The station wagon represents a very small presence in a market dominated by sedans and sporty hatchbacks. Even when I was a kid, I thought this way. I found them boxy and without appeal, although a station wagon does boast of very usable real estate without having to hike up to the cabin like in a truck. But that still doesn’t really make for a good enough reason to have it in one’s garage. At least that’s what I figured then.
With auto design swinging around far enough to influence even this body style, things are starting to literally look good for the “estate,” as the Europeans call it.
I took the 2017 Mazda 6 Wagon out for a weekend to see how it can get a larger slice of the pie in the extremely robust Philippine automotive market. Here are some observations:
Boxy no more
Save for the station wagon AMG E63 S, this Mazda is probably the best-looking one out there. If you’re a fan of the body style, thank your lucky stars and, more importantly, the designers in Hiroshima for hooking the 6 up with the Kodo (Soul of Motion) design philosophy.
Those bold shoulders just above the wheel arches that Mazda says mimics a cheetah’s stance add so much appeal and presence to the exterior, and somehow guides your gaze to the familiar wide Mazda grille flanked by adaptive LED headlights with daytime running lamps.
Taller by 30 millimeters than the sedan, the wagon still manages a sleek and aerodynamic profile by cutting down the height nearer to the rear before dropping to a 45-degree angle to form the tailgate.
Its status as a “hauler” may generate an impression that it’s bigger, but the wagon surprisingly comes in shorter in length and wheelbase by 60 and 80 millimeters, respectively compared to the sedan. The façade isn’t flashy by any measure (perhaps subdued by the overall wagon design) but the 6 is the sum of its parts that complete a more attractive exterior.
If it isn’t soft-touch materials on the dashboard, there’s high-quality leather in the cabin – starting from the steering wheel, front and rear seats, including panels on the center console and doors. There’s certainly a premium feel to everything, due to Mazda’s attention to detail right down to the logo-inspired buttons on the steering wheel.
Despite having a shorter wheelbase, it still offers executive-level spaciousness and amenities, which includes manual rear window shades and rear air-conditioning vents.
As a driver, I love the heads-up display that pops up above the instrumentation panel showing speed and cruise control status.
Two of my other favorite features include the rotary clicker on the center console that allows me to manage settings for the vehicle, communication, entertainment, navigation and installed applications, plus its all-Bose speaker system with a Bose Digital Signal Processing amplifier, a mic to monitor interior noise level, and a total of 17 speakers ranging from mid- to high-range speakers, woofers, and tweeters to make sure the sound is just perfect.
Silky, smooth powertrain
Complementing its flowing design is the suave performance of a fuel-injected 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G engine with 184hp and 250Nm of torque mated to an extremely polished six-speed SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission. The engine and transmission combo is silky-smooth from zero to a hundred and is never unstable or jerky.
It may appear cumbersome, but this Mazda moves gracefully and conquers corners with substantial mechanical grip because of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control. What’s surprising though is that for an engine with only a little more than 3,000 kilometers on it, the 6 clatters like a diesel. It’s Imperceptible inside but audible from the outside.
Fortunately, that doesn’t affect the performance in any way whatsoever. I cruised along on Normal mode and the car stayed easily right at the speed limit on SLEX with still so much power to spare. Sport mode increases the revs to make the Wagon respond a split second faster, but that’s like the equivalent of hiring Bono to sing Happy Birthday to You at your small family party. Overkill, really.
Meantime, fuel efficiency is increased by Mazda’s i-Stop idling stop system and i-ELOOP regenerative braking system.
So, is a wagon for you? That’s a question only you can answer, but the 6 Wagon makes for a compelling choice. It’s made in Japan, which makes it top-notch, and moves like a cheetah despite weighing as much as a gray whale. The body-style may be ancient but the 19-inch aluminum wheels with high-luster coating makes it look like it’s wearing Air Jordan 4 Retros.
The 6 also comes with electric parking brake, crystal-clear rear camera display and – even with that engine size and output – still manages 9.4 kilometers per liter in combined highway and city driving. Priced at P1.845 million, it does graze SUV/crossover territory, so I’ll understand if you’re torn between the two.
It all boils down really to whether or not you like estates – but with the 2017 Mazda 6 Wagon, what’s not to like?
Positives: Style and fuel efficiency
Negatives: Priced like a mid-size SUV