Mazda 6 review
The Mazda 6 offers dramatic looks and efficient engines to rival the Skoda Superb and Ford Mondeo
This is the third-generation Mazda 6, and it’s the second all-new model to be built with the Japanese manufacturer’s fuel-saving SkyActiv tech and swoopy Kodo design language in mind. While most manufacturers have abandoned saloons in favour of more practical hatchback models, Mazda has gone back to four doors for its new 6. That doesn’t mean that practicality has been sacrificed, however, as the new car is actually bigger than a Ford Mondeo and has more space than a Honda Accord. It also offers class-leading fuel economy and a stylish exterior design that's sure to turn heads. The most powerful 2.2 diesel engine is smooth and punchy, with low C02 emissions and an accurate six-speed manual gearbox. The three-model line-up starts with SE, which includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning and stop-start. The model line-up includes a stylish Tourer estate, but Mazda is also reported to be considering introducing a high-performance MPS version and a four-wheel-drive model.
Our choice: 6 2.2D (150) SE-L
The Mazda 6 is one of the most stylish family cars on the market, with a dramatic look that makes rivals like the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Skoda Superb look plain by comparison. Based on the Takeri and Shinari concepts, the 6 follows the brand’s new Kodo design language, with sharp lines and bulging wheelarches. The high window line and sweeping coupe-style roofline give it a more substantial, muscular look, while a five-sided grille that almost flows into the swept-back LED headlights dominates the front end. Every version comes well equipped, with even entry-level SE models getting 17-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, Bluetooth and a 5.8-inch colour touch-screen display. The top-spec Sport model adds 19-inch alloys. The interior is very similar to that of the CX-5 crossover, which means it feels well built with a good mix of soft-touch and glossy materials. There are a few too many buttons on the sweeping dash, but all the major functions can be controlled with a small rotary control on the centre console similar to the MMI system in modern Audis. There‘s plenty of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel, so it is easy to find the perfect driving position.
The Mazda 6 is very easy to drive, thanks to an excellent driving position and good all-round visibility. It’s extremely refined, too, with petrol and diesel engines that quiet at idle yet offer smooth power delivery on the road. The engine line-up starts with a choice of 143bhp and 162bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, but the most efficient is the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel (the flagship Sport model uses a 172bhp version of the diesel). Whichever model you choose, it’s only when you push the 6 hard that there’s any noise from the engine, and even then it sounds sporty rather than overworked. The ride is generally good and the chassis feels quite agile, but the larger 19-inch alloys thump and judder over bigger potholes so we'd recommend going for the SE-L trim over the Sport. The steering, gearshift and brakes are all nicely weighted, making it predictable on winding roads, yet easy to manoeuvre around town. The six-speed manual is particularly slick, but the automatic gearbox is surprisingly good, too, with well-executed manual shifts possible from the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The 6 hasn’t yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but it’s expected to receive a full five-star result as all versions come loaded with safety kit. It has driver, passenger and knee airbags up front, with curtain airbags the full length of the cabin. Hi-tech safety tech includes active lighting, lane departure warning and the same autobrake system fitted to all UK CX-5s. The system is called Smart City Brake Support (or SCBS) and operates between three and 19mph to pull the car to a complete stop if it senses an impending collision. There’s also an optional Rear Vehicle Monitoring System, which tells you when an approaching car is in your blind spot. As well as being safe, Mazda also has a solid reputation for reliability. The brand finished 17th out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey - one place ahead of Volkswagen.
The new Mazda 6 saloon is 110mm longer (at 4,755mm) than the old hatchback it replaced. It’s wider and taller, too, while the 105mm longer wheelbase (at 2,830mm) means there’s an extra 20mm of shoulder room in the front and 43mm more knee room in the back seats. Mazda has also made the door openings wider so that long-legged passengers can climb in and out more easily. However, there isn’t quite as much luggage space as in the outgoing car. At 486 litres (down from 510), the boot is still better than the Honda Accord and Ford Mondeo, though, and 60:40 split-folding rear seats mean this figure make carrying larger items easy. If you want even more space, though, the Tourer estate version has a 506-litre boot and a maximum load area of 1,648 litres. There’s also a wide range of optional assistance systems, such as radar cruise control, lane departure warning and emergency braking override.
With its range of fuel-saving tech, the Mazda 6 makes an excellent company car. The manufacturer’s i-Stop stop-start system is fitted across the range, while SE-L and Sport models also get its i-Eloop brake energy recuperation system. The latter works by filling a capacitor with energy generated under braking or coasting, to power the air-con when the engine’s not. It makes the 6 around 10 per cent more efficient, meaning that the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel SE-L is the cheapest 6 to run. It has an average fuel consumption figure of 72.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 104g/km, which puts it well ahead of the 2.0-litre Ford Mondeo diesel’s 53mpg and 139g/km and the Honda Accord diesel’s 53mpg and 138g/km. The petrol models are also class-leaders in efficiency, with the entry-level 2.0-litre unit managing average mpg of 51.4 and emissions of 129g/km. The 6 has a slightly higher price tag than the VW Passat, but makes up for it with a good supply of kit. Mazda is also offering a range of finance deals, while the three-year, 60,000-mile warranty should help keep other costs to a minimum.