- Excellent interior quality
- Fully loaded with standard kit
- Still looks great despite its age
- Engine is strong but pretty thirsty
- Not a replacement for the 6 MPS
- Other wagons offer more practicality
Launched way back in 2012, the 2021 Mazda6 Atenza is one of those cars that sits quietly and humbly on the road. It’s good value, looks great, it’s high quality and shows a strong overall level of talent – yet thanks to the SUV brigade (including Mazda’s own highly successful SUV lineup), it rarely sells over 300 units per month in Australia. Yet despite its apparent age and endless SUV alternatives, we think the Mazda6 (and its mid-size competitors) deserve to sell much stronger.
Why so? Read on.
For the 2021 model year, the Mazda6 range was expanded to ten variants. The entry-level Sport and Touring use a 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine – the new GT SP and top-spec Atenza use a 170kW/420Nm turbocharged version of that engine. A six-speed auto is standard across the range, and all models in Australia are front-wheel drive – there’s no all-wheel drive and no diesel power options either. Pricing starts at $38,522 drive away for the Sport sedan and range all the way to $56,156 for the Atenza wagon.
Price & Specs: 8.0/10
Even the entry-level 2020 Mazda6 Sport (sedan: $38,522, wagon: $40,025) is very well equipped, and includes standard kit such as 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, digital radio, paddle shifters, a heads-up display, keyless start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob and heated/electric-folding mirrors.
Safety kit is especially strong with six airbags, low- and high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) in both forward and reverse, driver attention monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, auto high beam, lane departure warning with lane keep assist and a reversing camera with rear parking sensors.
The Touring ($42,951/$44,454) adds keyless entry with auto-folding mirrors, leather upholstery, front parking sensors, a 10-way driver with memory functionality/6-way passenger electric front seat adjustment and an 11-speaker Bose sound system.
The GT SP ($51,221/$52,586) adds the turbo engine, burgundy leather upholstery, black-coloured 19-inch alloy wheels, heated front and rear seats and cornering lamps.
The top-spec Atenza ($54,791/$56,156) that we tested here goes all out and adds bright wheels, Nappa leather upholstery in white or dark brown, a sunroof, ventilated front seats, a 7.0-inch digital driver’s display, LED ambient lighting, a frameless rear view mirror, wood trim inserts, suede dashboard and door trim inserts, a 360-degree parking camera, a heated steering wheel and Matrix high-beam functionality for the headlights.
In terms of value, though they aren’t cheap, we think the Touring and the Atenza are the picks of the 2021 Mazda6 range – both models add comfortably more equipment than the Sport and GT SP that sit below each respectively but for not much extra coin. Thankfully as well, the tacky black wheels of the GT SP don’t carry up to the Atenza.
Competitors to the 2021 Mazda6 Atenza wagon are unfortunately getting rarer as SUVs take over, but they still exist. The 162kW Volkswagen Passat 162TSI Elegance ($53,790 plus on-road costs) and 180kW Skoda Octavia RS ($52,990 drive away) sit as the closest to the 6 in size, power and price. We’d also consider the 165kW Peugeot 508 GT wagon ($64,513 drive away), as well as the larger Skoda Superb 206TSI Sportline ($64,990 drive away).
Performance & Economy: 7.0/10
The 2.5-litre turbocharged engine found on the Mazda6 GT SP and Atenza was pulled straight from the CX-9 large SUV which we tested a few months ago and it also features in the CX-5 in Australia (plus the CX-8, CX-30 and Mazda3 overseas). With a healthy 170kW of power and a thumping 420Nm produced from just 2000rpm, this engine was a peach in the much heavier CX-9 and bodes particularly well in the Mazda6 wagon.
Much like we found in the CX-9, the turbocharged unit in this Mazda6 is an absolute delight. It’s quick to respond, feels effortless, all whilst showing a sporting edge to the way it revs keenly to the 6000rpm redline. This is a beautiful engine, one of Mazda’s finest and a world away from the often buzzy and coarse SkyActiv units we have sometimes seen in previous Mazdas.
It’s not an all-out performance replacement for the Mazda6 MPS however, as its powerband is more like a diesel – most of the grunt has been and gone by 5,000rpm. Its 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.3 seconds is not amazing either – the all-wheel drive MPS from 2005 did it comfortably under 6.0 seconds. The turbo Mazda6 is more like the Passat 162TSI then – a noticeable upgrade over the lower-spec 140TSI, though to be a true rocketship, one must buy the Passat 206TSI AWD and unfortunately, no Mazda6 exists on that level.
The gearbox might be lacking a few gears to rival the best in the business (it comes with only six) but it shifts gears smoothly and decisively. As it is a traditional torque converter, it is smooth when setting off and never exhibits any of the quirks which often plague dual-clutch automatic gearboxes. The 2021 Mazda6 Atenza wagon is also front-wheel drive – we think an all-wheel drive option would do well in stealing those upgrading from the former turbocharged Subaru wagons that Skoda has managed to do so well and it’s worth noting that the CX-5 with this engine is all-wheel drive.
