“The Mazda6 sets the benchmark as a value-for-money, stylish and sporty saloon.”
Mazda has set its sights on the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia with the third-generation Mazda6 saloon. A new car from the ground up, the latest Mazda6 has been designed to maximise fuel efficiency and reduce running costs, while always keeping it fun to drive. Both body and engines are lighter and more efficient thanks to Mazda's SkyActiv technology, while the manual and automatic gearboxes have also been improved. Outside, it sports the manufacturer's sleek Kodo design style. Passengers will find loads of space inside, but changing the 6 from a five-door hatchback to a four-door saloon has reduced the size of the boot compared to its predecessor. It comes in three specifications – entry-level SE, mid-range SE-L and top-of-the-range Sport – that offer lots of equipment and technology, including a range of safety assistance widgets that make the Mazda6 one of the best-equipped and safest cars on the market. All of this made it good enough for us to award it our 2013 CarBuyer Best Large Family Car prize. You can also get the Mazda6 as a smart Tourer estate.
If you want an easy car to drive, the Mazda6 has a precise gearbox, well-weighted pedals and light steering. Visibility is excellent from a good driving position. There's very little engine noise and it's very quiet both on the motorway and around town. The excellent range of engines starts with a 143bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, which is also available as a 162bhp version. The 2.2-lotre diesel is offered with either 148bhp or a more powerful 172bph setting reserved for the top-spec Sport model. The petrol engines do offer more performance so are a bit more exciting as they accelerate faster, making overtaking a very calm, straightforward manoeuvre. But the diesels aren’t that much slower, to be honest, and will definitely provide enough power for many drivers.
Supportive seats and a good driving position mean the Mazda6 is both comfortable and convenient. The dashboard is simply laid out and the instruments and equipment are easy to use, with air-conditioning and entertainment functions pretty intuitive from the moment you sit down. Life is made even easier by the range of equipment, including a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity and dual climate control in higher-spec models. The back seat passengers even get rear air-conditioning vents while they stretch out in the increased legroom from the previous model. The ride is smooth and comfortable, so occupants won’t be disturbed by any bumps, even in the Sport models, which have a firmer ride thanks to their larger 19-inch alloy wheels.
Mazda is a company with a strong engineering pedigree and a solid reputation for producing reliable, well-made cars. Mazda came fourth in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with the previous model 6 coming in at 46 in the top 100 cars. While the old 6 did drop 20-odd places down the table, expect the new model to easily outperform its predecessor. The latest 6 follows in this tradition, feeling well built. The engines, based on ones used in previous models, have been tried-and-tested in the Mazda CX-5 crossover, so there shouldn’t be many bugs to iron out. It's also produced in Japan, with its significant international reputation for quality, and comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty. It's also pretty safe, even though it hasn’t been put through the rigorous Euro NCAP crash safety tests yet. It does come with driver, passenger, knee and curtain airbags, active lighting, lane departure warning, smart city brake support (which stops the car when it detects an impending collision, up to speeds of 19mph) and blind spot warning.
The current Mazda6 has the longest dimensions in its class, which affords both front and rear passengers excellent leg and shoulder room inside the spacious interior. The boot is smaller than the previous model, down 24 litres at 483, but still trumps the Honda Accord (467 litres) and is only three litres smaller than a Ford Mondeo's. Mazda has also widened the door openings to make getting in and out easier, while the rear seats split 60:40 when they fold down for maximum loading flexibility. The Tourer estate has a 505-litre boot that expands to 1,648 litres with the seats folded if you really do need that extra space. There's lots of storage and cubbyholes dotted around the saloon, however, including map pockets, but the door bins have been moulded to fit 1.5-litre bottles so aren’t very good at holding anything else. You can also choose from a selection of optional advanced driver assist systems, including lane departure, blind spot detection, and radar cruise control that automatically slows the car if it detects slow-moving traffic ahead.
Value for money
The base SE model of the Mazda6 comes with LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels, along with a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen display, push-button start, a four-speaker stereo, and Bluetooth and USB connectivity as standard. Up a spec level, the SE-L adds dual-zone climate control and Mazda's Smart City Brake support system, which brings the car to a complete stop when its radar picks up a stationary object ahead, preventing collisions up to speeds of 19mph. You get a full array of airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control to help shorten braking distances and keep the 6 stable in varied conditions. The top-of-the-range Sport model does get pricey compared to rivals because it is loaded with even more equipment, including 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and a reversing camera, as well as a Bose stereo and leather heated electric front seats. You’d have to add a tonne of optional extras to a top-spec VW Passat to match that specification level.
The 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel engines is the Mazda6's most efficient, returning a claimed 72.4mpg and emitting 104g/km of CO2 – which is better than the Ford Mondeo's 2.0-litre diesel and the Honda Accord diesel, both of which return 53mpg, and emit 139g/km and 138g/km of CO2, respectively. The petrol engines are also very efficient, with the entry-level 2.0-litre model returning 51.4mpg and emitting 129g/km of CO2. There's also a range of fuel-saving technology packed into the 6, including Mazda's i-Stop stop-start system, which switches the engine off when the car comes to a complete stop in traffic. Then there's the i-Eloop system – unique to the Mazda6, the i-Eloop harnesses energy whenever the car isn’t accelerating by sending it to a capacitor that diverts the energy to power the air-conditioning, headlights and other electrical equipment while the car is stationary. Mazda claims that this improves fuel economy by up to 10 per cent.