mazda for focusing on stuff that makes a car feel better, rather than simply look different.

PLUS & MINUS

Still not particularly quiet; firm ride on 19s; sedan’s shallow boot Quality cabin; spirited engines; sweeter steering; minor noise reduction Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mazda 6 Atenza 2488cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 138kW @ 5700rpm 250Nm @ 3250rpm 6-speed automatic 1531kg 7.6sec (tested) 6.6L/100km $45,390 Now

Safety in numbers

THE MY17 6 gets an upgraded version of ‘i-ACTIVSENSE’, adding pedestrian recognition to its Smart City Brake Support function while extending the autonomous braking’s intervention threshold to 80km/h (up from 30km/h). The Smart Brake Support function (audible collision alert and two-stage autonomous braking) also expands its operating range, now 15-160km/h, while traffic-sign recognition displays the speed sign in the instruments’ new full-colour data display.