Mazda 6 review

Our Rating: 
5
5.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Mazda 6 is Auto Express’ Best Family Car of 2013, with dramatic looks and an excellent driving experience

For: 
Stylish looks, range of efficient diesel engines, great to drive
Against: 
Smaller boot than old car, no hatch, firm ride on Sport models

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The third-generation Mazda 6 was introduced in 2012, and ditched the previous car’s five-door hatch body in favour of a four-door saloon. Buyers needing more practicality have the option of a Tourer estate.

This all-new model was released in 2013 to enhance that appeal further and it’s so good that it won the title of Best Family Car in the 2013 Auto Express New Car Awards.

It’s not hard to see why we gave it that prestigious title either. The Mazda 6 is certainly one of the most stunning models in the family car sector, making rivals like the Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia look dull by comparison.

A bold front end, coupe-like looks and strong overall presence are all very hard to ignore. These design features are inspired by Mazda’s recent KODO Design philosophy, which aims to combine elegant and masculine looks into one striking package.

Of more importance was the introduction of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology to the family car. This has helped to cut emissions without compromising performance, and the powerful 2.2-litre diesel delivers the efficiency of a smaller-capacity engine. There’s a choice of 148bhp or 173bhp versions. Some superminis like the latest Honda Jazz struggle to match the most efficient engine’s economy figures.

As is usual in this market sector, there’s an equally stylish Tourer estate version of the Mazda 6. All models come in SE, SE-L and range-topping Sport trims, each with a generous list of standard and optional equipment.

Our choice: 6 2.2D (150) SE-L

Styling

4.6

Mazda dared to be different by giving the MkIII 6 a sporty saloon shape, instead of the practical five-door hatchback body of its predecessor. The brand’s Kodo design language has influenced the styling, and the sharp nose, swooping front wings, arcing roofline and high-set tail combine to give a dynamic look that helps the 6 to stand out.

Top-spec Sport models get large 19-inch five-spoke alloys as standard, while the optional Soul Red metallic paint seen on our test car also helps to set the big saloon apart.

Inside, the Mazda can’t quite match its rivals with the quality of its materials, but the layout is easy enough to get along with. Although the switches and rotary controls feel as though they’re made from cheap plastic when compared to the well damped switchgear in some premium rival cars like the Audi A3, everything seems well screwed together and is likely to be just as robust. The stylised air vents take inspiration from the grille, while Sport models get a flash of dark red transluscent trim across the width of the dash.

Other criticisms include the low-resolution graphics used on the sat-nav, plus the blocky digital displays on the instrument binnacle – both need a bit of a refresh to incorporate the latest displays seen in the new Mazda 3.

Driving

4.8

If you’re a keen driver, the 6 is the family saloon for you. Mazda’s engineers ensured that the current car was lighter than its predecessor. As a result, the 2.2-litre diesel makes the most of its 173bhp and 420Nm of torque, and in-gear acceleration is impressive.

The four-cylinder petrol models come in 145bhp and 165bhp outputs. They all offer excellent performance and sound sporty rather than strained when pushed.

Mazda 6 saloon 2013 rear

The short-throw gearlever has a light and crisp action, while the steering also delivers decent feedback when compared to the Volvo. Turn-in is sharp, and the low-slung Mazda has plenty of grip and delivers entertaining handling, with an eagerness to change direction that belies its large dimensions.

The automatic box is very good, too, and allows the driver to execute manual shifts from the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Corners are where you’ll have the most fun, though. A nimble chassis means the Mazda 6 responds to the lightest touch of the steering wheel. It changes direction instantly and feels a lot smaller than it is, giving you confidence to push on.

But entertaining handling is only part of this car’s talents. The diesel is quieter and more refined than its rivals’, and that means the 6 is pretty relaxing to drive at motorway speeds. The car does fidget a little, but that can be put down to the large 19-inch alloys, and the Mazda is more settled than the Volvo, which rides on smaller wheels.

