- Doors and Seats
- Engine Power
- Ancap Safety
Justin Narayan drives the 2022 Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon to see how it goes carrying dogs, kids, and everything else a family car needs to.
- Quiet cabin and supple suspension
- Kid-friendly second row and pet-friendly cargo area
- Looks great
- Feels overpowered, especially on a damp road
- Interior is showing its age
- Not as ‘hot’ as you might think
On the surface, it’s quick to judge the 2021 Mazda 6 Wagon as old. Despite the odd product improvement and new powertrain, the overall skeleton remains largely unchanged since 2016.
Another easy low blow is to claim newer and better alternatives have arrived since – namely SUVs. Looking at the market does nothing but support this rhetoric, too, as if you’re after a wagon in the $40,000–$50,000 bracket, there’s only a couple of options left nowadays.
First is the standard-fare Skoda Octavia, second the Mini Clubman, but that’s more of a small car than archetypal mid-sized wagon. The Mazda 6 is so old that hardly anyone even makes this type of product anymore.
However, as we all know, not everything old is bad, just like how something unpopular may also be good. The more supportive side of the coin – often spruiked by wagon owners like yours truly – is that people don’t know what they’re missing, and there’s a lot to love in a wagon.
Not only is its form great, but it’s also functional, with a large cargo area and rear hatch making perfect ergonomic sense. Wagons also have a lower centre of gravity compared to SUVs, so they’re better intrinsically and likely more rewarding to drive.
If you’re intrigued, read on. The wagon we’re testing today is the 2021 Mazda 6 GT SP, and is a recent addition to the brand’s mid-sized line-up. Those two new ‘GT SP’ abbreviations mean it’s the sports-inspired and turbocharged version, and one that starts from $47,990 before on-roads.
You’ll find it perched above the naturally aspirated 2021 Mazda 6 Touring Wagon from $40,190 plus on-road costs, and below the range-topping Mazda 6 Atenza worth $51,390 plus on-road costs. And like its more expensive sibling, the Mazda GT SP features a potent 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
With power figures reminiscent of a hot hatch’s spec sheet, does that mean this wagon is actually a closet fire-breather? Let’s find out.
To change things up, we’ll start from the cargo area, as after all you’re shopping for a wagon primarily for space.
The Mazda 6 Wagon’s boot is huge at 506L, or 32L more than the sedan. It’s a great vehicle if you have pets – something that’s best reflected in the gallery below.
My medium-sized Australian cattle dog fit nicely alongside two pieces of generously sized luggage, demonstrating the ample room on offer. The low load lip is also handy, meaning Fido and friends can jump in and out without fuss.
If you cycle instead of walk, you’ll also love the space. The boot’s aperture is nice, wide and tyre-friendly, and inside there are a pair of seat levers to drop the second row remotely before loading your bike.
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A final smart touch comes from a cargo blind that clips to the rear window instead of the parcel shelf area. This means your goods are protected out-of-sight by a cargo blind that doesn’t rob the area of space.
Smart stuff. Rounding out the boot are some cargo hooks, a light, and space-saving spare wheel. Moving forward into the second row, size and space continue. Sitting behind my own driving position (I’m 183cm tall), my knees were well clear of the seat backs, feet left plenty of room, and head with just enough space.
It feels big, but three large adults will find it squashy. The point about headroom matters more with child seats, as rearward-facing pews will require the precision loading of young children due to a sloping roof line.
Once they are older and in forward-facing seats, however, loading them becomes a breeze. Kids have plenty of space to frolic, as a taller-than-average four-year-old could stretch his legs almost straight to keep away the fatigue. It’s worth noting, though, that the Mazda 6 Sedan has a slightly longer wheelbase and frees up a touch more space between rows.
It gets better if you’re an adult, too, as both outbound rear seats are heated. In order to access the controls, simply flip down the rear armrest console and look past the pair of cupholders. As a nice surprise, buried within the storage cubby in the armrest is a single USB power port.
