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The Top Gear car review:Mazda Mazda6
For:Clever engine tech, low costs, pretty styling, superb drive
Against:2.0-litre petrol engine is noisy
2.2d SE-L Nav 4dr
Mazda benchmarks the 6 against the Ford Mondeo and the VW Passat, and it works… in numbers. But what about the X factor?
There isn’t a better car in its class, though we wouldn’t go quite as far as saying it beats a Mondeo
The design concept for the MPS was created for the Paris motor show back in 2002. To put it into some sort of context, that’s the year before we...
What we say:
The old 6 wasn't a bad car. Even so, here's an all-new one. And it's much better
What is it?
Mazda is a relatively small company trying to compete in a sector that has defeated many. The large saloon is, unless it wears a premium badge, something of a dying breed these days. Fleet drivers simply don’t need to think twice when given the choice between a decent-spec Toyota Avensis or a base-spec BMW 316d SE.
That’s why Mazda has had a rethink with this new Mazda 6. The first genuinely new car from its so-called ‘SKYACTIV’ methodology, it’s lighter, greener, smarter and prettier. It’s trying to be a viable alternative to the premium brands, with good looks and intelligent brand appeal of its own. And, newly enhanced last year with added polish for its weaknesses (namely, the interior), it’s a genuine contender.
All that lightweight engineering really pays dividends out on the road: this is one of the best-handling front-drive cars in the sector. There’s a whiff of MX-5 in its nimble nature and faithful steering, although not at the expense of the grown-up big-car feel fleet-driving execs like too. The ride has been softened last year, curing a grumble of the previous iteration (Mazda’s also quelled the road noise).
Mazda is keen to shout about the 2.0-litre petrol engine. Shout you indeed will be if you drive it hard: it’s good, but not the quietest. The 2.2-litre diesels are, however, exceptional. Smooth, responsive, free-revving and usefully vigorous, they’ll be the default choice of most and rightly so too. Chuck in a snappy gearchange and you’ve a car with ample appeal for keen drivers.
On the inside
At launch, the latest 6 had a disappointing interior, with shiny plastics and a clunky TomTOm sat nav. Mazda’s rectified that with all-new infotainment, a centre console restyle and better quality materials. It’s a big improvement. The fundamentals are right, too: Mazda has achieved a spot-on driving position, with a well-placed steering wheel, low-set seats and a snappy gearlever (you can pretend like you’re in a new MX-5 while crawling along the M25).
Boy, it’s roomy, too. The rear seat is palatial and the fact it’s a saloon doesn’t seriously compromise boot space. This is a well-planned area too and Mazda’s not only fitted fold-down seat backs but also installed cubbies in the boot floor to stop nick-nacks battering the luggage bay sides. Neat.
The petrol delivers diesel-like fuel economy (51.4mpg, 130g/km CO₂), while the diesel can return supermini-like efficiency: 72.4mpg and 106g/km are exceptional. The free-breathing petrol is tempting but we’d always say stick to the diesel. Either way, safe to say, the 6 has the potential to seriously slash your fuel bills. It’ll run like clockwork, as all Mazdas do, and all this comes for list prices that’ll make the competition blush: keenest buy is the SE-L, if you can resist the temptation of the smart-looking Sport Nav.