When we drove the Mazda 6 Tourer back in November, it’s safe to say we were very impressed – Mazda had managed to blend many different disciplines as possible into just the one car. It was stable, fun to drive and relatively refined.
Just a week later, a facelift for the 6 was announced. There were no glaring areas for improvement so the question is – if Mazda has meddled too much or perfected the breed. We spent a day with the updated car to find out.
First the bad news. If you’re interested in the lower grade models – the SE and SE-L – there is no exterior change whatsoever. That’s not exactly a horror story – the car is one of the best looking in the sector anyway – but it may lead to some fleet-car envy because the subtle exterior modifications to the Sport Nav have moved the top model a step ahead of more mundane 6s.
At the front you’ll find LED headlights and foglights, with the latter crested by chrome strips that hark back to the original Takeri concept. The chrome “wing” around the grille has been made thicker and more pronounced, along with a new grille pattern in the middle, making for a slightly more aggressive face. The tail lights are also LEDs, with a pattern much closer to that of the Mazda 3 – it’s a subtle approach, but pretty effective.
Inside is where most the effort has been focussed, however. Just about the only complaint we could come up with from the previous car was the small and outdated navigation screen – and it’s the first improvement you’ll notice in the new car. Adopting the 7-inch colour touchscreen from the Mazda 3 is a welcome change and it can still be operated either by touch or by using the central dial.
The second thing you’ll notice is the absence of the hand-operated handbrake. The new 6 adopts Mazda’s first electronic handbrake – not exactly a universally loved feature of the modern car but Mazda’s works brilliantly, releasing without a fuss and with none of the usual driveline shunting or requisite over-revving.
There’s also a focus on improving the interior environment through increased use of soft-touch materials – leather trim is extends into the centre console and dash – and improvements in panel fit and sound deadening bring noise, vibration and harshness levels down in line with premium rivals. Ambient noise has been reduced by 2.4 decibels at a high-speed cruise.
Elsewhere on the good news front, the 6 drives just as nicely as ever, with steering feel and a satisfying gearbox action not too far removed from that of its sportiest stablemate – the MX-5. With Sport Nav, buyers also get a neat head-up display to keep an eye on their speed and sat-nav directions without having to look away from the road. In terms of fun, it’s as satisfying to chuck down a back road as any car of this size can possibly be.
With prices unchanged – it costs from £19,795 for the 143hp 2.0 petrol saloon – the Mazda 6 is making a compelling case for itself in a market sector dominated by the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia. If you’re shopping for a bigger family saloon or estate, this car has to be amongst the first on your test drive list.