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 ES. 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. Can ambitious little Mazda pull it off? First signs are good.
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 isn’t the smoothest in the sector, and road roar isn’t the best insulated, but overall it’s a fine compromise. Mazda is keen to shout about the new 2.0-litre petrol engine. Shout you indeed will be if you drive it hard: it’s a good motor, but not the quietest. The new 2.2-litre diesels are, however, exceptional engines. 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
Compared to the lovely exterior, the interior is a bit disappointing. It’s very well built but doesn’t have the premium feel now expected in this class. The plastics are a bit shiny, the TomTom sat nav a bit low rent. Good job the fundamentals are right, then: Mazda has worked hard on achieving a spot-on driving position, with a well-placed steering wheel, low-set seats and a snappy gearlever placed just so. 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, while the diesel returns figures normally associated with superminis: 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. No wonder Mazda reckons the arrival of this car will more than double sales in the UK…