It's rare for a vehicle to lead the class the entirety of its life cycle, but that's exactly what the previous Mazda6 accomplished.
Kick-starting Mazda's zoom-zoom revolution in 2002, the 6 sold an impressive 12,500 units in this country and still topped sales charts for the medium car class in 2008.
No pressure for the new model then.
Fortunately the new model builds on the foundations that proved such a popular blend for the original. Not least of which is bold styling; more athletic than ever the new 6 stands out among rivals with beautifully sculptured surfaces, contemporary head and tail lamps and a wider, sleeker stance.
Either of the three body variants (sedan, hatch and wagon) look equally arresting.
For fleet buyers the entry level 2.0 litre GLX spec is available in sedan and wagon configuration and it's far from Billy basic with six airbags, a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, active headrests, cruise control, an MP3 compatible, 4 speaker CD player and auxiliary MP3 player input.
Mazda6 interiorThe cabin is airy and spacious with impeccable build quality; every surface is pleasing to the touch and tastefully designed.
The mid spec GSX will factor for the majority of family purchases, so no manual transmission is offered, but all body styles are catered for and additional features include 17-inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate A/C, a leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, an in-dash 6 disc CD changer, fog lamps and a trip computer.
Mazda GSX wagonThe lack of an Electronic Stability Program (ESP) at entry and mid spec is a sore point however. Mazda intend on remedying this for ongoing shipments, we recommend waiting for the ESP equipped models.
Even if a price premium applies, the car will offer improved resale prospects, as well as improved safety.
The range-topper Limited (hatch and sedan only) adds more sporting attraction, picks up 6 speed manual or 5 speed auto with paddle shift options along with leather upholstery, 18-inch alloys, aerodynamic body kit, sunroof, power front seats, a premium 240 watt 8 speaker Bose audio system and the stability control the rest of the range lacks.
At entry level, the tried and true (albeit slightly listless), 2 litre, 108kW (@6500rpm) engine is a familiar power unit carried over from the predecessor, though the outgoing 2.3 litre makes way for an all new 2.5 litre, 125kW @ 6000rpm 4 cylinder in this generation's GSX and Limited variants.
The car benefits greatly from the increased capacity.
Where the 2.3 cried out for torque the 2.5 and it's 226nm @ 4000rpm surges the Mazda 6 along with ease, it's now a smoother drive without the need to rev the engine as much. At 8.6 L/100km (manual) and 8.8 L/100km (auto) fuel economy is improved by 0.1 L/100km despite the increase in engine size and vehicle weight.
With over 70 percent of Mazda6's expected to be auto, Mazda NZ is holding off on offering a diesel power unit until they can source one with a self-shifting transmission.
Handling has always been a strong point of the Mazda6 and this new generation doesn't disappoint.
It easily matches the latest Mondeo - of which it shares some technology - for class honours in this area. With the added bonus of the 2.5 litre engine though, the Mazda is the driver's pick.
Some harshness is introduced with the Limited's lower profile tyres but on the whole ride comfort and noise isolation is supremely impressive.
Taking a page from Honda New Zealand's book, Mazda wish to improve transparency in their pricing, to this end the Mazda 6 price point has dropped nearly $3,000 and starts at $35,759 for the GLX Sedan, however the margin for discounting is now all but gone.
It's a more evolutionary step than the revolutionary one made by its predecessor, but the contemporary design, functional interior and enjoyable drive should ensure this 6 remains a popular choice for years to come.