Reliability

3.9

Japanese makers have a strong reputation for reliability, but Mazda isn’t quite at the top of the class for trouble-free running. Indeed, the 6 has had a few teething problems. The Tourer we ran on our long-term fleet had issues with its electrics and brakes, and this wasn’t an isolated case – although everything was dealt with under warranty. Hopefully, quality control has improved so that the most significant bugs have been ironed out on new models.

Mazda came in 8th out of the top manufacturers in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.

The Mazda has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, with the usual raft of airbags and electronics to keep you protected. However, like its rivals, the company offers a number of hi-tech safety features – including rear vehicle monitoring, lane departure and auto main beam – as part of an optional Safety Pack. This is £700 extra on top-spec Sport models only.

Although Mazda offers smart city braking as standard across the range, its rear traffic monitor – which can anticipate an impact from behind – is available as an option only on the top-spec Sport. The car also gets driver, passenger and knee airbags up front, with curtain airbags the full length of the cabin. High-tech safety gizmos include active lighting, lane departure warning, parking sensors, and the same autobrake system that is fitted to all UK Mazda CX-5s

Practicality

4

A little practicality has been sacrificed for the Mazda 6’s sleek looks. The hatch opening from the previous generation has been swapped for a saloon rear and the 483-litre boot is 27-litres shallower than the old one.

Fold the rear seats down and the 1,632-litre space is bigger than in the Skoda Superb. Levers make this easier, but the absence of spring loaded seatbacks means you will have to push them fully down yourself. The resultant completely flat floor makes for easy loading of long items.

Up front, the standard electric driver’s seat has plenty of adjustment, plus there’s decent storage under the armrest, and in the door bins and glovebox. The central screen is a bit small, but the joystick controller makes it easy to navigate.

The back seats in the Mazda 6 are comfortable but there’s nowhere near as much space as in the class-leading Superb. Legroom is fine, although headroom is limited by the sloping roofline and steeply raked rear screen. Mazda has also made the door openings wider so that long-legged passengers can climb in and out more easily.

Mazda 6 saloon 2013 interior

There’s a decent list of technology features that should make the Mazda 6 driving experience more practical. This includes leather-heated seats, a 5.8-inch touch screen and USB and Bluetooth connectivity. However, you do need to pay £700 for the optional sat-nav and there’s no DAB digital radio.

Running Costs

4.7

Mazda’s SkyActiv technology means the powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine doesn’t compromise on economy: it emits just 104g/km of CO2 and does 74.2mpg. That puts it well ahead of the 2.0-litre diesel Ford Mondeo, which does 54.3mpg and 119g/km of emissions, for running costs. 

The petrol engines are decent too. They’re class-leaders in efficiency, with the entry-level 2.0-litre unit managing average mpg of 51.4 and emissions of 129g/km.

The car comes well equipped as standard, so you shouldn’t need to go near the options list, altough it's not the best for company car tax - top-rate earners face an annual tax bill of nearly £2,000 for the 2.2D Sport Nav model.

Disqus - noscript

only 4 stars?

I have the outgoing Mazda6, and it deserves far more recognition than it gets. However, I think not having a hatchback version for the new model could lose them a lot of sales!

I would love to buy a Mazda, Honda or Toyota.

But you've got to admit.

They produce pig ugly designs.

This is a huge improvement on the outgoing model. Mazda deserves praise for making great strides in improving efficiency and cutting emissions without sacrificing power. Although styling is a matter of opinion I think the new 6 makes very competent rivals like Mondeo and Passat look dull in comparison.
On the other hand the new Mazda 6 seems to have moved to a higher level from other rivals like Honda Accord, Vauxhall Insignia and Toyota Avensis.
Car's lighter weight makes it fast and frugal in equal measure. This Mazda will have BMW worried and may take away some sales at the entry level of the 3-Series as well as Audi A4.
Overall good car. But there was no need for Mazda to drop the more versatile hatchback version though. And on a separate but related note Autoexpress Test Team - whoever it comprises of - could've scored this car higher.

Mazda used to be unusual in that their whole range of cars looked good. I actually considered buying one. They have now spoilt the lot with ugly radiator openings. headlights and weird creases.

