Review: Mazda6

The Mazda6 has introduced a diamond pattern grille mesh, and stands out against its predominantly German rivals
The Mazda6 has introduced a diamond pattern grille mesh, and stands out against its predominantly German rivals
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Mazda has given its 6 saloon and Tourer estate a tweak in quality and styling. This fine-looking car dates from 2012. The latest facelift is intended to keep it on the boil – in a sector which this decade has been dominated by the premium marques from Germany. While they cost a bit more they hang on to their value – which attracts company and fleet accountants.

From the Mazda’s peer group come the Mondeo, with a new hybrid estate next year, the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, the Passat, the Skoda Superb, the Kia Optima and now, a potential winner, Peugeot’s new 508.

The other snag for the Mazda’s sector is the move away from these business saloons and estates towards SUVs. Mazda has its CX3 and CX5 and the MX-5 two-seater, which this autumn gets the option of a 184ps 2-litre engine for both the roadster and the RF targa. That leaves this middle-market saloon and estate. The case is not hopeless. The “6” looks sexy – though a liftback body would be more practical than a saloon.

As facelifts go, this is just a mild preening. Mazda has not wasted effort over many exterior changes to the 6. The design of the front has been altered but not by much. The main new feature is the diamond pattern, sunken gloss black grille mesh. The link to the headlamps is different, so is the shape of the lower apron. The differences are subtle enough to cause a harrumph in the Camshaft Arms – not that many will be genned up on the Mazda6’s physiognomy.

On the one hand there are Mazda enthusiasts, and on the other, people who know little about these cars from Hiroshima. There is a choice of three petrol engines and two diesels. The main mechanical news is the 2.5-litre petrol engine. This four-cylinder engine is making its debut in Britain but is already used in other markets – with a turbocharger. The UK model is naturally aspirated, in line with Mazda skyactiv philosophy which is against the trend for boosted smaller engines. The extra capacity gives it 194ps (191.3 bhp). It has automatic close-down of two cylinders on a light throttle to save fuel. That’s a familiar technique on engines in the Volkswagen Group.

On a hard throttle the engine has the snarl of a potent six-cylinder engine. The 0-62mph time is given as 8.1 seconds with the six-speed automatic gearbox. It sounds faster and feels slower because it doesn’t reach peak torque until 4,000rpm. Be aware when overtaking; it may not be accelerating as quickly as the sound suggests. A turbocharger would transform it – at a cost. There’s a torquey 2-litre turbo diesel offered in 150ps and 184ps turbo outputs, plus a 2-litre unboosted petrol engine rated at 145ps and 165ps. All use Mazda’s high compression technology.

If you are chasing cheap running then the weaker diesel posts a 64mpg average with 117g of CO2. The petrol models are rated at 42mpg to 45mpg. All are offered with six automatic gears, except the 145ps Tourer. The cheapest range is the SE-L Nav, followed by Lux, Sport and GT Sport – the only one with the 2.5-litre engine and automatic gears.

Prices start at £23,195 for the SE-L Nav saloon and £24,095 for the more versatile Tourer, each with the weaker petrol engine. Sampled here is the GT Sport Tourer, costing £31,695, plus £560 for the sonic silver paint finish. Mazda’s latest signature soul red crystal metallic paint would be £800. There is also a stunning deep grey metallic for £680. I feel they’d add value when you trade on while enhancing the already exciting body shapes.

The standard specification is enticing: head-up display with traffic sign reading, blind-spot mirrors and rear crossing traffic warning, city safety braking, lane-keeping, navigation and media connections, cruise control and front and rear climate control. You also have power-folding mirrors, LED lights front and rear, auto lights and wipers. A reversing camera is part of the Lux trim; Bose audio and 19-inch wheels come with the Sport. The GT Sport adds soft leather, real wood trim, rear safety braking, a 360-degree monitor, heated outer rear seats, heated steering wheel, sunroof and so on.

It is a tempting list and may help Mazda sales staff clinch the deal. You’ll also be confronted with the word “skyactiv”. It has little do with the sky or human activity. It refers to the use of larger capacity, high-compression, non-turbo petrol engines instead of smaller engines with turbos. The absence of a turbocharger is one potential wallet-buster dodged when the car gets older.

Verdict: Worth a test drive but there’s an argument for one of the cheaper models.