“The Mazda6 sets the benchmark as a value-for-money, stylish and sporty saloon.”
The third-generation 6 is a completely new car from the ground up, having been designed to reduce running costs and maximize fuel efficiency while always ensuring that it's fun to drive. The car is lighter than before and comes fitted with Mazda's SkyActiv technology to make it even more efficient, while the manual and automatic gearboxes have also been improved. The exterior has a sleeker design that brings it in line with the stylish looks of the rest of the Mazda range, while inside you’ll find a stylish dashboard and plenty of space for passengers to get comfortable. Unfortunately though, the boot is a little smaller than the old car thanks to the change from a five-door hatchback to a four-door saloon.
The Mazda6 comes in three main specifications – with each offering a lot of equipment and technology for the price. All cars get a range of safety assistance gadgets and accessories that make the Mazda6 one of the best-equipped and safest cars available on the UK market. All of this made it so good that chose to award it our 2013 CarBuyer Best Large Family Car prize, and if you need all this in a more practical package, then there's a smart Mazda6 Tourer estate to take care of all your load-lugging needs.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The Mazda6 is surprisingly efficient. The 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine is the most economical engine, returning a claimed 72.4mpg in combined fuel economy and emitting 104g/km of CO2, placing it in tax band B, which will cost you just £20 a year. That's 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 really 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 fitted into the 6, including Mazda's nifty 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 (if nothing else, you have to love the names), unique to the Mazda6, it harnesses energy whenever the car isn’t accelerating by sending energy to a capacitor that diverts it 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, which is quite a feat and could herald further economy improvements down the line.
Interior & comfort
The Mazda6 is both a comfortable and a convenient car. The ride is smooth, so any occupants won’t be thrown about by any bumps or potholes – even in the Sport models with their firmer ride thanks to stiffer suspension and their larger 19-inch alloy wheels. You get supportive seats and a decent driving position that gives plenty of visibility. The dashboard is well laid out, with the instruments simple and easy to use, with air-conditioning and entertainment functions fairly intuitive from the moment you get behind the wheel. There's also a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity and dual climate control included as standard on higher-spec models.
Practicality & boot space
The Mazda6 is the longest car in its class, those dimensions giving passengers in both the front and back of the car plenty of shoulder and legroom to get comfortable, with long journeys not leaving them aching and stiff. You’ll find plenty of storage and cubby holes located around the interior, including map pockets and cup holders. However, because the door bins have been specially moulded to snugly fit round a 1.5-litre bottle, they’re not particularly good at carrying anything else. Access to the interior is good, with Mazda widening the doors to make getting in and out easier, so tall passengers won’t have to do too much stooping to climb aboard. Another disappointment is that the boot is actually smaller than in the car it replaces, losing 24 litres to offer 483 litres of luggage capacity with the back seats in place. Fortunately that's still better than the Honda Accord's 467 litres and only lags behind the Ford Mondeo by a paltry three litres. The standard-fit 60:40 split-folding rear seats fold down and the boot capacity expands to a far more respectable size, but if you truly want that extra flexibility, the Tourer estate is far better, offering 505 litres with seats up and a pretty huge 1,648 litres with the seats folded down flat.
Reliability & safety
First off, the Mazda6 is safe, securing the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. It comes fitted with driver, passenger, knee and curtain airbags, lane departure warning, smart city brake support (which brakes the car when it detects an upcoming collision, up to speeds of 19mph) and blind spot warning all as standard equipment. Mazda came fourth in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey and that's certainly nothing to be sniffed at, demonstrating Mazda's continued reputation for making reliable, well-constructed car and building on the company's strong pedigree in engineering. The previous model of the Mazda6 came 46th in the survey's top 100 cars list, which was a drop of some 20 places down the table, but still an impressive showing, especially considering that the new car was already waiting in the wings. As a result, you can justifiably expect this latest model to easily outperform its predecessor in nearly all categories. The latest 6 is very much in the tradition of the car it replaces – well built and durable, the engines have been tried and tested in the Mazda CX-5 crossover and are based on the engines used in the old 6, so there should be very few problems to be dealt with. It's also made in Japan, with its lofty international reputation for consistent quality, and comes with a standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty.
Engines, drive & performance
The best word to describe how the Mazda6 drives is easy. It has a precise gearbox, light steering and well-weighted pedals that make it quite fun to drive. The driving position is good, with excellent views of the road ahead, and barely any wind, road or engine noise is audible inside the car whether you’re driving around town or cruising on the motorway. The excellent range of engines starts with a 143bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, which is also available as a more powerful 162bhp version. The 2.2-litre diesel is offered as either a 148bhp model or in a 172bhp version reserved for the top-of-the-range Sport model. The petrol engines do offer better performance but the diesels aren’t that far behind the petrols, and will definitely provide enough performance for many drivers, with superior fuel economy as well.
Price, value for money & options
Mazda cars are so well engineered and offer so much equipment that you’d be hard-pressed not to think that they’re good value, even though they’re not the cheapest cars on the market. The entry-level SE model comes fitted with LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels, plus a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen display, push-button start, a four-speaker stereo, and Bluetooth and USB connectivity, all as standard equipment. Meanwhile, the higher-spec SE-L includes dual-zone climate control and Mazda's Smart City Brake support system, which brings the car to a complete stop when its sensors detect a stationary object ahead, reducing collisions at speeds up to 19mph. You also get a full range of airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESP) to help shorten braking distances and keep the car stable on virtually any road conditions. The top-of-the-range Sport model does start to get a bit expensive compared to its rivals because it is packed with even more equipment, including 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and a reversing camera, plus a Bose stereo and leather heated electric front seats. If you wanted to equip a top-of-the-range Volkswagen Passat with the same amount of accessories, you’d have to add load of expensive optional extras.