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Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up?

Arvind · Dec 2, 2023 11:00 AM

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 01

As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but even for the most beautiful of people (or things); looks can tire, most times something newer and fresher comes along and what was once beautiful now becomes mundane and all too familiar.

One could argue though, with its smooth and sexy lines, and sleek proportions, that the (GJ-generation) 2023 Mazda 6 Sedan looks as ageless as it did 5 years ago – if it isn’t broken, why fix it? So, in 2023 we now have the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary edition, an exclusive variant that celebrates the nameplate’s history.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 02

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Looks aside though - has the Mazda 6’s powertrain started to show its age, and more importantly, does it warrant its pricetag? Let’s drive!

Also read: All updated 2023 Mazda 6 2.5L Sedan in Malaysia will receive 20th Anniversary Edition package

Overview

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 01

The current GJ-generation Mazda 6 sedan has been around since 2013, although it (and likewise the Mazda 6 Touring) have seen a plethora of updates in that time.

2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary specifications
Price RM 240,848
Engine 2.5-litre NA 4-cyl
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Horsepower 192 PS @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 258 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
0-100 km/h 9.95 seconds (As tested)
Economy 10.09-litre/100km (As tested)
Safety 6-Airbags, ABS, BA, DSC, TCS, front and rear AEB, BSM, LKA, LDWS, RCTA, ACC with Stop&Go and CTS
Origin Fully-imported, Japan

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 02

The most recent update came in October 2023, introducing Mazda 6 20th Anniversary which adds the stellar-looking Artisan Red Premium colour, as well as the following styling and equipment updates:

  • 20th Anniversary badge on front fenders
  • 19-inch Bright Metallic alloy wheels
  • Gunmetal grille
  • Tan-coloured ventilated leather front seats with 20th Anniversary logo embossed into the headrests
  • Frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Rear window sunshade
  • Qi wireless charging for compatible smartphones
  • Instrument cluster with 7-inch multi-info display
  • Front and rear Smart Brake Support (SBS)
  • Upgraded i-Active Sense, updated Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) with Stop & Go and Cruising & Traffic Support (CTS)

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 03

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 04

The additional equipment also comes with a substantial increase in price to RM 240,848, up by some RM 25k over what the 2.5L Sedan cost in 2022. The Mazda 6 20th Anniversary likewise carries a whopping RM 60k premium over the 2.0L Sedan which is yours for RM 180,359.

Also read: Review: 2023 Mazda 6 Touring 2.5G - A swansong survivor of its kind, but does it still make sense?

Rivals

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 05

Well, we all know this, the Mazda 6 Sedan's main rivals are, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

The (201 PS/260 Nm) Honda Accord 1.5 TC-P is the cheapest at RM 197,400, followed by the (209 PS/253 Nm) Toyota Camry 2.5V at RM 219,800. Besides being newer generations, both rivals also offer more power and interior space than the Mazda 6.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 06

With that said, all three stalwarts are pretty evenly matched in terms of safety standards; being offered with their respective ADAS safety suites.

Also read: Mazda 6 no longer on sale in Japan - making way for all-new RWD 2023 model or parts shortage?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 07

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 08

No matter how many times you might have seen a Mazda 6, it still warrants a second look. Especially finished in its Artisan Red Premium colour, it’s a marriage of style and classic sophistication par excellence.

Depending on ambient light, every curve sheds a different tone; sometimes it’s dark, sometimes it shines like a ruby stone, and sometimes it almost appears a deep brown. Dare I say, the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary offers one of the best paint jobs I have ever seen on any car.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 09

New on the list are the 20th Anniversary badges plastered on the front wings and the gunmetal grille which is bordered by chrome garnishes both at the front and rear. 

Elsewhere, there are the 19-inch alloys finished in bright metallic contrasting the dark paintwork to give this Mazda 6 that extra touch of class and sophistication. 

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 10

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 11

It gets even better on the inside. Open the doors and you are greeted by a stellar-looking Tan-coloured interior – much like the flagship Mercs and Jaguars from back in the day.

Once in, you are greeted by the smell and texture of beautiful leather, supple in feel as you sink into the seat. The dashboard's lower half and door cards are wrapped in tactile suede, whilst on the centre console, there is contrasting topstitching.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 12

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 13

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 14

So, whilst RM 240k is a lot of money for a Japanese D-Segment car, I would argue that the 20th Anniversary offers the same fit, finish and execution of a car costing double its price.

If there's any criticism, it’s that the interior will not be easy to keep clean given its light colours.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 15

Elsewhere, the interior architecture is spot on; few manufacturers match Mazda in my opinion with regards to the important things like seating position, ergonomics and adjustability that is centred around being comfortable and confident behind the wheel.

Round the back, seating is also comfortable for rear passengers. There is adequate thigh, shoulder and lower back support even over longer journeys for four passengers, five with a slight squeeze.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 16

Of course, the familiar drawback of the Mazda 6 remains, it loses out to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in terms of rear legroom. Though you wouldn’t exactly call it cramped, C-segment cars like the Honda Civic now offer as much room, and the Camry and Accord have gotten even larger.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 17

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 18

Otherwise, refinement levels are great cabin insulation that is on par with current segment offerings. Some tyre and wind noise does creep in around the A-pillar areas at higher speeds of around 110 km/h - 120 km/h, but one could hardly call it a deal-breaker.

