Car group tests

Mazda6 vs. Toyota Avensis

Mazda’s updated hatch takes on the Toyota Avensis in a family car clash

Mazda6 vs. Toyota Avensis

There's no denying times are tough in the family car sector. An explosion of new niche models – from fashionable crossovers to rugged SUVs – has left traditional machines struggling to make an impact on the showroom floor.

In an effort to boost its fortunes, Mazda has given its big 6 hatchback and estate models a mid-life refresh. The car is designed to appeal to business and private buyers alike, while the main upgrades are aimed at reducing the car’s emissions and improving fuel economy.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Mazda 6

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There have also been visual tweaks inside and out, plus kit is more generous. To find out whether the makeover has been successful, we’re testing the mid-spec TS model fitted with the firm’s overhauled 1.8-litre petrol engine.

Going against the Mazda is another Japanese stalwart of the family car class: the Toyota Avensis. In £17,555 entry-level T2 spec, the British-built saloon promises superb quality, a spacious cabin and attractive price – and the security of the firm’s new five-year warranty. So, which of  our contenders is in the fast lane to victory

Verdict

BOTH of our contenders face a tough challenge in the fiercely fought family car sector. Traditional models now mix with fashionable niche machines, so there is more choice for buyers than ever. Taking this into consideration, it’s difficult to see the Toyota standing out. Bland styling and a lukewarm driving experience detract from an otherwise capable package. Look past these issues, and you’ll discover a beautifully built and spacious saloon that’s backed up by an excellent five-year warranty. However, it’s beaten to the top spot here by the Mazda. With its versatile five-door layout, huge cabin and a decent kit list, the impressive 6 proves there’s life in the traditional family car yet. Better still, look past the grown-up exterior and practical cabin, and you’ll discover a car that’s as entertaining to drive as some hot hatches.

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