£19,795 - £27,995 Price range
47 - 68 MPG
Rather than change the whole ethos of the car, arguably what was really needed, for the 2017 model year Mazda has refined the Mazda 6 range, adding a new shade of paint (Machine Grey), a 4.6-inch colour display between the dials and a new steering wheel.
Those changes won’t get enthusiasts salivating, but the Mazda’s new G-Vectoring Control just might. It primes the car’s stability system – cutting engine torque on corner entry – making it quicker in the bends.
That handling prowess doesn’t come with too harsh a ride and, unusually, the 6 is even pretty comfortable when combined with the arch-filling 19-inch wheels that are standard on Sport Nav models. The revised 6 also gets extra sound deadening to make it quieter at a cruise.
Straight-line performance is taken care of by four engines split equally between petrol and diesel power. The former have a 2.0-litre capacity with either 143 or 163hp, while the diesels are 2.2-litre units with 148 or 173hp. There’s also a choice six-speed manual and auto gearboxes.
If the Mazda 6 has a weak point it would be its interior. When compared to fresh-faced rivals – the Volkswagen Passat is a prime example – it looks dated and lacks the VW’s super-intuitive layout. It does, however, have space for five people and a decent (if nowhere near class-leading) sized boot.
Trim levels include SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav. All come reasonably equipped, but we would recommend a Nav model, which come with standard satellite navigation.
Unfortunately, the interior is where you can really feel the Mazda’s age. It’s still a perfectly nice place to sit, but if you’re hoping for the Audi-aping build quality of the Volkswagen Passat, or indeed its simple easy-to-use design, then you’ll have to brace yourself for some disappointment. The Mazda’s layout is less infotainment-system-focused than newer models, resulting in you having to use a scattering of conventional buttons that don’t always fall readily to hand or feel as oily smooth to use as the best in class.
The seven-inch infotainment screen is a good bit smaller than those offered in some rivals – the VW Passat’s optional Active Info Display is 12.3-inches wide – but it is relatively simple to use. All cars get a Bluetooth phone connection and Nav models get a choice between 2D and 3D maps, and free updates for three years. The graphics aren’t as crystal clear as the best in class and the slow processing speeds also hint that this is an older system.
Old or not, the Mazda could teach its rivals a thing or two about providing a decent driving position. You sit low down in the cabin – emphasising the sporty theme – and the controls sit in line with your body so it’s easy to drive comfortably.
Mazda 6 passenger space
As you can probably expect from the big body, there are no glaring space issues in the Mazda 6. Room up front is generous and the driver’s seat and steering wheel offer a wide range of adjustment. The rear seats are also comfortable – there’s loads of legroom and the body is wide enough to accommodate three adults abreast. The sloping roofline limits rear headroom a bit, but if that sounds like a deal-breaker there’s always the more upright Mazda 6 Tourer.
Mazda 6 boot space and storage
Boots space in the Mazda 6 sits at 483 litres. This puts the car behind its competitors, such as the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Skoda Superb, which have up to 100 litres more. As a saloon, the Mazda has a smaller boot opening than hatchback rivals, which makes loading and unloading trickier. At least Mazda has given the car a big glovebox and door pockets that are capacious enough to carry large bottles of water.
The Mazda 6 is one of the more fun cars to drive in the large family car market. The SkyActiv fuel-saving technology not only makes the 6 cheaper to run that many rivals, but also more fun to drive on account of its high-tech construction. In fact, the 6 is around 100kgs lighter than a Ford Mondeo.
New for the 2017 model is the G-Vectoring Control system, which cuts engine power when entering a turn to throw the car’s weight onto the front wheels for more control. It then reintroduces power leaving a bend to push the weight back towards the rear wheels for improved stability – it’s a subtle system but it works well and is standard on all models.
The diesel engines also feature new technology that’s supposed to improve throttle response and engine refinement by adding a counterweight to the pistons. That may sound like a techy aside, but we can report that it works – you’ll struggle to tell the diesels from the petrol’s they’re that smooth. In fact, refinement has been a major focus for Mazda so improvements to the doors, plus laminated front windows, keep a check on road and wind noise.
