I’ve always believed that the best-looking cars are the ones which look like they’re moving, even when they’re stationary. Mazda think the same thing and this is partly what their ‘KODO’ design philosophy is all about. I guess the guy from Mazda is right when he passionately talks about animals (and in particular, racehorses), athletes, body lines which depict ‘leaping’, and strong hip muscles. The new Mazda6 does indeed look dynamic, athletic and sculpted – and I absolutely love it. It looks splendid from all angles but my personal favourites are the coupe-esque side profile with its sloping roofline down to the boot, and the front-three-quarters, with its bulging, purposeful wheel arches and chrome-accented grille, flanked with attractive LED daytime running lights.
The Mazda6 is classed as a large family car and in my view it therefore has the best styling in its class. Rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat look far less exciting. With striking looks like these, the Mazda6 is capable of poaching a few sales from the executive saloon market and one of the biggest compliments I can pay it is that it has design whiffs of Jaguar and Infiniti about it. The one I was testing for the week bore the lovely Soul Red paint job which really did show its curves and lines off well. The corporate market often goes for more conservative colours like silver and black and I’m sure the Mazda6 Sport would look very desirable in them too.
Commendably, Mazda have made the new ‘6’ look hardly any different from their Takeri concept car and it really does provide a refreshing sight on the UK’s roads. Okay, the previous Mazda6 looked good too, but this new one is whole lot more desirable. Why, it even incited a flat-cap-wearing Yorkshireman in his late 60s to tap his wife on the shoulder while crossing the road, point at the car and boom ‘Eee, that’s one beautiful car, love – look!”
Interior & Practicality
A car that looks this fantastic on the outside ought to look and work just as well on the inside, and for me, the Mazda6 does. True, some say the interior quality isn’t quite up to the exacting standards of VAG group cars, but I actually found the Octavia rather boring and although the Superb was extremely good, I wouldn’t say it beats the Mazda6 hands-down. The Honda Accord had a pretty good interior too, it’s worth mentioning. I’ve not driven a Mondeo or Insignia fitted with leather seats, although I have driven them both endowed with ‘all the toys’ – and again, neither of them shames or is shamed by the Mazda6. No, the Japanese car’s interior isn’t radically different but businessmen like to feel themselves in familiar surroundings, as do aspirational families. The Mazda6 therefore presents itself as a premium interior in the main, save for a few harsh surfaces and cheap plastics.
The soft leather seats were a joy to sit on and the cream colour contrasted beautifully with the dark dashboard and the Soul Red exterior. Mazda have worked in some very pleasant details, such as the contrast stitching down the side of the seats. The steering wheel had a really nice feel to it, the passenger seat was electric as well as the driver’s, the BOSE Premium surround sound system proved brilliant and in Sport Nav guise, this Mazda6 came with everything you could wish for, from Bluetooth and cruise control to a reverse parking camera, front and rear parking sensors and keyless entry. For all one’s gadgets on the move, I found plenty of 12V and USB sockets and the various storage compartments and cubby holes were all a decent size. The in-dash sat nav was powered by TomTom, who started the whole thing off in a way, and means map updates are easily handled. I must report that it crashed at a crucial moment, though, and needed the ignition to be reset. Gripes about the interior? Not many, but I did it pointless that Mazda have repeated the touchscreen functions on the rotary dial by the handbrake, and the time display was badly positioned, too low down on the centre stack. I would have appreciated a rear wiper, too, but know many manufacturers don’t fit them to saloons.
Having spent nearly 800 miles sat in the front of the Mazda6 during my week with it, I found it one of the most comfortable experiences in a long time, and certainly appreciated having a gadget-fest at my fingertips. Legroom and shoulder-room in the back were excellent and the seats were equally as comfortable as those in the front. Even headroom was very good, not eaten into much at all by the coupe-like roofline.
