Review: 2023 Mazda 6 Touring 2.5G - A swansong survivor of its kind, but does it still make sense?
Arvind · Nov 4, 2023 06:00 PM
Station wagons have pretty much been around as long as the car itself. Though largely uncategorised early on and even loosely called sedans in the early-1900s. That is, until the advent of monocoque bodies in the 1930s, where the wagon would be defined as a vehicle with an elongated roof, a rear opening tailgate and 1- or 2-seat rows behind the driver’s seat.
For the most part, wagons were a working man’s tool, and they have remained popular, crucially in Europe and the USA over the last 50 years. However, with more and more buyers opting for SUVs, wagons have fallen by the wayside. Global sales dropped year-on-year, estimated at a total of 1.41 million in 2022, down from 2.5 million in 2018.
This begs the question, why would Bermaz Auto continue to offer the 2023 Mazda 6 Touring (M6T) in Malaysia?
Though offering graceful beauty and a proven powertrain, the M6T may be a lone ranger past its prime, in an ever-growing sea of SUVs that do more for the same money. Thus, is there any logical reason to buy the M6T, or is it precisely a lack thereof that makes you want one so badly? Let’s drive.
The current GJ-generation Mazda 6 Touring has been around since 2013, though it (and likewise the Mazda 6 Sedan) have seen a plethora of updates in that time. In fact, the Mazda 6 range has received running updates in all the last five years - gaining improved equipment, new trimmings and subtle styling tweaks that have come with some changes in prices.
Keeping it brief, the facelift model you see here, identified by its revamped grille and black garnish that runs underneath the headlamps was first introduced in 2018.
6-Airbags, ABS, BA, DSC, TCS, front and rear AEB, BSM, LKA, LDWS, RCTA, ACC with CTS
Given it was the most comprehensive facelift since the model’s first introduction, the Mazda 6 range received updated engines with more power in both the 2.0-litre (162 PS/213 Nm) and 2.5-litre (192 PS/258 Nm) variants, LED headlights and taillights and even an entirely new dashboard design with a more neatly position infotainment screen.
In 2019 the Mazda 6 crucially received the GVC Plus chassis control feature and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In 2021, the range was equipped with Wireless Apple CarPlay Walk-away auto door lock (2.0) and paddle shifters across the range.
The most recent update in Oct of this year introduced the 20th Anniversary variant, which added a salvo of styling upgrades and improved equipment. Still, otherwise, the other variants were unchanged, including the M6T.
Not too long ago, there were a number of wagons on sale in Malaysia. At its price point, the M6T was rivalled by the Peugeot 508 SW GT, Hyundai i40 Tourer, Subaru Levorg and the Subaru Outback.
Today, only the M6T and (RM 240k) Subaru Outback remain on sale, and you don’t see too many of the latter around as well. Because, let’s be honest, if all you wanted was a car that is essentially jacked up a few inches, you might as well get yourself a Subaru Forester.
So what we have with the M6T is essentially the only car in its class, having outlasted all its peers, and that to me is special.
It’s worth noting, that wagons survived the MPV/minivan craze of the 90s, and the early days of the SUV boom in the early-2000s. However, those were largely different wagons with squared-off rear quarters providing space for your luggage, pets and then some.
With SUVs becoming more mainstream, wagons became sleeker, with curvaceous rear ends that sacrificed boot space and all-important tailgate opening aperture in favour of overall styling. So, whilst, they have a taller boot, they don’t hold much more cargo than a sedan.
Case in point, with 522 litres of bootspace, the M6T offers just 42 litres more bootspace than the Mazda 6 Sedan (at 480 litres). In contrast, the Mazda CX-8 which can be had for less money, will offer 775-litres with the third-row folded down, or carry two more passengers otherwise. Thus, there’s little argument as to which model offers more practicality.
But why do I still want one…
For starters, despite its age, the M6T still looks beautiful after all these years. Owing to its flowing body lines, sleek proportions, and contoured body surfaces – it’s still a car that forces a second glance as you roll down the road.
Finished in the sublime Polymetal Grey which beams different shades of grey depending on ambient light, the M6T just oozes cool and understated style that is on par with the best at this price point.
The M6T gets gloss black highlights throughout its exterior bodywork, including the front grille, headlamps and bumper garnishes, as well as the side mirror caps and wheels.