Comfort is compromised slightly by the car’s stiffer suspension setup, but on the flipside, there is very little body lean in corners. Add to that steering that’s direct and a gearchange that could have been lifted from the Mazda MX-5 and the 6 really does feel like a sports car that is trapped in a saloon-car body.
SkyActiv – Mazda’s name for its fuel-saving technology – ensures good performance with brilliant frugality and low CO2 emissions, whichever of the two petrol or two diesel engines you choose from.
Mazda 6 petrol engines
SE and SE-L petrol models come with a 143hp version of the 2.0-litre petrol, which is enough to get the Mazda 6 from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds and onto a top speed of 129mph. Emissions of 129g/km mean that annual road tax is £110, and Mazda quotes fuel economy of 51.4mpg.
Go for the 163hp model and performance increases, with 0-62mph taking 9.1 seconds and a 134mph top speed. Running costs also rise though; road tax now costs £130 annually and fuel economy drops to 47.9mpg.
Mazda 6 diesel engines
The petrol engines make the most sense if you have a low annual mileage, but generally it’s the diesels that we would recommend. The basic 148hp diesel accelerates from 0-62mph in nine seconds and, thanks to its twin turbochargers, feels more gutsy than equivalent engines in rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, but its low running costs will be what will appeal to most people. Combined fuel consumption is 68.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 104g/km resulting in a yearly tax bill of just £20.
Splash the cash on the top-of-the-range 173hp diesel and you’ll be rewarded with the best performance in the range. While a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 138mph might not sound like much, in the real world they translate into quick (safe) overtakes and relaxed motorway cruising. Running costs remain low with fuel economy of 62.8mpg and a £30 annual road tax bill.
The 2.2 diesel is a unit that, unlike many diesels, loves to be revved - it’s flexible throughout the rev range, most power coming on from 1,500 rpm, and one test even suggesting it makes a decent noise as it does so. The rest of the time it’s fairly quiet and refined, though a few testers note a bit of diesel rattle when pushing harder.
Both manual and automatic gearboxes are excellent, though you do lose a little performance and economy with the auto.
The engine’s characteristics are as well-regarded as its performance and efficiency. At idle the engine is incredibly muted, and at lower revs it lacks the traditional diesel clatter. Drivers say the power delivery feels linear right through the rev range, and it revs “willingly”.
There’s plenty of punch in-gear and the gearbox is great to use too. The auto is very smooth too, responding well to flicks of the gearshift paddles, with a smooth, unintrusive stop-start system.
The Mazda 6 got a five-star rating from its 2013 Euro NCAP crash test. All models come with numerous airbags, stability control,traction control, and brake lights that flash during an emergency stop. Top-of-the-range Sport Nav models are the safest of all, though. They come with automatic emergency braking and active cruise control.
Mazda’s range of i-Activesense safety technology is included on the updated 2017 Mazda 6. This includes Traffic Sign Recognition, which identifies no entry and speed limit signs and provides alerts to the driver. Advanced Smart City Brake Support is also featured. This technology replaces the previous laser with a forward-facing camera to widen the system’s range for vehicle and pedestrian detection.
Even the basic model Mazda 6 comes with a 5.8-inch touchscreen, a USB connection, aux input, Bluetooth, keyless start, cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel.
Mazda 6 SE-L
The second level of equipment is a nice balance between cost and kit – you get automatic lights and wipers, power folding mirrors, climate control, all-round parking sensors and an automatically dimming rear-view mirror.
Mazda 6 Sport Nav
If you are big on equipment, the Sport Nav variant will be right up your street, it comes loaded with great extras like adaptive xenon lights, reversing camera, keyless entry and electrically adjustable heated leather seats. New for 2017 is the addition of a heated steering wheel, memory seats, and power-folding wing mirrors.
The Mazda 6 is a competitive car that’s in the top handful of cars in the class, though there are a few exceptions. The Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat are ultimately more complete family cars. But, for some, the Mazda’s styling, relative rarity, composed handling, and excellent engines make it an appealing choice.