Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Mazda Mazda6
Rare medium
August 2008

A GOOD mate of mine says he’s a happy medium.

He’s of medium stature, loves his medium-sized family of a wife and two children and even has a very medium-sized dog, a border collie.

Life’s without fuss. There are always enough M clothes on the rack when he goes shopping, he doesn’t need vast quantities of food to sustain him and is almost impossible to tag in touch football due to a combination of blinding speed and surefootedness rare in larger humans.

In his younger days, my friend was so medium he was selected as the yardstick for how high the workmen would install the water “bubblers’’ at his primary school, so most students could reach them comfortably.

In the car world, genuine mid-sized offerings have become few and far between.

That’s because a number of brands have grown their mediums into larger propositions in a bid to annex buyers no longer fond of thirstier family vehicles.

However, many people, including singles, childless couples, empty nesters, or families with young ones, simply don’t want - or require - the added size. They, like my mate, are happy mediums.

Setting the benchmark for their needs is the stylish new Mazda6.

It has been tweaked to ride on a longer wheelbase and does offer more interior room than its predecessor, but stays true to the medium cause.

Advances have been made in refinement and drivability without sacrificing the 6’s reputation as an extremely practical car.

Value for money has also been improved with the entry-level model’s price dropping to $27,990 (Limited sedan with six-speed manual transmission).

As before, the Mazda6 is available as a sedan, hatch, or wagon

There are four equipment grades: Limited, Classic, Luxury and Luxury Sports.

All variants feature the smooth and refined MZR 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder S-VT engine that produces 125kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque 4000rpm, up 3kW and 19Nm on the outgoing engine.

Fuel consumption figures of 8.4 l for every 100km covered (manual sedan) is 4.5 per cent less than the less-powerful outgoing model.

An improved 6-speed manual transmission is available on Limited sedan, Classic sedan and hatch and Luxury Sports hatch. A 5-speed automatic is available on Limited sedan, Classic sedan, hatch and wagon, Luxury sedan and hatch and Luxury Sports hatch.

All Mazda6 models come with driver and passenger front SRS airbags, side and curtain SRS airbags for all rows, Dynamic Stability Control, a Traction Control System and antilock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist.

The Limited sedan rides on 16 inch wheels and has standard air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, CD/MP3 audio system with four speakers and an auxiliary jack and front and rear power windows.

The Classic is available in all body styles and throws in 17 inch alloys, fog lights, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, lumbar adjustment in the front seats, trip computer, 6-disc in-dash CD player with six speakers and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Luxury sedan and hatch add leather trim, Xenon headlights, power sunroof, blackout instrument cluster, leather-wrapped gear knob, paddle shift gear control, electric front seats – 8-way power with 3-position memory on the driver’s seat and 4-way on the passenger’s – and a premium Bose® 240 watt sound system.

The top of the range Luxury Sports hatch comes with a full sports body kit – 18 inch alloy wheels, aero bumper, side skirts and rear spoiler.

The Mazda’s greatest strengths are style, quality, athletic handling and performance.

It is a delight to drive whether it’s zipping in and out of city traffic or cruising quietly and confidently at the highway speed limit.

The ride is firmish, which enhances the Mazda’s sporty feel, as does the precise steering and willing power plant.

Leg and head room is generous for up front passengers, but lankier adults are not so well accommodated in the rear. There was sufficient space for our two boys, aged 4 and 7, however, who were kept safely apart by the vacant centre seat.

Mazda expects to sell 1000 Mazda6s per month with the sedan accounting for 40 per cent of sales, the hatch 50 per cent and the wagon 10 per cent. Most buyers will be asking for automatic transmission.

All will be in the market for a happy medium.



ENGINE: 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder

POWER: 125kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 226Nm at 4000rpm

TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic

ECONOMY: 8.4 litres/100km average

PROS: Stylish, safe, excellent build quality

CONS: Lack of leg room in rear, runs on premium unleaded

BOTTOM LINE: $27,990 to $42,990