The rear seats fold down easily enough, opening up the space for carrying larger items. Mazda deciding we’ll only see the ‘6’ as a saloon or estate in the UK means that it’s not quite as practical as if it were a hatchback, but unless you cart boxes, furniture or sports stuff around on a regular basis, the Mazda6 saloon should be fine. The boot perplexed me, as it looked absolutely huge and made our weekly shopping look like a pea on a drum, so to speak – but in practice, the 483-litre boot in the Mazda6 isn’t as capacious as rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Insignia saloon which both offer 540 litres. It’s slight better than the Honda Accord saloon’s, which is 460 litres, and the same as the new Volkswagen Passat’s boot capacity of 485 litres.
On the road
The way the new Mazda6 manual saloon in 2.2-litre diesel Sport guise performs in every key area is nothing short of remarkable. Cue my Sade reference – this car really is one smooth operator. Give it a few seconds after pressing the start button, and the diesel engine very quickly settles down into one of the quietest I’ve experienced. It really is that quiet and refined, not just when you’re sat inside, but from the outside too. The oil level symbol glows blue until the engine has warmed up – and once it’s done so, boy is it good. The Mazda6 175PS manual saloon pulls strongly and seems to be able to pick up pace no matter what gear it’s in. In fact, dropping down a gear was necessitated so infrequently I can barely count the memorable occasions on one hand. If you want to gobble up a few hundred motorway miles in one hit in a supremely comfortable car, it does so wonderfully, with perhaps only the slightly-more-apparent-than-expected levels of road and wind noise to complain about, if I was being really picky. The Mazda6 was the car we drove down to the annual SMMT Test Day at Millbrook Proving Ground in this year and it really was a joy over the 350 miles we covered that day. In fact, I can’t in a long time remember feeling as refreshed after swallowing long distances, as I did in the new Mazda6.
Conversely, if you want a family saloon to bumble around town in, it actually makes very light work of that, too – if you don’t mind the firm ride. And if giving it the proverbial beans down a country lane is on your agenda, the Mazda6 2.2 actually proved quite exciting. The turn-in was sharp and responsive with very little body roll and the levels of grip felt strong. Plenty of its coveted rivals are slightly gruffer than the Mazda6 in my view and the engine note during hard driving has a kind of unique thrum to it. In any case, the Mazda6 was free of diesel clatter almost all the time and what with its ability to pick up pace rapidly and handle superbly, it really did live up to its Sport name.
The larger a car’s alloy wheels get, the ride usually increasingly suffers – a bit like someone trying to walk on a very uneven pavement wearing high heels, I would imagine. The Sport version I drove sported a set of 19” wheels, which is pretty large by rep-mobile standards. I expected the ride to suffer considerably as a result, but the Mazda6 acquitted itself surprisingly decently in this area too, in my view only suffering slightly as opposed to significantly. It did feel a little unsettled over really uneven surfaces due to its firm setup, and I’ve yet to meet any saloon that enjoys speed bumps and potholes – but my sensitive back was seldom jarred in the Mazda6 and overall I felt the firm ride made it feel planted and sure.
Some stop-start systems are more intrusive and downright annoying than others, but once again, the Mazda6’s i-stop system operated discretely and quickly, never once catching me out. Its effectiveness is largely down to Mazda’s clever use of direct fuel injection to re-start the engine and this, along with optimal positioning of the pistons, allows the engine to be restarted more or less instantly.
