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Buying a used Mazda6 (2008

Jun 04, 2023

When Mazda replaced its long-serving 626, it took a lot of loyal owners along for the ride. The Mazda6 certainly wasn’t a massive leap in philosophy from the earlier car – it was similar in size with a slightly enlarged 2.5-litre engine and front-wheel drive – but had loads of appeal.

The first-generation GG series was introduced in 2001 and released to Australia a year later. Three levels of trim were available locally but just one 2.3-litre petrol engine.

That changed in October 2005 when the turbocharged Mazda6 MPS appeared, followed a year later by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel in wagon and hatchback versions.

In late 2007 the second-generation GH series was announced, with minimal alterations to the styling or engineering as the car released in Australia in February 2008. The major difference came a year later when a US-only version debuted; it was known as the Mazda6 Ultra – a longer, wider version with the Mazda CX-9’s 3.7-litre V6 as an option.

Five years elapsed before the third-generation GJ series of the Mazda6 was announced, with the premiere spread across several weeks in August/September 2012 and two major automotive events. While the new shape didn’t differ significantly from the old one, it did borrow some of its stylish ‘swish’ from Mazda’s 2011 Tokyo show car; the Takeri.

Although mechanically unchanged and with only detail improvements to packaging and presentation, the GJ series was launched in Australia in December 2012 and named as a finalist for the 2013 World Design of the Year awards.

Sales peaked in 2015 then suffered a steady decline along with other family passenger cars, which were fast losing favour as buyers migrated to SUVs. A GL-series update was released in September 2016, while a turbocharged petrol GT joined the range in 2018 as yet another overhaul was announced for the long-running current third generation – and there were more to come.

Buying Used: Mazda6 GH/GJ Series (2008-16) – Quick Checklist• Pre-2012 models were involved in the Takata airbag recall program but should all by now be rectified.• Carbon build-up diminishes diesel engine performance and can cause engine failure. Avoid a diesel that feels flat when asked to accelerate.• Be wary of noise from worn front suspension components.

At launch in 2002, the Mazda6 had just one engine, but within a few years came turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel versions.

The GH Mazda6 seen by Australia in 2008 had a 125kW 2.5-litre petrol engine and were mostly five-speed automatic. Six-speed manual was available in Classic and Limited versions and the Luxury Sports. The local range comprised sedan, hatch and wagon body types, with four levels of trim. All put their power to the ground via the front wheels.

The 190kW MPS turbo had disappeared early in 2008 but its spot on showroom floors would soon be taken by a turbo-diesel Mazda6 Sports with 136kW and 400Nm of torque. These unlikely road rockets came with six-speed manual transmission only and at launch in 2008 cost $43,990 plus on-road costs.

Getting aboard a Classic sedan with the 2.5 petrol engine and manual transmission cost around $33,000 and certainly wouldn’t leave the buyer feeling short-changed. There was a full complement of powered systems plus an in-dash CD changer, dual-zone air-con, speed-sensitive wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels and fog lights.

Climbing higher on the GH range ladder would take buyers through the Land of Limited (where very few sales occurred) then to Luxury and Luxury Sports, which between them sold in roughly the same numbers as the Classic.

At their most expensive, these Mazdas cost a tad more than $45,000 and included more opulence than was found in most $70,000 European models. The leather seats were sculpted and very comfortable, the dash looked lavish and the wheel was festooned with thumb controls.

Arriving in 2012, GJ versions of the Mazda6 brought modernised, still conservative styling and plenty of changes under the skin. Things that didn’t change much included the engines, which remained the same size. Output from the 2.5 petrol grew by 15kW.

The SkyActiv automatic transmission stayed the same as well but could be controlled manually via the central selector or paddle shifters. Switchable automatic engine idle-stop was standard on all Mazda6 models.

Mazda took the opportunity to follow industry trends and boost the GJ’s body rigidity. At the same time, they put some effort into reducing the amount of road noise that found its way into the cabin and cured a complaint frequently heard from owners of earlier versions.

New MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-links at the rear contributed to improved ride and probably helped with the noise complaints as well. Sports versions displayed firmer ride settings and offered more aggressive wheel and tyre packages.

Cloth trim was a distant memory for Mazda6 buyers, with leather now standard across the range. Higher-spec versions got electric seat adjustment and position memory, plus front/rear distance monitoring and emergency brake assist that worked when the car thought a collision was imminent.

