The Mazda 6 is Mazda s handsome, commodious, sharp-driving rep-mobile, really. And that s the problem. Biggish saloons/estates without German badges just aren t in demand now they ve been squeezed out by crossovers, more affordable SUVs and the pesky Germans themselves undercutting the masses. Ford used to sell over 100,000 Mondeos in Britain alone annually. Nowadays the whole segment struggles to match that, but Mazda make its unsung hero.
This Mazda6, which starts at 23,195, has been on sale since 2012, and the car you see here wears the latest 2018 facelift, which includes the UK debut of the cylinder deactivation-equipped SKYACTIV-G 2.5-litre 191bhp petrol engine. It s a bold move from Mazda to keep on with the naturally aspirated fight, especially with a hefty 2.5-litre, but we applaud its tenacity.
With every facelift (it s had a few ) the 6 s interior gets better. Leather finishes all around make it a comfortable place to be, while reams of tech from heated and cooled seats to adaptive cruise control and large touchscreen infotainment make it feel much more than its mid- 20k price tag suggests.
The new 191bhp 2.5-litre is only available with an automatic gearbox, but the entry-level 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol and 148bhp or 181bhp 2.2-litre diesel get a manual as standard. All are available in Saloon or Tourer body styles. The top-tier pairing is nice enough, but the lazy automatic gearbox and comparatively unrefined engine means we d recommend another model in the line-up.
There are four trims, from SE-L Nav+ and LUX Nav+, into Sport Nav+ and GT Sport Nav+, depending on what engine you choose. All specs get the 8in colour touchscreen infotainment, Bluetooth connectivity, lane-keep assist, privacy glass, parking sensors, heated wing mirrors, heated seats we could go on. The list is impressive and pushes Mazda much closer to the premium brands that traditionally steal the limelight in this sector.
Whisper it, but cars in this class cars that will trek between business parks on motorways and bookend each day with a school run don t need to be especially tasty to drive. Don t let on to Mazda though, because the 6 is really quite good for such a large barge, with clear, linear steering and an agility that gives you a hint this company also makes a two-seater sports car, even if it s nothing more than a hint.
The combination of that large nat-asp engine and the automatic gearbox in the top spec car we tried isn t great. The gearbox just can t keep up, so it always feels like it s in the wrong gear, struggling to kick down ready for overtakes. The engine sounds raspy and strained, and doesn t match up to the promise of its healthy power output.
We d probably recommend going for the manual 2.2-litre diesel, especially in the load-lugging Tourer. Going diesel doesn t affect performance much its 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds is only 0.4 seconds slower than the big petrol.
Sport Nav+ and GT Sport Nav+ trims get 19in alloys as standard. These look good, sure, but do make a noticeable difference to road noise, which is intrusive in the cabin. Overall ride comfort is smooth, though it absorbs bumps well and cruises along motorways with ease, especially if you make the most of the Mazda Radar Cruise Control, which works particularly well.
On the inside
Everything about the interior feels plush and luxurious, especially the nappa leather (standard on top spec) that coats the dash to minimise scratchy plastics, as well as the seats and arm rests.
Other comfort features include heated seats (and cooling with the top trim) and a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, electric seats and privacy class.
Tech on all trims includes an 8in touchscreen with sat nav, Bluetooth and DAB (but no Apple CarPlay), reversing sensors, blind spot monitoring, heated wing mirrors, rain-sensing front wipers and lane-keep assist. Opting for the GT Sport Nav+ brings a head-up display on the windscreen, which is very handy, featuring speed limits, nav directions and information about the cruise control or speed limiter.
On a side note, not that you ll spend much if any time sat in the back seats, but the rear headrests are disappointingly hard. When the front seats get such comfort, it s a shame that passengers might feel discomfort over longer periods of time. The sunroof also eats into headroom a surprising amount as soon as you sit up straight instead of slouching in the chair, you ll be brushing the roof lining.
Fuel consumption might be a worry with these heftier petrol engines, but Mazda has done well to keep efficiency in check the top spec 191bhp petrol will still deliver 41.5mpg combined, while our preferred manual diesel can manage 58.6mpg.
CO2 emissions creep up a bit, though. 126g/km from the 2.2-litre diesel plays 156g/km from the petrol, making a noticeable difference to your company car tax bill. There s a three-year (or 60,000 mile) warranty, with extended cover available to purchase, but Mazdas are reliable enough that you ought not to worry.
Storage is good throughout, with the Tourer featuring roof rails as standard for roof boxes or surfboard fun. With seats up, the spacious boot can swallow 522 litres of stuff (40 more than the saloon), but upping to 1,664 litres with the rear seats folded. There are plenty of smart cubbies in the front, but still no obvious space to prop your phone up.
It s worth upgrading to the Sport Nav+ trim for the keyless entry and Bose surround sound even if you do have to contend with the 19in wheels but the GT Sport Nav+ is a great option if the 360deg camera and head-up display are to your liking.
With its latest update, the 6 is even sharper than ever. The looks, the comfort, the tech it s all chalking up points. We re not sure the top engine is necessarily worth it, though – better to stick lower in the range and make the most of Mazda s excellent manual gearboxes.
It s another good Mazda, in short, from one of the very, very few car companies any company, come to that which simply doesn t make a bad product.
Source : Topgear.com/car-reviews/mazda/6