You might be expecting this review of the new Mazda 6 to be as follows: worthy, dull, unexceptional. But Mazda has always done things a little differently, and despite the Mazda 6 operating in a very conservative, arguably out of date market sector, there is more to this car than just a large saloon and estate with a mainstream badge.
To start with it might be worth noting that the subtle facelift that this appears to be is anything but. The exterior styling may look very similar, but under the skin and inside the cabin, the new Mazda 6 has been through a thorough refresh, even if the basic ingredients are much the same.
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Mazda has a way with its mainstream models. As PR-driven as it sounds, there really is a connection that all Mazdas have with the single model that defines the entire brand: the MX-5. It’s felt in the way most Mazdas drive - an inherent appeal to the driver, engineered-in from its very conception that even premium/sporting brands like BMW seem to be overlooking in the pursuit of a wider-reaching talent base.
Slick, sorted gear shifts, consistent and considered control weights and engines that focus more on execution than pure numbers are all core elements that make many Mazdas the unsung driving heroes in their respective classes. Does that all apply to the new Mazda 6, though, and is this the sort of family car that we should all be buying, rather than compromised SUVs and crossovers?
Mazda 6: in detail
Performance and 0-62mph time > Five engines are available at launch, offering adequate performance, but none is particularly brisk.
Engine and gearbox > Available at launch are two naturally aspirated petrols and one turbo diesel four-cylinder in a total of five states of tune.
Ride and handling > Mazda’s well-judged driving dynamics deliver an impressive mix of taught body control overlaid by a supple ride
MPG and running costs > On paper mpg figures for the petrol versions don’t look as impressive as rivals, but are easier to match in the real world
Interior and tech > A vast improvement on a cabin that had little wrong with it in the first place. Blurs the line between mainstream and premium
Design > A subtle update it may be, but the Mazda 6 is underpinned by excellent proportions and a real air of sophistication against rivals
Prices, specs and rivals:
Verging ever closer to premium the Mazda 6 may be, but pricing remains sternly mainstream as even the range-topping GT Sport models barely breach the £30k mark. Starting at the entry-level, the sweet 2-litre petrol fitted with the slick manual gearbox that we’ll get into a little later starts at just over £23k. For a saloon of over 4.8m it’s a lot of car for the money. A more powerful version of the same 2-litre four-cylinder engine is available on a higher trim level for just under £26k, while the range-topping 2.5-litre petrol engine is a smidge under £31k and is only available in fully loaded Sport GT trim and with an automatic gearbox.
Diesels aren’t priced too much higher, starting at just under £26k for the lower-powered model, with the higher-powered diesel starting at around £2500 more. If you want an automatic transmission, factor in an extra £1800. Meanwhile the attractive Tourer, or estate, is only an extra £800.
Like many Japanese cars, equipment is separated into trim levels, rather than individual options, cycling through SE-L, SE-L Lux, Sport and GT Sport versions. All models receive satnav embedded into Mazda’s infotainment system, alloy wheels and climate control, while all models bar the base SE-L also pick up leather seats. So far so normal, but wander further up the range and larger 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, Nappa leather, a head-up display and an upgraded stereo are all highlights among the lengthy standard equipment list.
Despite the somewhat downtrodden existence of the mainstream mid-sized saloon, many have yet to totally disappear from the segment, so the new Mazda 6 still has plenty of rivals to answer to. Class (and mostly fleet-driven) juggernauts such as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia pair vast interiors with bargain prices, but both have their flaws. The Volkswagen Passat is about as sensible as modern motoring gets, but under the sterile design there’s a capable car, only made more so by its wide variety of powertrain options, not to mention the plug-in hybrid GTE. Skoda’s Superb positions itself as a larger and more affordable version of the Passat, a claim it largely fulfils.
The all-new Peugeot 508 is an impressive addition in the class, featuring dramatic styling and striking interior design and tech. Although impressively executed, its push into the premium sector has been accompanied by a simultaneous price hike, making it a more expensive proposition than the Mazda and its other key rivals, but it remains a very strong option in the class nonetheless.
There are also the inevitable comparisons against the compact premium executives, like the BMW 3-series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-class. All may have less generous standard equipment and a higher starting price, but often don’t cost much more in the long run thanks to stronger resale values.