Over in the first row it’s business as usual for a Mazda. Despite looking dated, the cabin and dashboard still look nicely put together, with acres of squishy places to chock your corners, metres of red detail stitching and nice finishes throughout.
Our GT SP version comes exclusively with a unique red leather trim, which when paired to the almost grey Blue Reflex paint results in a visual one-two knockout blow. The black wheels just add more style, but there’s no denying the simple paintwork and exotic interior strike the right balance between showiness and suaveness.
However, after being wowed by the finishes and colour selection, you begin to notice a few legacy issues. One is there’s no digital speedometer in the gauge cluster (though there is in the head-up display), and another is the small infotainment screen with equally crude resolution. Compared to the latest and greatest out there, it feels mid 2010s, and that’s because its interior design honestly is.
Like the concept of the wagon, being dated doesn’t mean bad. It still features a rotary control dial for its infotainment system that I love, and its air-conditioning controls are also button-heavy. I can also appreciate the Apple CarPlay USB port being located in the armrest, too, as so many new cars still get it wrong.
The seats are also comfortable, have electric lumbar adjustment and two-position memory, and are heated. Visibility front-to-back is great; however, those who frequent tight communes may lust for the top-spec Atenza model for the 360-degree parking camera alone.
|2021 Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon|
|Boot volume||506L seats up / 1648L seats folded|
Infotainment and Connectivity
The 2021 Mazda 6 GT SP features an 8.0-inch infotainment system with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
It also packs native navigation, digital radio, and intuitive remote-located control dial. However, the software interface hasn’t changed for over half a decade now, with small resolution and simple graphics making it feel older than it needs to.
A simple re-skin would work wonders. Audio is pushed through an 11-speaker Bose stereo system that sounds bright and big enough, but requires some tweaking. Switching off ‘centrepoint mode’ creates a more natural, clear and honest stereo reproduction that maintains clarity at greater volumes.
In terms of USB port count, there are two in the first row and one in the second row.
As expected from a near-on $50K family car, the Mazda 6 GT SP is full of driver assist systems.
Standard equipment includes both forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and speed sign recognition.
The Mazda 6 GT SP features LED headlight with auto high beam and adaptive front lighting that can ‘turn’ with the steering, but upgrading to the top-of-the-range Atenza model adds more advanced matrix-style lighting with selective illumination. Officially, the Mazda 6 range wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating having been crashed and assessed in 2018.
As a quick recap, our Mazda 6 GT SP costs $47,990 before on-roads, or $53,000 on the road registered in New South Wales. If you want to compare wagons with wagons, the most obvious other is the 2022 Skoda Octavia.
Sadly, your budget will have to go either way. The likely path is to spend approximately $2500 more and buy the performance Octavia RS version for $55,490 drive-away, and the other less likely one is to buy an entry-level Skoda Octavia 110TSI Style and load it with options.
How many options? Enough to make it cost around $49,000 drive-away. Given its 1.4-litre powertrain, I’d wager you’d want the RS version, however, especially if you’re looking at the GT SP – unless you’re quick and manage to secure an Octavia Limited Edition 140TSI, which matches more closely on equipment without trailing too far behind in terms of performance.
Another appropriate choice that’s coming soon is the 2022 Subaru WRX Sportswagon. Official details are scarce, but pricing is expected to start with a four in the front, and the range powered by a 2.4-litre turbo flat-four engine with similar figures to the Mazda’s.
Stay tuned, as we’ll line up a comparison as soon as we can. Over the three-week loan, the Mazda’s trip computer returned a fuel-usage figure of 8.8L/100km, just over one litre more than the official combined claim of 7.6L/100km.
|At a glance||2021 Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 10,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1254 (3 years), $2058 (5 years)|
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||7.6L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||8.8L/100km|
|Fuel type||91-octane petrol|
|Fuel tank size||62L|
It’s quick to read the spec sheet and assume the Mazda 6 Wagon is a fire-breather.
