Former F1 champ tells TG about his car history, and why he’ll never own a McLaren F1
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The Top Gear car review:Mazda 6
For:Sexiest looker in the class, actually quite agile for its size, facelifted cabin is a winner.
Against:Ripply ride on the big wheels, and Skoda’s enormous Superb is a better (if more nondescript) all-rounder.
What is it?
The Mazda 6 is Mazda’s handsome-looking, big-space offering, sharp-driving…rep saloon, really. And that’s the problem. Biggish saloons without German badges just aren’t in demand now they’ve been squeezed by crossovers, more affordable SUVs and the pesky Germans themselves undercutting the masses. Ford used to sell over 100,000 Mondeos in Britain alone annually. Presently, the whole segment struggles to match that, and Mazda is its unsung hero.
This 6, which starts a smidge under £20k, has been on sale since 2012, and received a very mild exterior update in 2016. While Mazda didn’t mess too much with styling that may well have cropped up on the Alfa Giulia’s mood board, it did set about the tinny interior and class-leading handling, and improved both with varying degree of success. The cabin is where the money needed to be spent, sorting out a schizophrenic infotainment system that comprised many buttons and an unhelpful touchscreen, surrounded in materials that Kia turned its nose up a while ago. Mazda obliged, reducing the button count and upping material quality. Hey, it’s no Audi but you might just be fooled into thinking some of that plastic is metal this time around. Meanwhile, there’s something Mazda excitedly calls SkyActiv Vehicle Dynamics, which purports to reduce torque during corners to make the handling tidier, making the car more agile and requiring fewer corrections from the driver. Overkill really, but a decent pub fact.
You can spec a five-door estate, or a four-door saloon, have a six-speed automatic instead of the meaty manual, but all 6s will have four-cylinder engines driving their front wheels. You can have a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre – something of an anachronism for this sector – but far more up fleet man’s alley are the 2.2-litre diesels in 148bhp and 174bhp tune. Three-quarters of all UK sales are swallowed by the diesels, with the lower-powered car offering claimed efficiency of 68.9mpg and 107g/km of CO2. Talk about cake and eating it.