Mazda might not have the sort of market penetration of its Japanese rivals Honda and Toyota, but there’s something inherently desirable and credible about the brand. The Mazda6 exemplifies that. Competing in a marketplace mired in the mundane, the 6 manages to appeal on more than the traditional Japanese reliability level. It’s good looking for a start, while it’s right at the top of the pile as a driving proposition, with crisp steering and fine handling. It’s getting old, but the 2.2-litre diesel model, which starts at around £20,000, is still well worth a look.
The 6 might be headed for the big showroom in the sky soon, but it’s still a good looking, attractive proposition. There’s flair to its lines, with real attention to detail around the lights, the rear lights in particular looking very neat. It’s low and wide for a car of this type, its bold wheelarches filled nicely, its stance more sporting than many of its mainstream rivals. The interior lacks the drama of the exterior, but all the controls are obvious and the instrumentation clear. The materials aren’t up to the class best from Volkswagen, but it’s well built and solid despite some of its cabin materials feeling a little on the cheap side.
The 510 litre boot in the hatchback version is among the biggest in its class, so you’ll get a couple of sets of golf clubs or children’s prams and the like in with no trouble at all. An estate if available if you need slightly more carrying space, but for most the hatchback should be sufficient, particularly if you drop the seats down. It’s comfortable inside, though the seat bases are a bit short up front and wind noise is greater than newer rivals.
Performance & handling
The 6 rides a bit firmer than the majority of its mainstream competition, but the trade off for that is a sharper handling family car. Indeed, the 6 has long been regarded as at least as good as the benchmark Ford Mondeo in the class for driver enjoyment. The steering is light but accurate, the suspension providing good control and limited roll in bends, the wide track helping with the 6’s surefooted, sporting feel. The petrol engines please with their smooth responsiveness, though the 2.2-litre diesel is the most popular choice. It mixes decent economy with respectable performance, the 129hp version reaching 62mph in 10.9 seconds and the 163hp models dropping that to 9.2 seconds.
There's plentiful torque, 266lb.ft in the higher power specification and 251lb.ft in lower, so progress is easy from low speeds. The gearshift is slick, all diesel models getting a six-speed unit.
Economy & environment
Mazda prides itself in its lightweight technology, and the 6 is lighter than most cars in its class. That means the engines don’t have to work so hard, allowing greater economy across the range. With its advancing years it’s not quite as green as newer rivals, but there are still models you can drive with a clear environmental conscience. There’s no green star in its range like you’ll get in many rivals’ line-ups, the least emitting, best mpg coming from the 129hp 2.2-litre diesel. It’ll return 54.3mpg and emits 133g/km on the official combined cycle. Not stellar environmental performance then, just respectable.
Equipment & value
The 6 might not be the greenest among its long list of rivals, but it’s among the best as a value proposition. You can have that 54.3mpg capability for under £20,000 and despite the relatively low sticker prices the 6 doesn’t skimp on standard equipment. Alloy wheels, climate control, mp3 connectivity and cruise control comes as standard with TS specification gaining parking sensors and Bluetooth connection. There’s a real bargain package in the range though in the guise of the Business Line model, which comes with the 129hp 2.2-litre turbodiesel and has virtually everything the TS2 specification has for even less outlay.
Like all its rivals the Mazda6 holds the necessary, top 5 star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, though analyse its individual scores and it’s not quite as impressive as newer contenders. That said, the lengthy list of standard airbags, as well as DSC (Directional Stability Control) should give peace of mind.
Like its key Ford Mondeo rival the Mazda6 is due for replacement soon, and while the new 6 will undoubtedly better this one the current 6 shouldn’t be overlooked in the family car marketplace -- especially if you enjoy driving. It’s inexpensive, spacious, well equipped as standard and looks great, all of which is enough to soften the blow of the less competitive economy compared to its newest rivals. With the new car on the horizon too there’s an opportunity to get an even better deal on a new 6, so drive your dealer hard if the 6 appeals to you.
Model tested: Mazda6
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 9.1 seconds
Top speed: 131mph
Emissions: 141g/km CO2