If you’re the sort of person who wonders why the country has gone SUV mad when wagons still exist, there are still plenty of stylish, if upmarket options for you. The Mazda 6 is likely near the top of the list for many, and with good reason. The exterior has a style that rivals the Europeans for class and restraint, and the interior has become more and more of a strength for Mazda.
Now, there’s another reason to consider the Mazda 6 wagon as an SUV alternative if you’re looking for something plush – the SP GT Wagon. Though it’s not quite a top of the range model in the 6 family, slotting in below the ‘Atenza’ spec, the Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon does include plenty of high-spec kit. For some drivers, what’s under the bonnet will be of most interest.
Mazda’s excellent turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine powers the GT SP, making this spec the cheapest way to access that drivetrain without buying a base-model (and huge) Mazda CX-9.
With that extra power – 170kW and 420Nm – plus some sportier styling, Mazda saw fit to bestow the 6 with its SP badge, usually reserved for a variant with a bit of a performance bump over the rest of its range. In this instance, the SP shares the same performance as its Atenza sibling, though at a slightly more accessible price.
Prior to the Mazda 6 range copping an update, the GT SP’s predecessor GT was $700 cheaper with the same engine and outputs, but with a more spesh interior. Now a $47,990 offering, the Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon includes a lovely burgundy red leather seating scheme, coupled with matching red stitching on elements covered in black leather, such as the steering wheel and dash.
Those red leather seats are also now heated, including the two primary rear seats. Aluminium-look trim is now used to accent places like the door cards, dash, and instrument panel.
On the outside, turbo badging denotes the drivetrain, while the GT SP gains black 19-inch alloy wheels, black mirror caps, and the $495 Polymetal Grey paint option (pictured on our test car) is now available across the Mazda 6 range.
The only other addition to our test car is a set of floor mats, a $242 option, which brings our as-tested price to $48,727. It should be said that, while this might look pricey on paper, the car felt suitably specified to be near that price point from the driver’s seat.
Once we start taking into account the realities of buying a new car, stamp duty, a year of rego, and dealer fees, the Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon cops a recommended delivered price of $52,852 according to Mazda, if one was to buy new in Melbourne.
Mazda also covers new cars with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and lists the pricing for the first five services specific to a 6 GT SP as $349 at 10,000km, $379 at 20,000km, and then alternating between the two prices every 10,000km up to 50,000km. Mazda adds a recommendation to replace the cabin filter and brake fluid every 40,000km, something it will attend to for $82 and $76 respectively.
Of course, it needs to be addressed that the Mazda 6 is now effectively eight years old, having been refreshed with a facelift in 2018, though it hides its age better than a Hollywood A-lister.
Among the mild giveaways is the infotainment system, which despite being updated in 2018 and becoming an early adopter of smartphone mirroring within Mazda’s stable, now feels outmoded compared to the newer, slicker version in cars like the Mazda 3 and CX-30.
Even using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto reveals that the system isn’t quite as fast, nor its physical controls as intuitive, as the new version. Similarly, the steering wheel still features Mazda’s older-style controls, though that’s pretty much where the potential gripes with dated features end.
The cabin is a plush environment overall, with the usual conveniences like cupholders under a sliding cover, a decent glovebox, and a relatively small storage bin in the centre console. There are also two USB points in addition to the 12V outlet in the front. Perhaps at the expense of style, incidental storage in the cabin is compromised, but it’s not dire, and being seated in those heated red leather seats feels like an occasion, even in the rears.
Back passengers will find they have plenty of room and a comfortable seating position for long trips, plus a small storage space for something phone-sized in the armrest, and bottle storage in the doors. The second-row climate vents are fairly rudimentary though, but there’s a USB charging point for passengers.
Just slightly further back, the boot is claimed to be 506 litres, though Mazda says this is only measured up to the cargo cover, and there’s also the fact lowering the rear seats allows for plenty more space. In fact, getting a full-sized road bicycle in the Mazda 6’s boot is very easy.
On the road, the focus on comfort in the Mazda 6 becomes obvious, with suspension well suited to highway cruises and that flexible 2.5-litre turbo, which lacks the lag you’d expect from such an engine, providing lovely low-range torque and even revving out to keep things hustling a little past 5000rpm where the power begins to subside.
A highway run also exposes the Mazda 6’s ability to suppress road noise, something that was a potential concern after the engine was audible from the driver’s seat upon cold start. Thankfully, though it’s not silent, the cabin of the 6 is a calm place at 100km/h, its Bose sound system not having to fight with tyre or wind noise to entertain.
The myriad safety systems in the 6 Wagon, which include things like lane departure alert and lane keep assist, ‘Smart City Brake Support', and a few passive elements like blind-spot monitoring, road sign recognition and driver attention alert all put the mind at ease without interrupting the drive. The only qualm that the button to turn off lane assist is low to the right of the steering column, not an immediately obvious placement.
Braking relatively quickly at a high speed is also possible here in a calm manner, with an easy progression through the brake pedal that feels well-judged. Hard braking mid-corner is a slightly different story, though for a 1.6-tonne wagon the 6 still manages to remain quite composed. Rough roads can see it become slightly unstuck, though its ride is smoother than the pre-facelift 6 and jostling the GT SP through backroads can still prove fun.
Its steering feels quite firm, if still comfortable, and direct enough to have no concerns about accuracy, while body roll is always able to be kept in check. Hard acceleration on damp roads will see the Bridgestone Turanzas struggle slightly, though there’s no tantrum from the axle.
Trying to drive the Mazda 6 GT SP too hard will begin to show it come unstuck, though in a relatively linear manner that’s easy to rein in, rather than bucking the driver into a dangerous situation. For its inability to be a proper drivers car, it feels odd to refer to the 6 Wagon as an ‘SP’, the badge having previously been bestowed upon the likes of the turbocharged Mazda MX-5 or the wicked RX-7 after some Australian engineering.
Odd badging aside, the Mazda 6 is a genuinely entertaining car in a category where rivals are becoming thinner on the ground. Euro competitors are all pricier, bar offerings from Volkswagen or Skoda, but they don’t even supply the same amount of grunt at similar specs. The obvious other option for anyone at this price point is a Subaru Levorg, a wagon we’ve found in the past to be a little underdone for a brand with such a strong reputation.
While it’s not the last word in luxury or performance, the Mazda 6 GT SP Wagon provides enough of both, with a price and warranty that, in a perfect world, should keep buyers coming in even after the wagon feels like a forgotten relic.
Pros Stylish exterior, plush interior; combo of comfort and practicality; lovely turbo drivetrain
Cons Not particularly cheap; some dated features such as infotainment
Body: five-door, five seat wagon
Engine: 1488cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Bore/stroke: 89.0mm x 100.0mm
Power: 170kW @ 5000rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 2000rpm
Fuel consumption: 7.6L/100km
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Suspension: Strut, damper, spring, anti-roll bar (f); Multi-links, damper, spring, anti-roll bar (f)
Brakes: 297mm ventilated disc (f); 278mm solid disc (r)
Wheels: 19 x 7.5-inch
Tyres: 225/45 R19, Bridgestone Turanza T005A
Price (before on-roads and options): $47,990