Mazda 6 review
Mazda's large saloon is a strong alternative to the VW Passat or Ford Mondeo thanks to its great handling and generous kit
The Mazda 6 has long been an Auto Express favourite, winning the Best Family Car category in our 2013 and 2014 New Car Awards. The fact that it's still one of the best in its class after this length of time shows just how good it is.
The 6 is one of very few family saloons that is genuinely fun to drive, with sporty road manners and some impressive engines that do a fine job of combining strong performance and good fuel economy. Low CO2 emissions will find favour with fleet drivers, too, as does Mazda’s keen pricing, which makes rivals look a bit expensive.
Although it’s not available as a hatchback, both the saloon and Tourer estate provide plenty of room inside for five people, plus generous boot capacities. The crisp, sporty lines don’t impact too much on space, although it's not the most practical in this class. Consistent updates have made the car even better, too.
The Mazda 6 is available as a saloon or estate in its current guise, which means it's well placed for bagging a sale or two in a class of family cars that includes the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, VW Passat, Skoda Superb, Hyundai i40 and Kia Optima. But there's one highlight of the Mazda 6 that puts it at the front of the pack, and that's the fact it's entertaining to drive.
The Mazda 6 is the successor to the Mazda 626, which carried the flag for Mazda's family cars from the late 1970s all the way to 2002, when it was replaced by the 6. Since then, the Mazda 6 has gone through three generations, with the current version arriving in dealers in 2012.
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This model reverted to a four-door saloon shape after the last car's hatchback body, while the 6 Tourer estate is also offered. But while the 6 has been around for a few years now, Mazda has given it annual improvements to help it stay competitive. There was additional tech included in 2015, as well as a facelift, more updates in 2016 and then a more significant facelift in 2018. This has helped the Mazda 6 remain up-to-date, while its sporty character hasn't been lost with any of the model revisions. Indeed, Mazda's G-Vectoring system, which was added on 2016 models onwards, is designed to enhance the car's handling even further.
Like the majority of large family cars, the Mazda 6 is front-engined and front-wheel drive. But unlike a lot of rivals, Mazda has focused on weight saving to help the 6 deliver good economy, with the agile handling coming as a fringe benefit. Mazda has also chosen a 'right-size' philosophy for engines, so instead of downsizing and adding turbos to its petrol engine line-up, like most rivals have done, you get large-capacity 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre engines, called SkyActiv-G. There's also the 2.2-litre turbodiesel called SkyActiv-D, but again that's a bigger capacity than most rivals and was discontinued at the end of 2020.
The 2.0-litre petrol comes in 143bhp and 163bhp guises with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The 143bhp engine can be had with an auto, while the 191bhp 2.5-litre petrol is auto-only. The 2.2 diesel comes in 148bhp and 181bhp forms, both of which can be had with a six-speed manual or auto.
The 2018 update saw all trim levels given a spec upgrade, so now the line-up comprises SE-L Nav+, SE-L Lux Nav+, Sport Nav+ and GT Sport Nav+. Not all engines come in all trims, and the most powerful 2.5 petrol and 2.2 diesel are only offered in GT Sport Nav+ spec. Prices range from around £25,000 to £35,000, while the Mazda 6 Tourer estate has a premium of around £1,000 over the saloon.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingMazda's large saloon is a strong alternative to the VW Passat or Ford Mondeo thanks to its great handling and generous kit
- 2Engines, performance and driveIt's petrol power only for the Mazda 6, while top-notch handling boosts its credentials as a great driver's car
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsStrong fuel economy and low emissions combine with Mazda reliability and value for money to ensure low running costs
- 4Interior, design and technologyCustomers will appreciate the quality feel of the Mazda 6, while equipment levels are excellent
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceLarge, practical Mazda 6 is a comfortable long-distance car, although the saloon boot isn’t as flexible as a hatchback
- 6Reliability and SafetyWith top marks for safety and good customer feedback in our Driver Power survey, the Mazda 6 makes a compelling case for itself