The Mazda 6 was voted Best Family Friendly Car in the OHbaby! Awards so Royce and Angela Pedersen took it for a spin to see what everyone was talking about.
What he says
The Mazda 6 is the car that, back in 2002, shot Mazda to the front of the crowd with almost 13,000 sales. This blew away its Kiwi competitors and the trend continues right up to the current model. The Mazda 6 incorporates features that other car makers had been on the verge of releasing, but Mazda beat them to it. Sleek sculpted lines, widened wheelbase, increased capacity and attention to detail in comfort, ergonomics and quality is what set the Mazda 6 apart and continues to do so today.
I have mentioned The Dog & Lemon Guide in previous reviews because, while more than a little tongue-in-cheek in many places, the publication is arguably the best one-stop guide to buying a new or second-hand car.
It details many factors that one must consider, such as reliability, fuel usage, common problems, safety, quality and resale value.
While the reviews are hilarious and laced with dry cynicism (and sometimes quite harsh criticism), it makes for a good read and is surprisingly accurate.
Why am I telling you all this? Well the Mazda 3, 6 and related models get the highest rating available, and very little - if any - criticism. This speaks volumes, and should go a long way in influencing buyers' decisions.
The latest (2008 to present) model of the Mazda 6 features sleeker lines and more of a European look compared with its earlier models, while also sporting a bigger engine and larger footprint. The hatch model offers a five-speed auto transmission or a six-speed manual - which historically has been restricted to top-end performance vehicles. The six-speed transmission is fantastic for cruising on the open road and yields better fuel economy. Add to this a five-star NCAP safety rating, traction control and an eight-speaker Bose stereo and you have the perfect mid-sized family vehicle.
We took the Mazda 6 Limited Sedan for a drive from Auckland to Mt Maunganui. It really is designed for the open road and glided around corners as if it were on rails, accelerating with ease when required. Inside, you are confronted with an aesthetically pleasing cockpit and dashboard, designed for your driving pleasure. The seats are very comfortable and fully adjustable electronically, and you can save three seat position configurations to memory with the press of a button. Or even better, you can have this programmed into your key so when you unlock the car, it adjusts the seat and mirrors to suit your preferences.
High on my list of likes is the ability to make technical changes and view technical information, such as driving conditions, engine management and driver environment. The Mazda 6 is a little light on these features but all of the important ones are there. I would like to see all car manufacturers adding sonar cruise control to their cars. Sonar cruise control allows you to set a speed limit to which your car will drive unless it's right behind another car - when it will adjust your speed to allow a safe following distance. It's great for those long trips when you are in heavy traffic or following an erratic driver.
The model we drove had a 2.3-litre motor which had 125kw of power. I couldn't help wondering how great it would be to drive the 2-litre turbo model. It's fair to say the handling and braking capabilities were well matched with the power output, and this is a very important ratio to which Mazda has devoted a lot of effort. Fuel economy is rated at 8.7 litres per 100km. I found it to be more around the 9-plus mark but that can be put down to my heavy right foot which gets me into trouble with my wife more than anything!
Finally, the Mazda 6 has great storage capability. While we were away my wife did what all good wives do and bought, among other things, a giant mirror. With a bit of pushing we got it in inside and transported it safely back to Auckland, along with our luggage. The only problem in terms of storage is that in the sedan model you can't fold the rear seats forward. Some may see this as a fatal flaw but other sedans also have this problem. Some may opt instead to invest in the hatch or station wagon models which have more potential with the seats folded. Interestingly, our research revealed that, with seats in place, the sedan had more space than both the hatch and station wagon - 519 litres compared with 477 litres in the wagon and 499 litres in the hatch. However, with the seats folded the wagon had 1751 litres and the hatch 1702 litres.
The Mazda 6 gets the thumbs up in terms of family friendliness. The kids loved it, especially the sun roof which was a first for them. Our 22-month-old son kept saying, "Daddy, open roof, Daddy, open roof!" It was fun for the whole family.
If you are looking for a mid-sized vehicle for the family or a run-about for work, the Mazda 6 will see you zooming around in style and comfort which will keep you planted firmly in the Mazda camp for years to come.
What she says
Reviewing the Mazda 6 was a natural choice for us after it won gold in the OHbaby! Awards this year. And I can see why the Mazda 6 earned its award as it ticks all the boxes. It looks good, it has a five-star Euro NCAP Safety Rating and all models have front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and traction control systems for our protection.
Pricing starts at $41,945 for the GLX model and goes through to around $50,000 for the limited edition. Compared with other family sedans available on the market, for a new car, this is a good price - especially when you take into consideration three years of Mazda care such as servicing, warranty cover and roadside assistance.
The space in the car boot is fantastic. I was able to fit all three carseats in the back, plus the pram and a full load of groceries in the boot. As Royce mentioned I was also able to fit in a fabulous big mirror that I had just bought for our new house.
The main attraction of the Mazda 6 is that it's a good, solid vehicle. It's not super fancy but it's safe and has a range of bells and whistles that make driving an enjoyable experience without being too complicated.
It's not a prestige car but it's a good reliable car that does what it should and offers what you'd expect.