The Mazda 6 is offered with two engines, each in two states of tune. The 2.0-litre petrol comes with either 143bhp or 163bhp, both with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard (the lower-powered engine is also available with a six-speed automatic). Neither has much torque, so both need to be worked hard. The 2.2-litre diesel makes more sense; it’s available with 148bhp or 173bhp, but it’s the lesser of the two states of tune that impresses most – it’s quick enough and is remarkably flexible.
The 6's suspension is focused on precision. Body control is well contained as a result and there’s plenty of grip, but the steering is light and frustratingly vague around the straight-ahead. More of a problem, though, is ride comfort. Even on fairly small 17-inch wheels there’s a decidedly firm edge at low speeds, so you feel even the tiniest bumps through your backside. Things don’t improve much at high speed, either, because there’s still far too much patter on the motorway.
All engines are refined companions when you get up to motorway speeds. However, Mazda has 'engineered in' what is considers to be an appealing noise when the engines are pushed hard; in our experience, that just means you hear too much from them when you’re trying to get a move on. On the plus side, you feel very little engine vibration through the seats or steering wheel. Wind and road noise aren’t much of an issue, although neither is quite as well suppressed as in an equivalent Ford Mondeo.
For such a large car, the Mazda 6 delivers remarkable fuel economy and CO2 figures. Even the petrol versions emit as little as 129g/km. However, the star is the 148bhp diesel, which pumps out just 108g/km, making the 6 cheaper to run as a company car than any Ford Mondeo. The more powerful (173bhp) diesel makes less sense, because it’s available only in range-topping Sport trim, so it’s pricey.
The cabin looks smart enough, and even though the dashboard materials aren’t quite as plush as they are in some rivals, everything feels solid and built to last. Unfortunately, Mazda’s reliability record isn’t quite as good as that of some other Japanese manufacturers. This latest model was too new to be included in the latest JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, but the previous generation car received only average marks for mechanical reliability.
Front, side and curtain airbags come as standard, and further safety features include radar-controlled cruise control, brake support - which warns the driver if they are too close to the car in front, and brakes if it detects an imminent accident - and Smart City Brake Support, which works between 2.5mph and 19mph to bring the car to a complete halt if it detects an imminent front-end collision.
The Mazda 6 has a comfortable driver’s seat and the dashboard is relatively uncluttered, with ventilation controls down low and the infotainment system up high close to eye level. However, it’s a shame that the new touch-screen system looks like an aftermarket fitment, and that isn’t simpler to navigate; Mazda needs to integrate it fully into the dash design, and remove a few of the more bizarre buttons on the dashboard while it’s at it; who uses a 12/24h button for the clock more than once?
The 6 has masses of space in the front, and unless you’ve got a very long-legged rear passenger, you’re unlikely hear any complaints about rear kneeroom. Unfortunately, rear headroom isn’t as impressive due to the way the outer edges of the car taper in; if you’re over six feet tall you may have to slouch to keep your head off the ceiling. The boot is a useful 483 litres, but the saloon opening means the Mazda isn’t as versatile as hatchback rivals, including the Ford Mondeo.
The 6 range starts with SE spec, which brings daytime running lights, electric door mirrors, keyless start, air-conditioning and a touch-screen infotainment system as standard. Two further variants of this spec are available: SE-L, which adds rain-sensing wipers, climate control and front and rear parking sensors, and SE-L Nav, which brings TomTom sat-nav. Sport trim level gets 19-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, a reversing camera, leather trim and keyless entry.
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