Your choice: style or sensibility
MAZDA 6 GT
Refreshing Mazda’s medium- size sedan and wagon only adds polish to a model that can take on the European prestige players and offer a lot more value for money. But it’s a big car — on par with the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore that are exiting the market because they’re considered too big.
PRICE: $42,720. Prices for the Mazda 6 sedan range start $10,000 cheaper than this GT so if you’re after space and style without all the fruit, perhaps the entry-level Sport is more to your taste. The GT, however, is loaded and looks classy thanks to its leather upholstery, 19-inch alloy wheels, sunroof and technology such as 11-speaker audio, LED headlights and sat nav. Mazda has a conditional service program depending on distance travelled and based on annual services. The lifetime capped- price service program will cost $924 for three years. The resale after three years is 45 per cent.
The Mazda6 looks great. Picture: mazda.com.au
GRACE: This year’s polish subtly lifted the presence of the car, adding a chrome smile around the six-bar grille, moving the tail-lights outwards and lifting the cabin with a new lower console, the addition of an electric park brake (which creates more personal storage space) and contrasting wood- look and material trim. It’s all as good as a European car costing twice the price. Safety equipment is also comprehensive, including six airbags, front and rear park sensors, reverse camera and LED headlights and daytime running lights. Seriously consider paying $1060 extra for a more comprehensive safety pack, including automatic low- speed braking.
SPACE: This is a big car at only 80mm shorter than a Commodore. It offers about the same seating and cabin room, falling short in boot space by 22 litres at 474 litres — still a decent luggage volume. The rear can seat three adults but is best for two — with liberal legroom and adequate headroom. The cabin is also a pleasant environment thanks to the scalloped-leather seats, the 60/40 split rear seat that folds down to boost boot space and the availability of personal storage areas. The Mazda 6 will tow up to 1500kg, marginally better than the Hyundai.
PACE: Mazda has refused to tow the turbo line when it comes to its petrol engines. It figures it gets enough power and economy by other means and that’s proven in the 2.5-litre engine’s stunning 6.6L/100km average and brisk 8.2sec. sprint to 100km/h. But in suburban driving it can be hesitant and feel a bit dull. So Mazda added a “sport” button to increase engine response. You wouldn’t use it all the time but it’s handy on winding roads, for example. Ride comfort is compliant yet the cornering stance is flat and that makes the Mazda 6 one of the best sedans around for this important balance between handling and comfort.
HYUNDAI SONATA PREMIUM
This is the new kid on the block. But unlike the Mazda6, the Sonata is conservative in exterior styling and restrained in cabin decor. It will sell alongside the more radically- penned i40 so I guess you now have a choice depending on which side of your brain is dominant. But don’t get too caught up in the styling — one drive of this is likely to win you over.
PRICE: Hyundai sell three Sonata sedans. The $41,990 Premium is the top-shelf model, sharing a turbocharged engine with the mid-spec Elite, while the $29,990 entry-level Active has an aspirated 2.4-litre engine. The Premium rewards owners with a panoramic glass roof, heated and vented front seats, 18-inch alloys, six- speaker audio, sat nav and leather-look upholstery. The warranty is five years and unlimited distance, there’s roadside assistance, the sat nav map gets free upgrades for three years and the capped- price service is for life and costs $1095 for three years. Three- year resale is 44 per cent.
The Hyundai Sonata is the better drive. Picture: hyundai.com.au
GRACE: Compared to the Mazda, the Sonata has a very conservative body design that’s only lifted by the Genesis-like grille. The cabin is well finished but, again, is conservative. For ease of maintenance, buyers may prefer the leather-look upholstery to Mazda’s real leather. The Sonata has good ergonomics and excellent clarity in switchgear, central monitor and gauges. The safety kit includes six airbags, front and rear park sensors, rear camera and bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and a full-size spare wheel.
SPACE: It’s almost the same length as the Mazda, though is wider and higher and has a bigger boot at 510 litres. Cabin space is more generous, especially for the driver. It will also accommodate three adults on the rear seat. Personal storage is also good, helped by the tiny electric park brake (other Sonatas have a foot-operated park brake). The tow rating is up to 1300kg.
PACE: This is the first application of Hyundai’s 180kW/350Nm 2-litre turbo- petrol engine, sister to the Veloster’s 1.6-litre unit. It’s quick, has plenty of low-end torque and mates perfectly with the six-speed automatic. Its thirst is a rather high 9.2L/100km but it uses standard petrol. The most impressive aspect of the Sonata is its handling. Few sedans at this price can be so poised, so confident and so much fun to drive along sweeping roads. Ride comfort and quietness are also excellent, even over Mazda.
It’s unexpected that the bland Sonata is such a great driving car. Hyundai’s ownership costs are also low, making it a sensible buy. The Mazda is less of a driving car but wins on resale value and style. Your choice — style or sensibility.
© The West Australian
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