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£22,500 when new
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Why anyone would bother with a 6 when there’s a decent enough Ford and VW that are roughly the same size, roughly the same shape and cost roughly the same amount of money, is a question Mazda must have asked itself. A lot. But it’s come up with some pretty compelling answers. At 1,405kg, the allnew 6 is light (around 100kg less than an equivalent Mondeo), it’ll get a claimed 67.3 miles to the gallon with the 6spd manual (9.6mpg more than the Ford), emit 108g/ km of CO2 (11g/km less than the Passat), and, because of its low weight, the 148bhp engine gets it to 62mph in a respectable 9.0secs, 0.8secs faster than the VW.

The numbers are largely thanks to the raft of innovations Mazda has developed under its SkyActiv umbrella. The 2.2-litre two-stage turbodiesel gets an incredibly low 14:1 compression ratio (this means less strain on the engine so lighter internals can be used) and an optional capacitorbased brake regeneration system called i-ELOOP, which powers the electricals so the engine doesn’t have to. There’s also a stiffer and lighter shell, so it has a game stab at handling properly. The ride’s relatively firm, but not jiggly - there’s hardly any body roll, considering it’s a big saloon, but it’s forgiving when the road surface isn’t. The steering feels properly weighted, too, and the gear ratios are tight, but not too sporty for motorway use. When you push it, there’s some genuine fun to be had.

Mondeo aside, this is something we thought was irretrievably lost from middling saloons, especially stuff this efficient. Assuming you have eyes, you’ll have your own opinion on the 6’s new looks, but we reckon it’s a pretty handsome thing. Park it next to a Passat or a Mondeo, and its four-door-coupe(ish) outline is distinctive if nothing else. From mid-spec up, you also get 19-inch wheels, which add a visual dollop of sportiness.

So, a proper contender, then? Yes, but… it’s a Mazda. And that fact alone seems to impose deeply inert interior styling. It’s not that it feels cheap or nasty (most of the grabby stuff is soft and lovely), and the infotainment equipment is decent (especially the optional 11-speaker Bose stereo), but it’s so terribly dull. Especially considering the brave exterior. Dreary innards aside, this is a very good car. It handles lots better than a Passat, burns less fuel than a Mondeo (the cleanest is 65.7mpg), and is more engaging than both. It’s even fun enough to trouble low-spec BMWs and Mercs, and you’ll get a lot more for your money.

Thing is, it’s still a big Mazda, so you’ll only buy it if you’re overendowed with common sense.

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