10 May 2024

It's time to say goodbye to one of the last family wagons, with a 2000 km roadtrip

| James Coleman
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If you don’t turn back to look at your car, you’ve bought the wrong one. Photo: James Coleman.

The Mazda 6 is one of the oldest new cars on the market – the model you can buy from the showroom floor today shares the same skin and basic underpinnings as the one my wife and I used to ferry our family around from 2012.

We found this out from the man in charge of the fleet of media test cars in Sydney.

When we turned up to exchange our 2012 Soul Red wagon for a 2024 Sonic Silver version for a two-week road trip to the Gold Coast, he was more than a little perplexed over which one we were actually taking.

That won’t be a problem for long as the end is nigh for the mighty Mazda 6.

Earlier this year, Mazda launched the 20th Anniversary special edition as the grand finale to the 6 name. It comes after more than 144,000 sales in Australia over five major updates.

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We bought ours in 2021, with a baby on the way and advice ringing in our ears about how we’d need space for a pram and nappy bag and the entourage of other objects little people bring with them (you were all right).

It has 162,000 km on the clock, and the only issues have been a blown Bose speaker – which I fixed with superglue – and a worn-out Park switch – which I also fixed with superglue. I’ve also made some cosmetic adjustments, such as gloss black wheels and mirror caps, and as we know, these also make it go faster.

It’s hard to tell, but there are 12 years between these two. Photo: James Coleman.

The one we’re driving 2000 km from Sydney to the Gold Coast and back again is the GT SP model, originally introduced four years ago with a 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine and a host of black bits to set it apart.

The 6 has held its head high since it was named a World Design of the Year finalist in 2013, but I’m conflicted about the updated looks.

The gloss black roof rails are a nice touch, but turning the chrome strip that runs along the front grill and headlights the same black has given it the face of a tired racoon.

The GT SP’s seats are a delicious burgundy, and make our plebian black ones feel like sitting on a bag of stiff flour. Some other surfaces feel delicate, and I wonder how long they’ll last when subjected to regular family activities, but there’s no doubt the interior exudes premium.

A family friend used to get a full-size orchestral harp into the boot of his Holden Commodore. That won’t be happening here, but there’s still more space than you’d have in, say, a Mazda CX-5. Only our massive eight-person tent was relegated to the floor of the back seats.

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However, being a wagon, and a low one at that, you do have to perform some impressive contortions to get kids in and out of the back seats.

We were warned the hinterland route north would be incredibly dull because the M1 highway only pauses to run through Newcastle and Coffs Harbour – every other town and city is bypassed.

But this didn’t matter. Two young kids turn long drives into the basic plot of the movie Speed, where dropping below speeds of 40 km/h runs the risk of rousing them from their naps. So we locked in the adaptive cruise control and just went for it, with true crime podcasts for company.

Camping at Coffs Harbour (okay, glamping). Photo: James Coleman.

Everyone drives around the Gold Coast like they’ve got nowhere to be, which meant I could rarely enjoy the extra oomph of the turbo. But the reality is, the 6 isn’t a sports car, and you do have to prod the accelerator pedal with purpose to get the automatic gearbox to change down. At the same time, any more power than this would overwhelm the front tyres.

Tech is where this car shows its years.

The screen overheated a couple of times, and simply wouldn’t work until it had restarted itself. Once on the move, it can also only be controlled by a rotary dial in the middle of the console — intuitive some of the time, clumsy and time-consuming most of the time.

Piano black is a bad idea. Photo: James Coleman.

There’s no doubt the Mazda 6 has become a far more refined car over the past 10 years, but things like this make it seem expensive for its $50,340-plus-driveway price tag.

Dated isn’t always a bad thing, though. For instance, we turned the lane-keeping assistance off the moment we rolled out of Sydney and never had to touch the button again – it stayed off. Every car maker should allow this.

After six days touring the Gold Coast, the first leg of the return trip took us inland to Glen Innes – prettier and windier than the M1, but with fewer petrol stations (and an off-road section we didn’t know about until we were on it).

We typically got between 600 and 700 km on a tank of 91 (no more than our naturally aspirated 2.5-litre), but there was a particularly stressful stretch of New England Highway when the estimated range danced around the 0 km figure for what seemed an age.

Far more enjoyable was Bathurst, when the 6 proved just as capable of romping around the Mount Panorama racing circuit (at a very obedient 60 km/h) as it does of comfortably eating up the highway.

Rumours suggest that a next-generation 6 would be even better at this and feature the same rear-wheel drive, inline-six mild hybrid system as Mazda’s most recent SUVs. This would make it, in effect, a cut-price BMW M3.

The Mount Panorama circuit is open to the public, provided no races are on. Photo: James Coleman.

But a recent update from China puts this to rest.

The EZ-6 was revealed last week at the Beijing Motor Show, and while Mazda Australia won’t confirm if it will go on sale here as a spiritual successor to the 6, it does at least show the direction the brand is heading. And it’s more hatch-like, and all electric.

I, for one, will miss this one.

A well overdue shower in Bathurst. Photo: James Coleman.

2024 Mazda 6 G35 GT SP Wagon

  • $50,340 plus driveaway costs
  • 2.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol, 173 kW/420 Nm
  • 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • 7.6 litres per 100 km estimated fuel usage, 62 litre fuel tank
  • 1609 kg (kerb)
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

This car was provided for testing by Mazda Australia. Region has no commercial arrangement with Mazda Australia.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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