Mazda 6 Tourer review
The Mazda 6 Tourer is a spacious, economical and well-made estate that rivals the Ford Mondeo
The Mazda 6 Tourer estate has lots of space, lots of tech but doesn’t cost lots to run. It has been developed using Mazda’s ‘SkyActiv’ philosophy, which focuses on fuel efficiency and low CO2, making it a great company car choice and a cost-effective family car.
A recent update will be hard to spot on the outside, but it has helped keep the interior up to speed with its main rivals: the Ford Mondeo Estate and VW Passat Estate. There are three trim levels offered and a choice of efficient petrol and diesel engines. Equipment on the SE includes 17-inch alloys, air-conditioning as well as cruise control and a 5.8-inch touchscreen.
Our choice: 6 SE-L 2.2-litre diesel
One area where the 6 stands out from its rivals is with its looks. The Japanese brand has given all of its models a corporate face, but the flowing lines and swooping bodywork make the Tourer a lot more flamboyant than the rather straight-edged VW Passat.
The recent facelift tidied up the Mazda’s nose with a reprofiled grille and a new bumper design, but only the most eagle-eyed fan will notice the differences. Go for an SE-L model, and you get standard halogen headlamps, although there are no options to upgrade to LEDs or xenons. If you want xenons with LED daytime running lights, they’re standard on the higher-spec Sport Nav version.
Elsewhere, you get silver roof rails and smart 17-inch alloys, but while the rims help to soften the ride, they look lost in the wheelarches. Another gripe, and something the 6 has in common with the Passat, is the range of uninspiring metallic paints on offer. At least the recent update added bright silver to the palette, or you could go for Mazda’s distinctive Soul Red colour, which carries a £120 premium over the standard metallics, at £660.
Inside, the Tourer has been updated with the infotainment system first seen on the Mazda 3. It retains the rotary controller and shortcut buttons on the centre console, but the old infotainment screen has been replaced by a larger, tablet-style touch display that’s mounted closer to the driver. Controlling the assorted functions is relatively easy, and you can either use the touchscreen at all times or the controller, or you can switch between the two.
The dash design looks neat and the cabin is well built, but some of the plastics used feel cheap compared to those in the VW and Ford, while the blocky trip computer display looks a little dated compared to the Mondeo’s TFT screens. Overall, though, the Mazda is logically laid out and easy to get along with, even if it can’t quite match the VW’s executive car feel.
Despite its size, the Mazda 6 Tourer doesn’t feel big or ungainly to drive. Instead, there’s a great driving position with good all-round visibility. The petrol engines feel the most athletic, with good response and smooth power delivery, but the diesels are the standouts here.
The powerful 173bhp diesel paired with the six-speed manual transmission is the fastest, with a 7.9-second 0-62mph time that’s achieved in a quiet, refined manner. Yet the other engines aren’t sluggish, either. The ride is comfortable and body control is good, too, showing that the Mazda 6 has been engineered with a fun driving experience in mind.
The Tourer feels rapid, while the smooth-shifting auto gearbox helps keep the engine on song. If you want to take manual control, you have to use the gearstick, as there are no steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
On the road, the Mazda delivers decent comfort, although it does have a bias towards sporty handling.
That means it’s a bit more fun to drive than its rivals, with sharp turn-in and decent feedback from the communicative steering. The softer suspension set-up of the SE-L model means there’s some body roll in bends, but once the car is in a turn, it feels settled and doesn’t pitch or wallow.
On the motorway, the 6 is hushed and has a smooth ride, with only a hint of the car pitching fore and aft over expansion joints.
And while the soft suspension helps to iron out bumpy urban roads, it does mean there’s more chance of scraping the front apron when negotiating speed bumps.
Unlike the VW Passat, the Mazda has been tested by Euro NCAP. It earned five stars in 2013, while its percentage scores are similar to its rivals’ here. However, if you want kit such as city stop braking or adaptive cruise, then you can only add them as pricey option packs on the top-spec Sport Nav model.
We’ve heard a few stories about issues with the 6, but the facelift should help smooth out any past production problems. It came 49th in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, and owners seemed happy with the car’s reliability, while its performance, handling and comfort all fared well. In fact, the lowest score it earned was for in-car tech, but this will definitely improve with the updated model.
Plus, Mazda’s dealers have a good reputation, beating VW and Ford’s networks in our most recent poll.
Open the car’s tailgate, and there’s 522 litres of space available. That’s 22 litres more than in the Ford Mondeo Estate, but a huge 128 litres behind the VW Passat Estate’s capacity. Like the VW, the Mazda has a slight lip, but the boot latch has a protective flap that covers it and prevents items from being scratched when loading and unloading.
Another neat feature on the 6 is that the load cover is attached to the tailgate under the rear windscreen. This means it moves up and out of the way every time you open the boot, so you don’t have to move it out of the way manually.
Like in the Passat, there are levers in the boot sides that fold the rear seats down in one action. They fold almost flat, but the seatbacks are a bit heavy to move back into position; you need to push them hard to lock them back in place. At least the seatbelts can be held back in handy restraints that stop them getting trapped in the mechanism.
The rest of the cabin is pretty spacious, although the Passat has more rear legroom and there isn’t as much storage, with shallow door bins, a reasonable glovebox, an armrest bin and two small cup-holders.
So does this ‘SkyActiv’ fuel-saving stuff actually work? The 6 Tourer proves that it does, posting great mpg figures and low CO2 for low tax bills. The 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine is the most efficient, returning 64.2mpg and 116g/km of CO2. You need the mid-level SE-L to achieve these numbers, though, as it comes with the new i-Eloop regenerative braking system.
That’s an improvement of around 18 and 21 per cent compared to the outgoing model but, more importantly, puts it ahead of the Ford Mondeo Estate 2.0-litre diesel’s 57.7mpg and 129g/km. It takes the smaller 1.6-litre diesel Mondeo Estate to better the Mazda’s figures, with the smaller-engined Ford managing 65.7mpg and 114g/km of CO2. The Honda Accord Tourer can’t match this, either, with its best of 51.4mpg and 143g/km.