Mazda 6 2.5 Sport

Bigger, bolder and roomier, the new 6 is packed with positives

  • Superb looks, paid plenty of attention has been paid to cabin layout and materials, even entry-level S model get alloys, boot is 250 litres bigger than the Ford’s with seats folded down.
  • Dated switches for the heated seats, while thick C-pillars make you feel hemmed in and hamper visibility.

Need an illustration of how important the 6 is to Mazda? Well, since the original model was launched in 2002, nearly half a million have been sold in Europe, helping the Japanese firm to double its total sales on the continent.

Consequently, it’s important that Mazda gets the replacement right. The car is new from the ground up, and the designers were keen to retain its sporty appeal, while giving it a more premium edge. Judging by the results, they’ve managed that perfectly, and we think the looks are spot-on. There’s a hint of Lexus about the styling, but the prominent wheelarches, V-shaped grille and fuss-free nose give the 6 its own personality.

The rising waistline and raked windscreen present a near coupé-like appearance, while the shape is extremely smooth – a drag coefficient of only 0.27Cd is one of the best in the class. The LED rear lights echo the hatch’s predecessor, while our 2.5-litre Sport gets twin tailpipes, side skirts and a boot spoiler. In our opinion, it’s one of the best-looking models in the family market.

This positive first impression continues once behind the wheel. The dash layout is simple but stylish, and is the best offering from Mazda to date. Neat stereo controls are surrounded by metal trim, which boosts the quality feel, while the orange and blue-lit deep-set dials and three-spoke steering wheel add to the racy edge.

However, there are a few gripes. Some of the dash plastics aren’t quite as tactile as its rivals’, the ventilation controls are a little flimsy and the seats are narrow. That doesn’t stop it being comfortable, though, and rear passengers get the same spacious feel, even if the 6 can’t quite match either the Mondeo or Passat for legroom.

That’s not surprising, considering the Mazda is the shortest car here, but one advantage the 6 has is its clever fold-flat rear seats. These allow boot space to be boosted to a maximum of 1,702 litres, although the catches require a fair amount of force in order to release them.

The new range-topping 2.5-litre MZR engine replaces the old 2.3-litre unit. While it’s bigger, it’s cleaner and more economical, too, although most UK buyers will probably opt for the smaller 2.0-litre powerplant. The larger unit is super-smooth, though, and produces a pleasing exhaust note. However, on the move it feels a little slow to rev and isn’t as peppy as the less powerful Mondeo engine. You certainly have to work the gearbox a fair amount when pushing on, but thanks to a snappy change, this is rewarding rather than tiring.

Unfortunately, at motorway speeds, road and wind noise spoil the luxury feel. Cruising also highlights another flaw, as the steering requires constant adjustment and the 6 never quite settles down like the Mondeo or Passat. This is partly due to the very light wheel, which lacks feedback.

Thankfully, on more demanding roads the Mazda is agile, in a similar way to the firm’s MX-5 roadster. It turns in crisply and there’s plenty of grip, while body control is excellent. However it’s not as composed as the Mondeo, and ultimately the Ford is the better all-rounder.

But the Mazda makes up for this with generous amounts of standard kit, including a CD changer, half leather seats, xenon lights and Bluetooth phone connection. A price tag of £19,630 makes it an attractive package, too, although the economy minded will save money by opting for the diesel engine, which starts at £15,620.

Details

Price: £19,630Model tested: Mazda 6 2.5 SportChart position: 2WHY: Mazda hopes upmarket looks, generous kit and keen dynamics will propel the 6 to the top of the class.

Economy

Given that it has the largest capacity engine here, we were impressed with the 27.9mpg the 6 returned during its time with us. It’s no doubt helped by the fact it has the lightest kerbweight and lowest drag coefficient of the trio.

Residuals

Our experts have yet to calculate residuals for the latest 6 as it’s still too new, but buyers shouldn’t get their hopes up. The old car only retained about 35 per cent, while the new one may achieve 40 per cent. Diesels will fare better.

Servicing

Mazda’s garages have yet to be given details of servicing costs for the 6, but they’re likely to compete strongly with Ford’s. Even better news is the fact the firm’s dealers finished a decent 14th out of 32 in our Driver Power 2007 survey.

Tax

There’s little to choose between the three in terms of emissions, despite differing engine sizes. With an output of 192g/km, the 6 qualifies for the same tax rate as the Passat, but a lower price makes it cheaper for company drivers.

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