Cheapest GJ was the manual Touring sedan, which sat in Mazda showrooms at $31,450 plus on-road costs. Most expensive Touring was the 2.5 auto wagon at $34,750, or just $1200 cheaper than the manual-only diesel wagon.

Being based on the CX-5 floor pan, wagons could have been offered with all-wheel drive and really challenged Subaru in its heartland. They never were, but still treated the market to comfort and space in a well-designed package.

Series II versions of the GJ Mazda6 arrived in 2015, with lots of detail changes and a revised range structure. Every version was now a six-speed automatic with the cheapest the Sport sedan at $32,450 plus ORCs, the most expensive the turbo-diesel Atenza wagon at over $50,000.

The Mazda6 was for many years the standard by which medium-sized, front-wheel drive family cars were judged. Unless you headed into alpine country or threw some mud into the comparison, they gripped well enough to hang with an all-wheel drive Subaru Liberty and would match an Accord Euro for ride quality.

Sedan and hatch versions offer decent amounts of luggage room but it is the wagon that will deliver versatility for buyers who have a family or need to cart mountains of stuff.

Petrol-fed editions can deliver excellent economy and make the need for a diesel less pressing. The 2.5-litre petrol automatic versions are claimed to average 6.6L/100km, while the same car in diesel form makes 5.4L/100km.

The Mazda6 cabin isn’t overly spacious for a car of its size but what Mazda packed in there, especially with its top-spec versions, is amazing. You really do not need a Lexus or Jaguar when you lash out on a reasonably recent Atenza.

Road tests extracted 0-100km/h times of 7.6 seconds from petrol sedans with the six-speed automatic transmission. Turbo-diesels were just 0.6sec slower.

Some people have complained that the electrically assisted steering didn’t communicate quite as well as they had hoped, but for the kind of around-town use that most Mazda6s will experience, the system seems perfectly fine.

If you live in a place where rough roads prevail, consider a version that runs on 17-inch wheels and taller tyres. Sporty types with 19s and 45-profile rubber will work wonderfully on smooth bitumen, but thump one into a big pothole and you could be limping home on the awful temporary spare.

Safety was a priority for Mazda’s design team and even early versions easily exceed the requirements (at the time) for a five-star ANCAP rating. Look at post-2014 cars and that basic standard is bolstered by a huge list of systems that will help avoid collisions and keep the driver informed.

The Mazda6 is among the best out there for families, providing you spend a little extra on one that has been scrupulously serviced and isn’t showing signs of a rough existence.

For those who need to accommodate people and parcels the wagon is a logical choice, but so too is the hatch. The highest specification allowed by your budget is the Mazda6 to own because virtually everything that Mazda packs into its upper-echelon cars is useful.

In the case of radar interactive sensors, they help keep your precious cargo safer as well.

Some versions pamper the rear seat occupants with screens mounted in the front seat head restraints and, of course, their own air-con vents and sound system speakers.

• Water pumps in pre-2014 petrol engines have suffered failures and sparked a class action lawsuit in the US. The issue seems less common here, but any sign of overheating or smell of coolant needs to be investigated. Having the pump replaced during the timing belt change at around 100,000km is recommended.• Oil leaks from the sump gasket and more seriously the rear engine seal are all costly to rectify. A professional on-hoist inspection should reveal if they affect a car you’re considering.• Make sure the automatic transmission shifts easily up and down. Problems have been reported where the car holds gears for longer than necessary and is slow to respond when manually downshifted.• Clunks from the steering can point to a dried-out column joint. Free-play at the wheel rim or thumps from the front-end when driving on bumpy roads demand further investigation in case the steering rack mountings or suspension bushings are worn.

Used vehicle grading for Mazda6 GH/GJ Series (2008-16)Design & Function: 15/20Safety: 15/20Practicality: 15/20Value for Money: 14/20Wow Factor: 13/20Score: 72/100

Also consider: Ford Mondeo, Skoda Octavia, Subaru Liberty, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat

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Buying Used: Mazda6 GH/GJ Series (2008-16) – Quick ChecklistUsed vehicle grading for Mazda6 GH/GJ Series (2008-16)Design & Function:Safety:Practicality:Value for Money:Wow Factor:Score: