The Mazda6 has scored some subtle updates to keep it competitive against its sharply-priced rivals, but is it enough to keep this ageing platform feeling fresh?

Although sedans have fallen well out of popularity in the Australian market in recent years after the years of locally-built Holden and Ford market dominance, there is still a segment of the market still imbued with them as anyone who has used a rideshare service or caught a taxi recently will know. But then, all of those are white Toyota Camrys. What if you’re after a sensible, dependable sedan that doesn’t make you look like an Uber driver?

The answer is a pretty simple one, actually. It’s this – the 2023 Mazda6 G25 Touring. Second only to the Camry in medium passenger vehicle sales, although the Skoda Octavia is a close third, the Mazda6 presents itself as a more stylish and luxurious option to the former with none of the European question marks of the latter.

There are a total of five variants in the 2023 Mazda6 range with all offered in both sedan and wagon bodies, with the G25 Touring being one step up from the base G25 Sport. The sedan you see here comes priced at $40,210 before on-road costs, while the wagon charges $1300 extra. Positioned above it are the GT SP, Atenza, and 20th Anniversary variants which are all offered with the turbocharged G35 powertrain. It’s impressive to have as many as 10 different configurations for a vehicle that has only sold 1191 units between January and September this year.

On price, the nearest-placed Camry is the Ascent Sport Hybrid – all but the base Ascent are hybrid-only – which charges $39,620 before on road costs. The Octavia 110TSI Style, meanwhile, charges $40,990 drive-away and is now only one of two trim levels (and the only sedan) left in the range alongside the sporty RS wagon. That means the Mazda6 charges a premium over both, but its premium looks and feel go a long way to justifying it.

While there are no major design tweaks for 2023 models, the Mazda6 is still quite a looker and not as beige as you may expect from this class. Option it in Soul Crystal Red like my tester and it stands out in a good way, although the small 17-inch wheels on G25 variants do look a bit naff.

Complimenting the exterior’s sleek curves is a classy cabin which is the real selling point for the Mazda6 in my eyes. Not only does it look the part but it also feels it with sections of softly-padded supple leather surrounding you, while the seats are ergonomically designed.

Even in this Touring variant you get leather upholstery as standard, with it set off by some white contrast stitching, along with a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory functions and a six-way powered front passenger seat.

One item that does clearly date the Mazda6 is its infotainment system, with it still using older software which both looks and feels outdated at this point. The 8.0-inch screen it’s housed on feels small inside this cabin as well. However, wireless Apple CarPlay has been added to all variants bar the entry-level sport, as has a wireless phone charger to keep your iPhone’s battery topped up while using it. The Touring model also scores an excellent 11-speaker Bose audio system.

Even more impressively, every variant in the lineup gets a head-up display, push-button start, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic headlights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control.

There’s a good array of safety technology included as well, with front and rear parking sensors now standard across the range, although all variants still only use a single reversing camera rather than a 360-degree camera. Its suite of active safety tech is impressive, though, with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring, traffic sign recognition, and driver attention alert standard for all models.

It’s a fairly practical interior as well with plenty of room for both front and rear passengers, some covered cupholders in the centre console, and decent storage pockets in the door cards. The boot measures in at 474 litres for the sedan which is on the smaller side compared to the Camry’s 524 litres and pales in comparison to the liftback Octavia’s 600 litres. The Mazda6 wagon does offer a bit more space and flexibility with 506 litres on offer.

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Powering G25 variants is a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine producing respectable outputs of 140kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm. The G35 powertrain, meanwhile, straps a turbo to that engine to boost outputs to 173kW at 4250rpm – a minor 3kW bump over pre-update models thanks to some slight retuning – and 420Nm at 2000rpm. All Mazda6 variants use a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

The atmo 2.5 isn’t an especially enthralling power plant, but it gets the job done perfectly well. Despite its peaky maximum outputs, power delivery is pretty smooth throughout the rev range, although there are times you’ll have to work it harder to get the best out of it. It perhaps gets a bit more vocal than you’d like when pushed harder, though.

While a bit old-school on paper, the six-speed auto is a gem. Its ratios are spaced perfectly, it’s quick to respond to manual commands from the paddles on the steering wheel, and when left to its own devices in Drive it never misses a beat. It’ll have less to do in turbo variants where there’s more accessible torque, but on the whole it’s a perfect fit for this car. Forget the overly busy 10-speed units some manufacturers are rolling out – six ratios are all you need.

While the Mazda6 doesn’t feel quite as sharp and youthful as it did when this restyle dropped in 2018, it’s still an utterly pleasant car to drive. Although the smaller wheels don’t look the best, they do offer fantastic ride quality. The suspension does a good job of balancing ride comfort and handling precision also. The steering is perhaps where it feels the least modern – hardly a surprise since this platform dates back to 2012 – but it’s still pleasant enough.

Regardless, even this lower-trim and less-powerful model still offers the sort of engaging feel that Mazda is known for priding itself on delivering. It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to quantify, but it feels like it’s been built by people who genuinely enjoy driving, and not simply built as an A-to-B commuter car.

Ultimately, the Mazda6 doesn’t really put a foot wrong when it comes to its on-road performance. With a fairly refined drivetrain and pleasant manners both on city streets and country roads, it serves as a reminder of why cars like garden variety Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons held so much popularity in Australia in years past.

Thanks to the atmo engine’s cylinder deactivation system, the Mazda6 G25 models are impressively fuel efficient. I saw a return of 7.6L/100km after 654km of testing, which comes respectably close to the 7.0L/100km claim on paper.

As with all Mazda models, the 2023 Mazda6 is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Mazda also offers seven years of capped price servicing at an average cost of $433 per visit. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km.

Considering the price point of the Mazda6 G25 Touring on test here, it is undercut by its nearest rivals in the economical hybrid Toyota Camry and even more drastically by the sharply-priced Skoda Octavia. However, being more powerful than both and offering a more plush interior does position it more competitively against them for those not simply looking for the smartest price.

Truth be told, the Camry’s stranglehold on this segment is unlikely to change any time soon given seven Camrys are sold for every one Mazda6. However, those who dare to be different will be well rewarded by opting for the Mazda.

With classy styling, interior build quality that’s a segment above, and a real driver’s car feel from behind the wheel, these qualitative benefits give it a clear edge for those thinking a little bit more emotionally over the logical quantitative arguments its rivals rebut with.

Sure, it’s a bit dated in some areas and this atmo model does lack the freight-train torque of the even more luxurious turbo variants, but in my eyes, it still balances rationality with a dash of emotional appeal surprisingly well.

2023 Mazda6 G25 Touring List Price: $40,210 | As Tested: $41,005
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Tech & Features - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value for Money - 8/10

Pros: Economical engine paired to a slick automatic transmission, pleasant ride and handling dynamics, classy and well-made interior
Cons: Outdated cabin technology, smaller boot than the class average, slightly more expensive than its rivals

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Mazda Australia for one week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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