They’re finished well but I would have wished for lighter highlights, especially contrasted against the Polymetal Grey. Specifically, the wheels, which would have looked better in Gunmetal Grey. Finished in black, the wheels look smaller than their prescribed 19 inches and hide much of their design detail.
With that said, the black highlights would work superbly with brighter colours, like silver or the iconic Soul Red Crystal in my opinion.
Getting inside, it’s like coming home! Having last driven an M6T some five years ago, everything comes back almost instantly, the seating position is sublime with a straight arrow sight of the steering wheel and pedals in front of me.
The ergonomics of the M6T are spot on, and few manufacturers match Mazda with regard to seating position and the overall interior architecture, which is centred around driving comfortably at all times. Thus it only takes a matter of minutes to gain confidence in the M6T.
The interior build quality is superb, and in my opinion, matches premium vehicles costing RM 50k more. This is where your money goes in a Mazda, every surface is tactile to the touch, stylish and solidly put together.
Elsewhere, hemmed in red, the leather seats are supple and look superb, offering great support both for your back and thighs even over longer journeys. Thus, the M6T is one of the very few cars that just get my two kids calm and settled in a matter of minutes. Other notable mentions include the Kia Sorento and VW Arteon.
2023 Mazda 6 Touring 2.5G - Cabin noise level
Refinement levels are great too, with the M6T offering 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.
The Mazda 6 Touring (and Sedan) generally offer a spacious cabin with adequate legroom at the front and back for four adults. However, note that rear legroom isn’t as generous as other D-Segment models such as the Toyota Camry or the class-leading Honda Accord.
With that said, being a wagon, the boot still offers decent more cargo space than the sedan. The larger boot aperture (and low floor height) still allows for easy loading of bigger items such as a stroller and large travel bags.
However, that's not the only reason why you'd want the M6T...
Besides the fact that it just oozes pizzaz, the ultimate reason why you'd want the M6T is because of how the driving experience comes together. Almost as soon as you start moving, that 'Jinba Ittai' Mazda driving experience takes centre stage.
The steering is taut and quick and throttle modulation is so intuitive that every inch of pedal movement results in precise acceleration of the engine; such that you know just how much throttle is needed to climb a hill or to overtake a slower-moving car.
Setting up for a corner, the brakes tend to be a bit squishy at first but otherwise, the M6T tucks its nose nose into a corner; whilst the rest of the body follows with solid fluidity. The same is true on the straightaways, where the added weight translates into beautiful high-speed composure and stability.
Perhaps most impressively, the M6T always manages to feel light on its feet despite its size and weight, almost matching the Mazda 6 Sedan's overall grip levels and handling 90 percent of the time.
With 192 PS and 258 Nm of torque, the M6T doesn't exactly offer neck-snapping acceleration but there's adequate power anytime you need it. The engine feels torquey down low and develops linear power right up to 5,500 rpm.
In our commonplace 0-100 km/h test, the M6T completed the century sprint with a best time of 10 seconds flat, on par with most of the local D-Segment offerings.
Highway cruising is pretty much effortless as well, keep your right foot pinned and the M6T will accelerate with gusto right up to approximately 170 km/h before the power tapers off.
Elsewhere, fuel economy isn't too bad either. Completing our internal fuel test, the M6T returned an average fuel usage of 10.05 litres/100km, requiring 11.15 litres of fuel after the 110.9 km test route, spread 50/50 between highway and inner-city driving. Admittedly fuel economy isn't the best in class, but it isn't exactly a small hatchback either.
The M6T is a swansong survivor of its kind, and we love it for that reason alone. Though logically speaking, you would never need an M6T for its practicality over an SUV, we must remember purchasing a vehicle is rarely simply a logical decision - it's aspirational, it's emotional and it expresses your individuality.
This is where the M6T truly aces the scorecards: it looks and feels expensive and it stands out in a crowd, and for RM 231k, few other cars will give you more of that elusive street-cred.
Additionally, it's a sublime family cruiser, and this comes back to how calm my two children are in the back seat. Whilst it may not have an SUV-sized boot, the M6T doesn't roll and heave around like an SUV, due to its lower centre of gravity and surefooted handling.
Thus, in a way, it's the best compromise of all worlds, and this is perhaps why I want one so badly!
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.