Mazda 6 2.0D TS2

Bigger hatchback puts emphasis firmly on family practicality

  • The dash design is great; the emphasis in the second-generation 6 is on practicality.
  • The quality of the materials on the doors and transmission tunnel isn’t up to that of the other cars on this test.

If you wind the clock back 10 years, family cars were invariably dull and drab, successful only because there were few practical alternatives. Facing stiff competition from SUVs, MPVs and growing small hatchbacks, designers of conventional models have had to get smart – and the Mazda 6 is a great example.

While the Accord has focused on giving an ownership experience more commonly associated with the class above, Mazda has concentrated on the family car buyer’s priorities, adding a healthy dose of chassis know-how to the mix. Despite its association with Ford, Mazda claims its 6 has little to do with its Mondeo rival. Indeed the two cars, which provide similar space inside, offer very different driving experiences.

The Mazda’s dashboard is more subtly styled than the Ford’s, with curved lines and a clean appearance. Yet the 6 doesn’t quite live up to the Mondeo’s design quality. The switchgear is robust, but the dials are bland and trim quality is sub-standard on the doors and transmission tunnel.

There are fewer buttons scattered across the centre console than in the Accord, and while the Laguna’s controls are easily operated using a central dial, Mazda’s simplified version has steering wheel-mounted buttons. The time and fuel economy, for example, can’t be shown simultaneously. A small but irritating quirk.

Welcome touches are evident elsewhere, though. Unlike any rival here, the tailgate has a self-closing mechanism so it automatically sucks shut if you don’t close the lid properly yourself. The large, wide and well shaped boot space is equally impressive, rivalling the Mondeo’s roominess. The 6 also has the best folding seats of the bunch, because they tumble in one easy motion to leave a completely flat luggage area.

Sit in the back, and the drawbacks of a coupé-like profile become apparent. The 6 is the only car in this test with no headroom to spare for a six-footer, even though there’s plenty of leg space. And the upholstery looks low-rent, setting the Mazda apart from the competition here.

Arguably all that can be forgiven, though, when you see the prices. At £18,420, the TS2 grade is substantially cheaper than any other car in this group. Admittedly the £20,320 Sport is a closer match to our top-spec Accord. But even the TS2 has Bluetooth phone connectivity, a CD player and climate control as standard.

In direct contrast to the C5, the 6 is a revelation on a challenging road, where the French car flounders. Conversely, the Mazda struggles for ride comfort and refinement on the motorway. On long journeys, its surprisingly noisy engine and stiff ride quality become tiresome companions. However, the sharp steering comes alive when cornering, the big hatchback turning into bends as eagerly as the Accord does. The short-shifting gearbox adds to the fun.

There’s nothing particularly special about the performance from the 2.0-litre diesel powerplant although the five-door’s relatively light weight ensures the 6’s pace is competitive in this company. And despite its lack of refinement, the excellent fuel economy makes the oil-burner the pick of the Mazda line-up.

So, in a great all-round family car package, the 6 gets the important things right – it’s good value for money, hugely practical and even a fine driver’s car. It could be the surprise challenger for top honours in this test.

Details

Price: £18,420Model tested: Mazda 6 2.0 D TS2Chart position: 3WHY: A wild card here, the 6 is versatile and cheap. Is that enough for it to succeed in this company?

Economy

Tall gearing helps Mazda’s fuel returns. Its 40.2mpg figure is bettered only by the Accord in this test.

Residuals

The 6 fares well second-hand, and will retain 44.1 per cent of its value after three years. That will mean it’s worth £8,123.

Tax

Key to the 6’s tax efficiency is price. Add a competitive CO2 output, and it’s the cheapest fleet car, at £810 on the low rate.

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