This car is competitively priced, yet performs well above its intended station.
The 2.3 litre petrol engine and 6 speed manual transmission make for a very happy union indeed, with well chosen gear ratios to complement the engine's modest power and torque, positive but very easy to use clutch, and gearshift quality that is very precise. The pedals are properly positioned for heel-toe downchanges. Contrary to popular belief, 6th gear is the same gear ratio as 5th in the outgoing model (GG1031 series), showing 2800 rpm at 100km/h (62.1mph), or 4600rpm at 161km/h (100mph).
I have tested the car from 0-100km/h (62.1mph) in 8.42 seconds, and have had the car out to an indicated 228km/h (142mph) in 6th gear, at 6500rpm (true speed 223km/h/139mph). It does take a while to pass the 220km/h (137mph) mark though.
The engine is very tractable from idle, but it loves to be wound out into the middling to high rev range where it performs at its peak. It also makes a spicy engine note when doing so.
Fuel frugality is very good. On 95 RON premium petrol, it uses between 8.2 to 8.7 litres per 100km (32.4-34.4 mpg) in urban conditions. In highway use, it's possible to average less than 7 litres per 100 km (40.3mpg).
The handling is excellent. When pressed very hard, there is only very mild understeer at most, and can be coaxed into oversteer with a throttle lift. There is very minimal body roll. A chassis that is adjustable with both throttle and steering wheel, and very involving to drive at the same time. Very good steering directness and feel, positive turn-in response.
The ride is firm, but very well controlled. There is no floatiness whatsoever. High speed stability is second to none.
Refinement is reasonable, there is some road and tyre noise on coarse chip bitumen, but far less so than on the previous model (GG1031 series). Other than that, wind noise is barely audible, and general NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels are quite acceptable.
The interior can be described as good. The ergonomics are very good, nothing is out of reach, and the controls are logically placed.
The driving position is excellent, with reach and rake steering adjustment, and comfortable and supportive seating. All-round visibility is excellent. The switchgear is of high quality, and, being typically Japanese, never needs second guessing.
The rear seat is very comfortable and supportive. Rear legroom is average, but there are rear heating/cooling ducts underneath both front seats, as well as a centre armrest, and individual map reading lights.
The boot space is also good, and the boot incorporates a full size alloy spare wheel (205/55 VR16), as standard equipment.
The usual equipment levels are in place, like the 6 disc in dash CD changer with 6 speakers and AM/FM radio, power windows all round (auto only on the drivers window), front foglights, ABS, 6 airbags etc, but this is becoming commonplace with many manufacturers.
Build quality is very good, with the exception of the very poor original interior upholstery, as mentioned in the start of the review "What things have gone wrong with the car?" But the leather upholstery I have fitted is second to none, it's what the car should've come out with as standard.
However, I have been informed by a couple of sources that Mazda have changed to a different upholstery supplier for their new Mazda 6, the GH1051 series. Just as well, too, as I've seen many other GG1032 series cars with the same problem. Mazda Australia are very coy on this one. But then again, there were many problems with Mazda 3s, in terms of seat fabric pilling, as I had with my previous Mazda 3 Maxx Sport.
So, to summarise- The Mazda 6 Sedan is an excellent car-good performance, ride and handling- all for a very competitive price. Reliability and build quality are both excellent, a testament to the Mazda marque. But oh, that standard upholstery...