If the new Mazda 6 was just 50 cents longer, it would be as big as a Commodore.
The third-generation car has grown to the point that it is within a coin-width (38mm) of a big Australian sedan.
Mazda executives bristle like a Lillee moustache if you suggest the new 6 could be considered a large car, because they don’t want their new product to be compared to a moribund local.
Even so, the Mazda folks realise the game has changed, that cars like the 3 and CX-5 are now more important to their soaring sales total and have adjusted Mazda 6 expectations accordingly.
For the new 6, there will be 14 models, including sedans and wagons, and prices start from $33,460 and peak at $51,160. Given the 6 will no longer be offered with a manual, this represents only a $10 price rise for the entry car.
Mazda built the new model from the ground up, introducing a larger body, a 105mm-longer wheelbase and replacing double wishbones with struts at the front.
A different approach has been taken for the interior, which is neat, verging on dull. Mazda has included two efficient petrol and diesel engines from the SkyActiv family and a new energy-recovery system using a capacitor, which improves fuel economy by a claimed five percent.
The oiler, which made its debut in the CX-5, is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder with an extremely low compression ratio of 14.0:1. This 129kW/420Nm unit is a sublime powerplant for this car and is far more civilised than most diesels. A six-speed torque-converter automatic is standard in all cars (including diesel for the first time) as the manuals have been dumped due to poor sales.
Mazda appears to have targeted comfort when it came to developing the new 6. There is considerable vertical movement over pronounced uneven surfaces and noticeable bodyroll in the bends, but it falls short of lurching.
While the 19-inch rims of test cars picked up minor bumps, it is a generally compliant set-up that makes the car easy to live with day to day while the electric steering is progressive and provides ample feel, even if it is ever so slightly lighter that it should be.