Car review - The Mazda 6 hits the road

Mazda's new saloon is a stylish, good-value family car, writes Dr Tony Rimmer.

For those of us who prefer a family car to be a saloon rather than a hatchback, the popular default choice for GPs has been the Volkswagen Passat or perhaps the Honda Accord or the Skoda Superb. Now Mazda has re-entered the fray with the new saloon car, the Mazda 6.

Mazda is obviously trying to make an impression as its new car has bold and very stylish lines. Famous for the MX-5 two seat convertible, Mazda has always had a knack of making its cars sporty and I have been trying the new car to see if it can still deliver an interesting drive for the keen motoring GP.

Fast facts - Mazda 6
2.2D 175PS Sport
Body: Four-door saloon
Engine: 2.2-litre four cylinder diesel
Power: 175 bhp
Torque: 420 Nm
Claimed economy (urban/extra urban/combined) Urban/Extra
Urban/Combined: 51.4/72.4/62.8 mpg
On the road price: £25,495

Fuel economy

Available with efficient 2.0-litre petrol or 2.2-litre diesel engines, all versions boast impressive fuel economy figures. This is undoubtedly helped by a significant overall weight saving compared with the previous model, as has been the case with the new Golf Mark 7.

My test car had the more powerful 173bhp 2.2 litre diesel but even this car has a claimed 62.8 mpg on the combined cycle. Standard equipment is comprehensive. Even the base SE version has alloy wheels, LED running lights and a touch screen as standard. The SE-L model has also been endowed with automatic lights and wipers, while the top Sport model boasts leather seats, Xenon headlights, keyless entry, a reversing camera and smart 19 inch alloys. To fit these extras to a Volkswagen Passat would bump up its price significantly.

It is easy to find a comfortable driving position and the dashboard is clearly laid out and functional. The interior quality, while not up to German standards, is on par with Japanese and Korean rivals and my Sport model had other nice features like an integral TomTom satnav system and a clever i-LOOP system.

This uses energy from brake-regeneration and stores it as electricity in a quick-charging capacitor to be used to power the electrics and air-conditioning.

Mazda claims this can improve fuel economy by 10%. There is plenty of space for passengers and their luggage with room for three full-sized adults on the back seats and impressive head and legroom. Although this is not a hatchback, the rear seats can be folded down flat to accommodate long and bulky loads.

Sporty promise

I was keen to take the Mazda 6 out on my favourite roads to see if it delivers on its sporty promise and it does not disappoint. If you enjoy driving, you will definitely enjoy this car and the handling is nearly up to BMW 3-series level; praise indeed.

Sharp steering and excellent body control is only let down by a ride that is little too firm on my Sport model. Stick with the SE or SE-L models if you enjoy a bit of comfort. Performance from the powerful diesel engine is impressive and contributes to the athletic feel. Unlike four-cylinder units in many of its competitors, this Mazda engine is smooth and relatively quiet.

Although spacious on the inside, the Mazda 6 is not overly big in external dimensions. Urban manoeuvring is easy and it fits the bill as a work car admirably. Narrow streets and tight parking spaces can be tackled with confidence and placing the saloon where you want on the road and lane-changing feels as easy as in a Ford Fiesta-sized car.

Reputation for reliability

Drivers familiar with the MX-5 will recognise that Mazda has a solid reputation for reliability so you should rarely need to seek extra assistance from your dealership.

Overall, the new Mazda 6 is an award-winning class leader. After my week at the wheel I can see why. It not only looks good but satisfies the keen driver. This impressive balance of attributes is rarely achieved in the world of family cars.

  • Dr Rimmer is a GP in Guildford, Surrey

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