Sounding like something from a hot hatch or performance coupe, its 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine on paper makes a hefty 170kW/420Nm, with the latter offered in full from 2000rpm.
Everything is then processed by a traditional six-speed auto with a torque converter, then sent solely to the front wheels. It’s the configuration that gets the better of the set-up, as being front-wheel drive means the Mazda 6 squabbles for traction in some conditions.
If the road is even slightly damp, the mighty 420Nm torque figure will induce wheel spin with barely any throttle input. Even in the dry, accelerating briskly from a set of lights will even get the tyres chirping. It’s not like the tyres are bad either, as the Mazda 6 wears high-quality Bridgestone rubber on all four corners.
It’s likely because Mazda didn’t install any kind of electronic or mechanical limited-slip differential or torque-vectoring system to the transaxle. Instead of power being distributed evenly across the front two wheels, it’s instead simply all fed to one wheel, where it becomes overwhelmed too quickly.
You need to manage throttle inputs, but after time it becomes easy to toe the line. It’s swift when you get the power down, but the torque figure mainly helps when the boot is loaded to the gills.
With four on board and a decently full boot, it retains enough spice to dabble in right-lane overtakes and swift merges. The six-speed automatic is tuned more toward refinement and smoothness than outright shift speed, so don’t expect to be banging gears on the redline using the shifter paddles.
Instead, leave it in D and use the throttle pedal to ride the thick wave of torque. More importantly for a family car, the automatic is geared well, excellent in stop-start traffic, and is almost silent when operating.
Speaking of which, the cabin experience is rather tranquil too. It’s clear Mazda has focused on noise, vibration and harshness, as coming out of a 2022 Hyundai i30 N and into the Mazda felt like a revelation.
Unlike the Hyundai, you’re able to maintain a quiet conversation with your passengers at highway speeds. Even over the horrible, coarse-chip stuff that gets in between the tyres and howls, it didn’t interfere with the 11-speaker Bose audio and general ambiance.
Keeping in line with the quiet cabin is the soft suspension damping. Again, don’t expect a corner-carver, but more of a relaxed experience with supple damping that calms not encourages.
Potholes and road imperfections are diluted pleasantly and ride quality feels consistent across most surfaces. It’s easily one of the best parts of the Mazda 6 experience, and proves that you can have big wheels and fantastic ride comfort without complex adaptive suspension.
Up at pace on flowing and faster sections of the road, the limit can be reached quite easily, but over the edge lies safe understeer and not much else. The softer suspension can put a damper on performance driving, but within the speed limits the Mazda 6 is a wonderful thing to cover country miles in.
|Key details||2021 Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon|
|Engine||2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||170kW @ 5000rpm|
|Torque||420Nm @ 2000rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Six-speed torque convertor automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||104.4kW/t|
|Tow rating||1600kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
Traditionalism is something we’re losing quicker than ever. As we just discovered, it’s slim pickings if you’re after a wagon costing somewhere between $40–$50K.
Just five years ago, instead of two or three brands, you’d have over 10 brands vying for your attention, with over 60 variations of wagon to sort through. Ten years ago? Nearly 15 car brands were offering wagons costing between $40–$50K back then, and over 100 models to go with it.
Market forces will push out both the good and bad, however, with the humble wagon falling victim as collateral damage. Cars like the Mazda 6 GT SP prove that the body type isn’t broken or dated. If anything it’s required once more and possibly overdue for a renaissance.
Other than some dated tech elements, a low hip point and poorer visibility in traffic – partly due to high-riding cars being everywhere – it’s still as relevant as ever. Underneath the long and decadent styling is a quiet and well-built cabin, powerful driveline with pleasingly traditional elements, stacks of space, and pleasant road manners.
All the hallmarks of a good family car, then, and all the more reason to buy one over a similarly priced 2022 Mazda CX-5.