With revised styling and competitive pricing, wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER says Mazda’s new 6 has lots to offer.
IN its latest guise, the Mazda6 has been around for a while now and has helped the brand attract an increasing number of fans who have come to appreciate its good looks and excellent driving qualities.
If anything, following a major reworking and upgrading exercise, I suspect the Zoom-Zoom company is about to enjoy an increase in sales with what I think is now one of the best looking cars in its class.
During the launch exercise in Scotland, I took the time to step back and admire the new car from several angles and found absolutely nothing to pick fault with. Its reworked front and rear ends work really well, and the new head and fog lights, and rear light clusters, serve to enhance its sporting appeal.
The Mazda6 competes in a sector of the market which is fiercely fought over by manufacturers, and there is plenty of choice, but with prices for the range starting at £16,995 and rising to £23,445 on the road, it is well-placed to take the fight to its rivals, both in the family and business markets, where previous incarnations of this model have achieved considerable success.
The changes to the exterior of the car, which have seen it get the latest Mazda “family face” are only the start of the story though, for it is under the skin where most of the alternations and tweaks have taken place.
Inside, equipment levels have been improved and the centre console and steering wheel spokes are now finished in a smart, high-gloss piano black trim, while the dials are trimmed with silver rings, which combined with softer dashboard materials give the interior a higher quality feel.
The seats are very comfortable and the driving position excellent, although it does annoy me when manufacturers fail to fully convert their cars for the market in which they are sold. Mazda is guilty of this with its six in that the handbrake is on the left hand side of its centre console instead of the right, but it is not alone – Nissan’s top-selling and similarly upgraded Quashqai, which I was driving at the time of this launch, was the same, and French carmakers are often guilty of failing to swop their windscreen wipers over for the right-hand drive market.
The four trim levels will be familiar to customers, with the S, TS, TS2 and Sport grades, but the cars now come with smart indicators and brake lights which flash when the driver brakes hard in an emergency. The sportier models at the top end of the range get rear spoilers, parking sensors and Bi-Xenon adaptive front lighting systems.
As you would expect, much work has been carried out on the engines, and buyers now have choice of six engines, three petrol and three diesels.
When I arrived at Inverness airport, I was given the 2.5-litre 170PS model for my hour-and-a-half drive to the hotel, where I was the last to arrive due to my late flight up from Birmingham. Warnings of a clamp-down by the Scottish constabulary on rural roads meant I was careful to stick to the prescribed speed limits, but some of the tighter, twistier roads gave me the chance to explore the car’s handling abilities within the speed restrictions, and I have to say I had no complaints at all. The work on the steering and suspension have clearly done the trick.
Although it was one of the sportier models, the suspension set-up is very compliant giving a comfortable ride at all times. The controls are light so you won’t be building up your leg muscles on the clutch pedal and the steering feels light and responsive to every input.
A 10-mile section of single track road with plenty of visibility, gave me the chance to push the car on a bit, on an undulating and rough surface which it took completely in its stride, with assured and competent handling.
The next morning, we took the 2.2-litre diesel engined car for the trip back to the airport via a picturesque route along the shores of Loch Ness. Although we kept our eyes peeled, we didn’t spot Nessie this time – just a big plastic model lurking at the side of a hotel. It was a slower pace than in the previous model the night before, but it felt just as sure-footed and capable on the single track roads and impressed with its levels of refinement inside. Hardly any noise from the diesel engine was noticable in the cabin, even at low speeds. The 2.2-litre unit is available in either 129, 163 or 180PS power ratings and offers improved economy and lower C02 emissions than its predecessors.
Mid-life upgrades can sometimes be a bit of a non-event, despite what the manufacturers might tell you, but with the Mazda6, the company has moved the game on by a substantial margin. With cleaner and more efficient engines, there will be no monster running costs to worry about, and with more equipment, a smarter, better equipped interior and improved ride and handling, I would suggest that this is one car that should definitely be on your shopping list when it’s time to change your wheels.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
MODEL: Mazda6 2.2 TS Diesel (163 PS) five-door.
MAZDA6 RANGE: From 1.8 S 5dr (£16,995) to 2.2 Sport Diesel estate (£23,445).
ENGINE: 2184cc, 163PS four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 142g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 132mph. 0-62mph in 9.2 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 40.9mpg.
Fuel tank: 64 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 25.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.