The Mazda 6 is currently the oldest model in its class. The dominating Toyota Camry and Honda Accord duo have since been replaced by new generation models while the Volkswagen Passat was recently updated, leaving the imported Mazda 6 as the oldest.
Despite its age, you’ll be surprised to know that the Mazda 6 is still the one to have, especially if you are the sort who understands the difference between driving a car and being part of a car.
Yes, the Toyota Camry is still the benchmark. It still strikes the best balance between handling and comfort, better than even a Mercedes-Benz C200, which has been a rather disappointing product so far.
As good as the Camry is, it’s far from perfect. We didn’t like the fact that its keyless smart entry works only on the driver’s door, the infotainment lacks Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, and the aging 2AR-FE engine sounds rough when pushed hard.
Enter the imported from Japan Mazda 6.
The pick of the range is the 192 PS/258 Nm 2.5-litre variant. The entry 2.0-litre variant (162 PS/213 Nm) is decently equipped even when compared against the cheaper locally-assembled Honda Accord, but the 2.5-litre is just a lot better.
The strongest advantage of the Mazda 6 2.5L over the Toyota Camry 2.5V is its powertrain. The engine’s induction noise sounds deep and gives a throaty roar when pushed hard, versus the Camry’s coarser sounding engine.
It also has direct fuel injection, which explains why it makes more power than the port fuel injection Camry (184 PS/235 Nm).
The Mazda's 6-speed automatic is also more responsive, with a more aggressive lock-up clutch, feels a lot better to drive than the Camry's.
Inside, the Mazda 6 also looks and feels more expensive than any of its peers. The way the door trims align with the dashboard to create a continuous line surrounding the driver, the tactile feel of the switches and the expensive looking bezels on the knobs, leather wrapping the full length of the centre console, it feels more expensive than even a Mercedes-Benz C200.
Its driver position is also better, with none of the slightly offset seating position that’s apparent in right-hand drive C-Class (less so in left-hand drive ones) models.
All is good until you shift the gear into Reverse and the 8-inch infotainment screen switches to video feed from the parking cameras. The video resolution is poor, and image stitching is so crude that’s worse than even a Toyota Vios.
The quality of the parking camera is quite unacceptable given the Mazda’s asking price.
At night, you’ll also notice that the Mazda 6’s cabin is also lacking in ambient lighting. There’s no roof-mounted pinhole lighting, while buttons on the driver’s door lack sufficient illumination. The lack of master door lock button/auto door lock function is also rather annoying.
The 11-speaker Bose sound system may have a well-known brand attached to it, but sound quality is actually poorer than the Toyota Camry 2.5V’s JBL, which is still by far the best audio system in the segment.
It is also not as spacious as the Toyota Camry or the Honda Accord.
None of that matters once you’re on the move. The Mazda 6, whichever the engine you choose, is a gem of a driver’s car.
The driving position is spot on. You won’t realize how bad the driving position of many other cars are until you sit in a Mazda.
The steering wheel is pointed at your chest with no off-set. There’s an equal distance between Mazda’s signature floor-mounted accelerator pedal and the foot rest on the left, so you sit in an almost perfect position. Not as perfect as an MX-5 but this is as perfect as you can get from a regular family car.
Steer into a corner, your body’s motions are pretty much one with the car. The car’s motions and controls are intuitive and you feel even the tiniest lateral motion through your hips. The 6 now adds GVC Plus too, which rewards smooth drivers with an even smoother drive.
Power delivery is so linear and the aural stimulation is so good, it’s a good antithesis to turbocharged engines.
In terms of comfort, the Mazda 6 is still a couple of notches below a Toyota Camry, which handles nearly as well as the Mazda, but with less twitchiness on long straight roads. The Mazda just feels a couple of degrees too busy when all you want is a calm drive.
As good as the Mazda 6 is, the biggest problem for the car is its price. Ranging from RM 173,659 for the 2.0L to RM 211,148 for the 2.5L, it's the most expensive in its class, mostly because it's imported from Japan.
Cross the RM 200,000 mark, you are approaching the territory of the Mercedes-Benz C200 and BMW 320i.
Although the C200’s recommended retail price is RM 259,888, and RM 248,888 for the BMW 320i – actual transaction price of the German duo are much lower.
Few Mercedes-Benz and BMW models are sold without heavy discount from their dealers so the gap between the Mazda 6 2.5L and a C200/320i is a lot smaller than you think.
Plus, there are ample lightly used pre-owned units with less than 10,000 km on the odometer on sale, many of which can probably get for less than the price of a new Mazda 6 2.5L.
It doesn’t matter is the Mazda 6 is a much better car to drive and is more comfortable than the Mercedes-Benz C200 because you can’t argue against the three-pointed star’s badge. Against the BMW 320i however, the decision is even harder, because the latest 320i is a much better car than the older C200.
So the decision depends on your priority – whether do you buy a cars based on how much you like it or based how much others around you like it.