The Thursday on which this year’s SMMT Test Day fell was, as usual, roasting hot. We certainly weren’t going to complain, but I typically try to limit my use of a car’s air conditioning or climate control system, as it usually reduces fuel economy. Not so in the Mazda6. This car is packed with clever technology, to say the least, and one of its cutting-edge, energy-saving features is called i-ELOOP. I know it sounds more like something a modern DJ would know about, but it’s actually a very clever capacitor which stores kinetic energy when the car brakes. This energy would otherwise be lost and via Mazda’s clever capacitor which can store the energy and be recharged much quicker than a normal car battery, the car’s electrical systems like the air con, sound system, heated seats and lights, can be powered without drawing on the main engine’s power. The main alternator is freed up for use by the engine for the majority of the time, with a secondary, variable-voltage alternator powering up when you take your foot off the gas. i-ELOOP doesn’t just work if you’re covering long distances – it works just as effectively in stop-start city driving, and not only improves your MPG fuel efficiency but also allows the engine to use all of its horsepower.
i-ELOOP is just one clever bit of technology fitted to the Mazda6 as part of their ever-evolving SKYACTIV programme, which aims to eliminate compromise between a car’s performance and its fuel efficiency and emissions. Sounds like a noble plan – and I like it. Through SKYACTIV, the new Mazda6 is lighter, safer and stronger, all at the same time. The engine and transmission have been minutely tweaked by Mazda’s boffins, too. Thank you, boffins – the 175PS Mazda6 Sport diesel manual really did handle staggeringly well and for me is already one of the standout cars of 2013.
The Mazda6 I tested was powered by an 8-valve, 4-cylinder, 2,195cc diesel engine producing 175PS at 4,500rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2,000rpm, partnered by a 6-speed manual gearbox. The car was very refined at low speeds, felt potent under acceleration and performed smoothly at cruising speeds. 62mph can be brought up in 7.9 seconds and this model has a top speed of 139mph. Combined fuel economy is published by Mazda as 62.8mpg, with CO2 emissions at 119g/km. We averaged 54mpg at the end of our week with it, which included nearly 600 miles of motorway driving, plenty of slow city driving and a lot of spirited driving down country lanes in Staffordshire and the Yorkshire Dales, with four sat in the car. This 175PS Sport Nav model weighed in at £26,955, incorporating the Safety Pack at £700 and the upgraded leather trim at £200.
You can tell I really bonded with and fell for the Mazda6 175PS diesel manual Sport Nav saloon. It’s hard not to like, with its elegant, sporty styling, safe but very enjoyable interior, its excellent handling, strong performance and decent economy. I’ve driven most of its rivals and yes, they are all very good, but I would still recommend putting a highly-specified Mazda6 on your shortlist, even if you were considering something from the compact executive bracket above. It really is that good.
© Oliver Hammond
Specification of the Mazda6 2.2d 175PS diesel manual Sport Nav saloon tested in this road test review:
Maximum output: 175PS @ 4,500rpm
Maximum torque: 420Nm @ 2,000rpm
Drive system: 2WD
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Acceleration (0-62mph) 7.9 seconds
CO2 emissions: 119 g/km
EC emission level: EC Stage VI
Fuel consumption: Combined 62.8mpg
Extra Urban: 72.4mpg
Top speed: 139 mph
Overall length/width/height: 4870/1840/1450mm
Boot capacity – 5-seat mode (to belt line): 483 litres
Dual-zone climate control air-conditioning
Engine push button start
Front and rear electric windows
Remote central locking
Smart keyless entry
Bi-Xenon headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS)
Front and rear parking sensors
Front fog lights
LED daytime running lights
Power folding, heated door mirrors with integrated indicator light
Rain-sensing front wipers
4-way passenger seat power adjustment
6-way driver’s seat power adjustment
AM/FM radio with CD player
Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
Auxiliary input jack (AUX)
Driver’s seat, power lumbar adjustment
Heated front seats
Integrated 5.8” colour touch screen
Leather seat trim
Leather steering wheel
Premium Bose® surround sound system
Sliding centre armrest
Steering wheel audio controls
Driver and front passenger airbags
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS)
Emergency Stop Signalling system (ESS)
Front side airbags
Hill Hold Assist
ISOFIX child seat anchorages
Passenger airbag cut-off switch
Smart City Brake Support (SCBS)
Thatcham Category 1 alarm and immobiliser
Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)