Mainstream Japanese car design seems to be a bit of a mixed bag at the moment, ranging from the downright bland through to over-the-top designs with heavily sculpted panels and puckered front grilles. Either way, “elegant” is not a word I find myself often using for cars from the Land of the Rising Sun.
But, it is a word that seems apt for the latest Mazda 6 which has just gone on sale in the UK. Both the Mazda 6 saloon and tourer, shun the fussy detail that seems to be in vogue with their compatriots and rely on sleek lines and good proportions to give a distinctly up-market take on the Mazda family look (you can see the family likeness with the Mazda 3 I drove recently
The good news is that the beauty of the Mazda 6 is much more than skin deep. Mercifully, you won’t find any smoked silver plastic highlights in the interior. Indeed, the changes to this latest version, improve further on what was already an attractive driving environment, making it even more in tune with European tastes. Indeed, one friend, catching a glimpse of a dashboard photo, asked “is that a BMW?”.
This latest version of the Mazda 6 has just gone on sale in the UK with prices ranging from £19,795 to £28,795 for a 28-strong range of saloon and Tourer (estate car) models.
I drove the Mazda 6 saloon and Tourer last year and was quite surprised how much I liked it. This latest version shows that Mazda is not resting on its laurels as it sharpens the appeal with further improvements aimed at enhancing refinement and further raising equipment levels.
The new, more attractive dashboard design incorporates a DAB radio, an integrated navigation system with a seven-inch touch screen, a head-up display, an electric parking brake and what Mazda are calling a Multimedia commander – a big improvement on the rather fiddly previous design.
Also on offer is an impressive array of technology like adaptive LED headlights, lane-keep assist system, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and rear smart city brake support. Many of these are part of the optional safety pack.
The adaptive lights mean your headlights are effectively always on high beam, with technology sensing and blanking out light that would dazzle either on-coming or preceding traffic. The lane assist system and driver attention alert, using steering wheel vibration and assisted steering if the driver strays from the middle of his or her chosen lane. It also reads the driver’s driving style and gives an alert if it notes any signs of fatigue.
The blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, extends the monitoring area and, cleverly, uses it to detect other traffic, bicycles or pedestrians crossing at the rear when reversing. The rear smart city brake support automatically applies the brakes when reversing, if the system detects an imminent impact.
The 165PS petrol powered Mazda 6 and all the diesel models have what Mazda calls I-ELOOP. This system generates electricity from the brakes to power some of this technology. When you consider that as much as 10% of your fuel consumption can be used to power electrical systems, regeneration systems like this make sense.
Still on technology, the Mazda 6 features SkyActiv technology – the brand name that Mazda uses to define its technologies for squeezing greater efficiency and more output from its power units. The petrol engines are denoted as SkyActiv-G and feature direct injection, while the diesels have use the SkyActiv-D label.
The brand name is backed up by the reality. The first car I drove at the launch was the Mazda 6 2.2D 150PS SE-L Tourer. It proved remarkably lively with a 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds and a very willing response. The rev range is longer than most diesels extending up to 5,500 rpm. At these engine speeds the otherwise remarkably quiet diesel, does begin to make its presence known.
With that willing performance and notable quiet nature, the diesel makes a good choice. With many diesels my advice to buyers is, stick with petrol unless you are doing a substantial mileage. But this diesel makes a particularly strong case for itself.
The diesel is actually a fraction faster than the petrol two-litre that I tested next, in a 145PS form. Its performance is remarkably close to the diesel, with a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds. The combined fuel consumption figure is 51.4 mpg with 129g/km of carbon dioxide emissions. If you feel the need for more power there is a 165PS petrol two-litre that cuts the 0-62mph time to 9.1 seconds.
I found both cars very easy to drive with the controls, pedals and steering being well balanced and nicely weighted. Although at first glance, there are quite a lot of controls on the steering wheel, the set up proved logical and satisfying to use.
Space is a strong point with the Mazda 6. There is plenty of space for driver and front seat passenger and rear-seat passengers are well catered for with notably good legroom. The boot on the saloon is big and opening the tailgate on the Tourer reveals a good, flat load floor.
Driving the Mazda 6 in saloon and Tourer forms last year was a revelation. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to like them so much. The updates on these new versions simply sharpen the appeal for both the private motorist and the company car driver. If you are looking for a car in this sector, the Mazda 6 might not immediately come to mind, but it really does deserve a place on your short list .
Mazda 6 2.2D 150PS SE-L Nav Tourer
Carbon dioxide emissions: 110 g/km
VED band n/a
Combined fuel economy 63.7 mpg
Top speed: 130 mph
0-62: 9.3 secs
Engine size 2191cc diesel
Boot capacity 522 litres (to tonneau cover)
Mazda 6 2.0 145PS SE-L Nav Saloon
Carbon dioxide emissions: 129 g/km
VED band n/a
Combined fuel economy 51.4 mpg
Top speed: 129 mph
0-62: 9.5 secs
Engine size 1998cc diesel
Boot capacity 480 litres