I think I have been unlucky with this Mazda 6 (2.2Ctdi Sport). It has spent a long time in the garage - Timing Belt problems (3 months old) - 1 week, Steering Rack problem( 23 months old) - 1 week,
The reliability of this car has not lived up to the 12 previous Mazda's that I have owned.

For performance and style this car is not lacking - however from my experience with this car - The days of reliability are sadly over for Mazda !!

How does it get only 4 stars when it get 4 or more in every category?

I have picked up the 2.2d sport saloon model. Its a cracking motor, there are however some niggles!

In terms of the size it a big spacious car. It has very comfortable seats, driver side adjustable electronically but bizarrely you cannot adjust the passenger side seat for height! Storage is also shockingly limited, Yes you can put the drink bottles in lots of different places, although putting the bottle in the center console just gets in the way, useless space for the bottle holder! In the doors you would expect to have some space - no just a bottle slot. For a big car it very bad for stowage say compared to a passat, after all its the same size inside. (i have had 3 passats)

For the Design etc - all very nice - but some silly thing like not having an easy to open/lock doors switch - its very fiddly in these days of safety conscious drivers.(coming form bmw car recently)

Now, the diesel engine is beautiful, its refined, powerful and economical - although i have done 700 odd miles i have managed approx 45 mpg mixed triving. To be honest I could get much better mileage if i go at 60mph.

There is some wind and road noise on rough surface - but that's what you will get on 19" tyres and sports suspension (i guess its harder)

Overall I am very please with the car, the niggles are really because I am not used to some of the Japanese 'setup' I would give it 4.5/5 I wanted something different and I am please with the choice.

Nice looking car. I want one

YEAR 2010. DISEL 2.2. BIG PROBLEM DPF . FREQUENT CLEANING AND OIL CHANGE(AS1000 M). COST MORE THAN YOU SHOULD. ONLY 3.5 STARS

I love every aspect of this car! Have had it now for 4 months and have had no problems whatsoever. I have the petrol 163hp engine and in mostly city driving it has so far returned 36mpg which I found absolutely astounding (and about the same or lower than our neighbours get in diesel competitors like the Passat under similar driving conditions). So Mazda have effectively produced petrol engines that return similar mileage as other brands do with diesels with similar power output. That is just incredible.

Mazda have now ruined their complete range with the styling. Ugh!

I would admit that it is no minger in the looks department but there are a couple of better lookers in my opinion from that part of the world...namely the Kia Optima and Hyundai i40 saloons. You mention neither in your story which is a shame because they are not a million miles away from the Mazda in a lot of dynamic departments. I suppose its down to badge snobbery again.

'Raywave', that's interesting to hear. I am interested in the petrol engined 6 and will hopefully be taking a test drive soon. Have driven an Audi A4 but felt it was a bit boring in terms of driving experience. That said the forthcoming 3 also looks tempting with 2L 163hp engine and to be honest I dont really need the extra space anyway.

Is it a Honda or a Mazda you drive? 2.2Ctdi is a Honda engine not Mazda!?

I test drove one and was glad to get back in my Golf I'm sorry to say. No DAB, dodgy FM, less classy cabin, road noise which means you have to turn the radio up and that all makes it quite wearying on the motorway. On the other hand the gear changes, handling and responsiveness were a real turn-on. And the looks are stunning.

Looks are a matter of opinion. Cherie Blair is also someone's wife. Can we discuss everything else about the car. I have 2.2D Sport. Find me another car this big, this efficient, this fast and awesome to drive at under £26k.

I already have one. Save some cash and buy one. Leave the Audi's and BM's for those who value badge over substance and are happy to pay 10K more , like for like.

When you graduate from a Golf and look for a car in the 6's range, you will find that there is nothing in the market even close to the 6. Thereafter its your choice, you either pay 22k for a Golf or the same for a 6.

They have changed it to 5* 's now. Thanks to you.

Passat? Octavia? Really wanted to love the Mazda 6 but the head said no.

Last updated: 14 May, 2014
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