Price as tested: $49,128

This month: 1036km @ 10.0L/100km

BLAME the dog. No, seriously, blame Tess the golden retriever for my doubts over the capabilities of the Mazda 6 wagon.

Allow me to elaborate. Over the Christmas break we scored a house-sitting gig right next to the coast for four weeks. Simply looking after a dog and a cat, with the beach just down the road, it was more like winning a free holiday.

The only downer was that I could only take the first two weeks off, and would have to commute to work for the second part of our stay. This meant that two cars would be needed. Not an issue, given wed have plenty of space in our own 2009 Mazda 6 hatch and the trusty Atenza wagon long-termer to carry our gear down.

Surprisingly, though, we managed to fill both cars very quickly. Clothes for four, a pram, beach gear, Christmas presents, toys, food, plus a bloody Thermomix all the space we had disappeared very quickly. Taking the PS4 with the wheel and pedal stand probably didnt help, but Im on holiday, so screw it.

Im sure we could have cut the pile down and stuffed it all into the wagon if need be. The 506 litres of cargo capacity, measured to the tonneau cover, is more than what is available in many mid-sized SUVs.

But having now spent a month with Tess, weve suddenly realised we want a golden retriever. Unfortunately, something like the 6 wagon just wouldnt cut it as our primary family hauler with a canine added to the mix. Not unless we bought a chihuahua.

A spirited drive was needed, and tackling Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula helped me ponder the 6s overall position.

The 170kW turbo engine had little issue on the way up the winding mountain road, but the suspension isnt tuned for outright performance, and so the wagon can feel like its leaning through corners. Powering out also incites wheelspin and electronic intervention when all 420Nm kicks in.

The 6 is great as a tourer, though, and is a good size for a family of four, but anything more than that and you really should be looking at something larger. Well, unless youre a family of nudists.