Art director’s cut

The hardest-working man on the crayons is out to draw comparisons between his old 6 and Mazda’s newie

FELIPE UBILLA

Open up and say ”Ahh, it is roomy”

One of the biggest advantages of our old 6 has been the hatchback bodystyle and its vast 510-litre cargo capacity. The ability to easily throw luggage and bulky prams in the back has been a huge positive. Mazda’ decision to axe the hatch for its third generation 6 was a disappointment to say the least, but I’ looking forward to lobbing gear into the wagon’ 506-litre cargo bay – and that’ with the cargo blind in place. Ditch that and there is easily another 100 litres available.

Date acquired: September 2018

Price as tested: $49,128

This month: 545km @ 9.4L/100km

Overall: 545km @ 9.4L/100km

MANY moons ago, there was a mythical era in which wifey and I lived, now known as ‘The time before kids’. It was a care-free place, where we clung onto our youth and lived with wild abandon.

At some point, adult responsibilities kicked in and we decided we should act our age and become sensible. Well, sort of.

Kids were going to be on the cards soon and we conceded that the old BMW E30 318i coupe wasn’t going to cut it – we needed to buy a practical car in which to transport our imminent brood.

This is going back almost a decade to 2010, when Commodore was king, but the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3 would soon topple the Holden in the sales charts.

Our criteria back then was for a decentsized sedan that was vaguely economical, but also a bit of fun to drive. On top of our list were the Honda Accord Euro and Mazda 6, both of which had performed well in Wheels comparos (including one in September 2010).

Ultimately, the 6 won out. In our opinion it looked better and was more fun to drive, plus it had more space. We managed to pick up a black ex-demo hatchback at a decent price, and that car still sits in our driveway, having served us faithfully since.

Fast-forward to the present and I’ve been handed the keys to an updated Mazda 6. This one is a fresh Atenza wagon, finished in Snowflake White Pearl. It’s the range-topper of a model range that has just gone through a recent round of updates, refreshing the third-generation 6, which was launched in 2012. Riding on new 19-inch alloy wheels and wearing 225/45R19 rubber, the exterior changes are subtle but for the better.

The redesigned grille is deeper and has a classier mesh design and the fog lights are now integrated into the headlights, giving the front of the car a simpler, cleaner appearance.

The rear has also been tweaked, with the exhaust outlets increased in diameter and nudged outward, and the whole bumper is now body-coloured, ditching the previous model’s unpainted lower plastic panel.

Okay, none of this is hugely significant, but after spotting a previous-gen wagon recently, the subtle but effective visual lift became obvious. All of which pleases my design-nerd sensibilities.

Step inside and the cabin is finished in a new Walnut Brown Nappa leather (exclusive to Atenza models), with Sen wood accents and suede trim. I’ve never been a massive fan of brown anything, but in this car it matches the exterior perfectly and adds a touch of class, which I clearly need.

On the safety front, the 6 now comes with standard i-Activesense tech, which incorporates Smart City Brake Support (auto braking), adaptive LED headlights and Intelligent Speed Assist (a warning system for when you’re accidently lead-footing it).

Also included is radar cruise control, which controls the speed and distance to the vehicle directly in front, bringing the Mazda to a stop if needed. Should we say ‘hello Skynet?’ Atenza models also include Mazda’s new bingle-preventing 360 View Monitor and a new 7.0-inch LCD display screen in the dial cluster. Other additions include a revised centre console and redesigned seats – ventilated in Atenza spec only. Bring on summer!

The biggest change for the latest update is under the sculpted Kodo bonnet – the upgrade from atmo to turbo power for GT and Atenza petrols. The SkyActiv-G 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine is borrowed from the COTY-winning CX-9 and lifts power by 30kW compared with the atmo 2.5 Sport and Touring to a total of 170kW. But it’s the torque boost that’s really significant – a 168Nm bump to 420Nm.

Yes, it’s nice having the latest tech and a sleek-looking exterior, but the biggest drawcards by far are this new engine and the dynamic capabilities promised by Mazda’s latest offering.

The question now is, almost a decade after we bought one – would a Mazda 6 still be worthy of our family-car dollars? The next few months will reveal all.

FELIPE UBILLA

Poisoned Apple?

The Mazda’ infotainment system and my iPhone have had an unsteady relationship thus far. On the first few drives the 6 has displayed a message reading Unable to connect to Bluetooth audio’ yet has connected for phone calls. At first put it down to flaky electronics, but no Mazda vehicle driven has shown an issue previously, so now the blame is solely on my iPhone. While the connection issues have mostly vanished for now, Mazda’ plans to install Apple CarPlay will be a welcome addition.