Does the Mazda 6 still have the best driving experience?

So does the Mazda 6 still deliver that top-notch driving experience which is, after all, a cornerstone behind buying any Mazda?

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 19

Well… yes and no. And let’s qualify this. It’s not that the Mazda 6 doesn’t drive superbly, it’s just that its competitors have caught up, and perhaps even overtaken it.

As we sampled in the Touring variant as well, the steering is taut and quick and throttle modulation is so intuitive that every throttle results in a precise ramp-up of the engine; so you know just how much throttle to apply if you're going into a corner or climbing a hill.

Also read: Used (GJ) Mazda 6 for under RM 80k - Japan's sharpest large sedan takes the fight to the Germans; how much to maintain and repair?

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 20

The suspension is, for the most part, sublime – poised and composed on rough roads and large bumps, but it still has that familiar overreaction to small irregularities on the road.

This is apparent on road cracks and highway expansion joints which is mostly attributed to the 19-inch rims, variants with smaller rims and fatter tyres don’t suffer from this, again, it's a bugbear, not a deal breaker.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 21

Overall levels of grip and stability are superb, making it a joy to drive on a highway and likewise, on a twisty backroad. The Mazda 6 always feels light on its feet, controlled as it changes direction and eager to enter and exit a corner.

Although brakes are a bit squishy during initial pedal travel, they are predictable and strong if you need them.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 22

Putting it all together, the Mazda 6 is still a joy to drive. However, the Accord is now far closer in terms of overall comfort and handling performance, and the 2023 Camry 2.5V may have overtaken it.

Yes, you read that right. With a new engine, 8-speed gearbox and the lauded TNGA platform, it exhibits beautiful power, poise, and overall performance. It flows beautifully from corner to corner, it’s sharp and responsive when it needs to be, and forgiving where it matters the most.

Thus, by a thin margin, is the best-handling D-Segment sedan on sale currently.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 23

With 192 PS and 258 Nm of torque, the Mazda 6 isn’t brutally fast but engine response and smooth and there's adequate power anytime you need it. The engine feels torquey down low and develops linear power right up to 6,000 rpm.

Highway cruising is pretty much effortless as well, keep your right foot pinned and the Mazda 6 will accelerate with confidence up to approximately 170 km/h before power starts to taper off.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 24

In our commonplace test, the Mazda 6 completed the century sprint with a best time of 9.95 seconds. Alongside the Mazda 6 offers decent (though not the best) fuel efficiency as well.

Completing our internal fuel test, the Mazda 6 returned an average fuel usage of 10.09 litres/100km, requiring 15.00 litres of fuel after the 148.7 km test distance, spread 50/50 between highway and inner-city driving.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 25

The figures are pretty much identical to the Mazda 6 Touring tested a week earlier.

Also read: Plans for RWD, next-gen Mazda 6 canned, CX-60 platform not suitable

Improved ADAS works well…

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 26

The Mazda 6 20th Anniversary also features the latest generation Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) with Stop&Go and Traffic Support functions and it works really well.

Just tap the button of the steering wheel, set your cruising speed and it almost immediately detects its surroundings and gets going.

Also read: Chinese tuner can't wait for the next-gen Mazda 6; converts current one to RWD with a Lexus V8

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 27

Road detection is exact, it very quickly detects if lane markings disappear, but still keeps the car centred well within the lane. Additionally, at low speeds between 10-30 km/h steering action is smooth and fluidic and tracks neighbouring vehicles nicely.

If I was nitpicking, acceleration and deceleration (especially when it detects merging vehicles) could be a tad smoother, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

So as always is the case; does the Mazda 6 offer the right experience, equipment and performance for its asking price? Or are you better off with one of its competitors?

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 28

In such a tightly contested segment, which is shrinking as we speak, the 2023 Honda Accord is the clear leader in space, it’s also the fastest from 0-100 km/h and the cheapest car of the trio. So does it offer value? Yes absolutely.

While it’s hard to believe, yes, the 2023 Toyota Camry is now the best-driving Japanese D-Segment car on sale; sublime handling, astute comfort and thanks to its Dynamic Force 2.5L powertrain, also the best fuel economy (at 7.9 litres/100km), plus it still comes in cheaper than the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 29

However, the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary shines for its ageless beauty and refinement, it’s still got the best steering feel, superb safety standards and by some margin, the most beautiful interior of any Japanese car ever sold.

Also note, if the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary is just too expensive, there’s always the Mazda 6 2.0L which delivers 75 percent of what the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary does but undercuts all its competitors at RM 180,359. So that’s food for thought as well.

Review: 2023 Mazda 6 20th Anniversary - Timeless class and style, but is age catching up? 30

As for the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary, there’s a saying in the car community that goes – if you don’t turn your back to check out your car once you’ve parked it, then you’ve bought the wrong car – the Mazda 6 20th Anniversary is that car will always make you turn around and admire it. For that reason alone, it's worth the money.

Arvind

Senior Writer

Arvind can't remember a time when he didn't wheel around a HotWheels car. This love evolved into an interest in Tamiya and RC cars and finally the real deal 1:1 scale stuff. Passion finally lead to formal training in Mechanical Engineering. Instead of the bigger picture, he obsesses with the final drive ratio and spring rates of cars and spends the weekends wondering why a Perodua Myvi is so fast.

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