If there is a downside to this drivetrain, it’s the rather disappointing fuel economy. On the combined cycled, Mazda claims that the 6 will use 7.6L/100km, a figure that we really struggled to hit during testing. Fuel consumption would usually hover around the low 10.0s, whilst spirited driving would often push fuel consumption into the low teens per 100km. Thankfully, the 6 can run on 91RON fuel to lessen the bill but according to reports from overseas, using 95RON and above can actually improve the power to 184kW, so we’d do that – and likely get better economy as well.
Ride & Handling: 8.0/10
Mazda loves tweaking a car over its lifespan, and the 2021 Mazda6 Atenza wagon follows that trend in being continuously improved to ensure that it delivers on its promise of being comfortable, yet with a sporting side. Fans of the way the previous Mazda6 drove ought to look elsewhere; this generation of Mazda 6 might ride beautifully and offer a supremely hushed environment inside, but it fails to offer the same thrills as its predecessors – a Skoda Octavia RS is definitely the sportiest wagon currently available.
Long a Mazda bugbear, NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) has been culled too – notably tyre noise is no longer a major issue, even with the big-wheeled Atenza model. Those 19-inch wheels don’t spoil ride quality, either, with the top-of-the-tree Mazda 6 wagon proving to be compliant around town and pleasantly comfortable at higher speeds on more open roads. Wind noise on the freeway is also minimal.
Interior & Practicality: 9.0/10
Mazda has been crafting some exquisite interiors recently and the 2021 Mazda6 Atenza’s interior is truly a beautiful place to be. It has a restrained elegance to its design, even if it is a tad conservative and starting to feel dated in 2021, having been designed 10 years ago. The quality of the white Nappa leather is akin to that in premium German marques, the tasteful chrome touches are a masterclass in finesse. Every touch point feels premium, nicely textured and soft to the touch. Delightful.
Mazda’s now superseded MZD Connect infotainment system that features in the Mazda6 is certainly not the most modern infotainment system to use in 2021, even if the rotary controller on the centre console is intuitive and easy to use. The 8.0-inch display isn’t very good quality – it also feels a generation behind Mazda’s latest infotainment system that features on cars such as the new Mazda3 and recently launched MX-30. The system in Mazda’s latest crop of cars brings a larger and wider display.
The instruments on the 2021 Mazda6 are clear and super sharp though, with a digital centre screen showing parameters such as vehicle speed, fuel economy as well as other driving aids. On either side of this central screen are old school physical dials, with the rev counter and fuel/engine temperature gauges both of the analogue type. A colour head-up display sits in front of the driver too – we’d just like to see a more immersive digital screen like the Volkswagen Group’s Virtual Cockpit that features maps.
Storage up front is decent with a large centre console, roller covered cup holders and a spot for smartphones under the climate controls. The doors feature usefully sized door pockets both front and rear. There’s also a standard power sunroof, though it’s not a panoramic unit like in the Passat or Octavia wagons – or the 2004-era Subaru Liberty wagon, either.
Jumping into the back seat, the Mazda6 will look after even taller passengers with decent leg room and rather good headroom, even with the sunroof our car featured. You’ll also find rear air vents and an armrest with two cupholders, which also features a concealed tray with two USB-A ports – we’re not sure why they’re not mounted on the back of the centre console, however, as when the arm rest is up, you cannot use them.
Wagons are obviously bought for their bootspace and the Mazda6 offers 506-litres with the seats up and 1,648L with them folded flat. That’s pretty reasonable space though a Skoda Octavia offers a massive 640L of space with the seats up and 1,700L with its seats folded. An Octavia is also more practical with various hooks, nets and storage options – the Mazda6 offers a few tie points and that’s it by comparison.
Service & Warranty: 7.5/10
The Mazda6 is covered by a five-year warranty with complementary roadside assistance, now commonplace in Australia.Hailing from Japan, the Mazda6’s servicing costs are reasonable compared with rivals, especially German ones such as the Volkswagen Passat.
Over five years, the Mazda6 wagon will cost $2,029, compared to the Passat’s $2,840 – though a word of warning: the Mazda only has 10,000km service intervals versus the VW’s longer 15,000km intervals, so if you drive a lot, you’ll be paying more for servicing.
2021 Mazda6 Atenza Wagon DiscoverAutoRating: 7.9/10
The third-generation Mazda6 has always been seen as a much more mature model than its two predecessors, which were cars that served the brand well in offering driving thrills but in a package that was slightly rough around the edges.
Now in its final years, the 2021 Mazda6 Atenza has a genuinely upmarket feel inside, looks stately and whilst it might only be satisfying rather than truly involving to drive, we are glad that Mazda continues to offer a practical wagon in a world full of SUVs. And for that Mazda must be commended.