Mazda 6 Review

When we tested the Mazda 6 last year, we discovered a well-engineered, efficient, and incredibly well thought-out take on the traditional saloon and estate offerings.

However, we did comment on the Six’s tyre noise, and some clunkiness in the multimedia system’s operation.

It seems Mazda’s engineers were listening, because for 2015, the Mazda6 has been revised to address these issues, plus a few others.

From the outside, there’s little to give the game away. Sport Nav models get a new grille, new LED headlights (more on those later) linked by a new chrome wing motif, plus new LED tail-lights.

While it’s a shame lesser models are left largely untouched, Mazda justifies this by saying they wanted to give the range-topping model greater differentiation.

The changes to the interior, however, apply across the range. As well as boosting material quality, Mazda has given the dashboard fascia a more appealing set of lines. They’ve also taken the opportunity to simplify the controls in the centre console, making them more intuitive.

More obvious, though, is the adoption of the company’s excellent MZD Connect system, which sees a new high-resolution touch-screen mounted on top of the dash, plus an updated version of their multimedia controller by the gear-lever that now includes a dedicated volume control.

First seen on the Mazda3, we’ve praised the MZD Connect system for its tasteful graphics and ease of operation, and on the ‘6 it now adds DAB digital radio to the mix.

If twisting and turning your way through the menus isn’t for you, you can always jab a finger at the touch-screen or use the voice control system, and this works much better than in the old car.

Also new is a subtly redesigned instrument cluster (not that there was anything wrong with the old one), joined by Mazda’s Active Driving Display on Sport Nav models. Unfurling itself from atop the cluster on start-up, this head-up display projects your current speed as well as navigation and cruise control information into your field of view.

Rounding out the interior changes are a new electronic parking brake, improved seat construction, slightly larger door bins, and a sliding cover for the central cup-holders.

Worthy as all of these changes are, it’s our criticism of the interior noise levels that we’d most like to see addressed.

Mazda say they’ve been able to reduce noise levels by 25% over the old car, and this has been achieved through greater use of sound insulating material throughout the chassis and improved door seals.

So have they cracked it?

We went hunting out the worst roads we could find; the filthiest, most pot-holed and pock-marked atrocities that constitute our crumbling road network. And the new Mazda6 performed flawlessly on all of them.

Tyre noise is markedly reduced – we tested a Sport Nav model with 19-inch wheels – and on the motorway the ‘6 settles down into a serene cruise that makes eating up the miles a dream.

What was particularly remarkable, though, was how the Mazda6 dealt with large surface imperfections and pot-holes. Mazda’s engineers have altered the front and rear dampers as well as revised some of the suspension bushes, and while these changes are primarily geared towards introducing more engaging road-manners, the result has also been an impressive isolation of suspension noise. We found some of the gnarliest speed-bumps ever devised by man, and even tackling them head-on failed to upset the calm of the cabin.

The ‘6 is still a big car, but it’s a tribute to Mazda’s engineers that the car hides its size so well, responding cleanly to steering inputs and changing direction through a series of bends with what can only be described as enthusiasm.

If Mazda want something to aim for with the next car, we wouldn’t object to a little more feedback through the wheel, a complaint that can be levelled at almost every car with an electrically-assisted steering rack. But with an engaging set of road manners and that beautiful short-throw gear-lever, the ‘6 remains a car that you can enjoy yourself in.

For 2015, Mazda has ratcheted up the gadget count, too.

Standard on Sport Nav models are the company’s new adaptive LED headlights: using a front-mounted camera, the system detects the presence of other vehicles up to 600m ahead and responds by deactivating individual high-beam LED elements to avoid dazzling the other driver. In effect, it allows you to drive with permanent high-beam without upsetting anyone, with the beam pattern constantly shifting to correspond to the position of other road users. The system also takes an input from the steering wheel to direct the headlight beam into corners.

An optional Safety Pack adds a revised Lane-Keep Assist with Driver Alert system that replaces the previous Lane Departure Warning system. It issues feedback through the steering wheel if the vehicle begins to wander out of lane, with the new system said to be capable of learning the owner’s driving style and suggesting they take a break if it detects signs of fatigue.

Likewise, the previous Rear Vehicle Monitoring system is replaced by a new tongue-twisting Blind-Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert system, combining two systems into one to detect vehicles approaching from the rear and sides, as well as pedestrians and cyclists when reversing. The system also works in conjunction with the Smart City Brake Support system to apply the brakes automatically during low-speed reversing to avoid a collision.

The 2015 Mazda6 engine line-up remains unchanged, and that’s no bad thing because each of the four available units is a cracker. The range starts with a 2.0-litre petrol unit in both 145PS and 165PS guises, plus a pair of 2.2-litre turbo-diesels with either 150PS or 175PS.

Pick of the bunch in terms of efficiency is the 150PS diesel which, in saloon manual form, emits just 107 g/km and returns up to 68.9 mpg (down slightly from last year’s model).

Our favourite, the 175PS diesel, isn’t far behind with 119 g/km and 62.8 mpg, with even the 165PS petrol unit recording a creditable 135 g/km and 47.9 mpg.

There’s not a poor choice among them, and all are strong performers, although our preference remains the high-powered diesel for its 7.9-second 0-62mph time, and its compelling refinement, even near the red-line – a place most diesels fear to tread.

Five grades are offered – SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav – with prices starting from £19,795 for the 145PS petrol SE. Diesels start at £22,295, the five-door Tourer adds around £900, while an auto box (available on all but the 165PS petrol) is yours for about £600.

To get the full benefit of the facelift, you’ll need to plump for one of the Sport Nav models, and these start from £24,595 for the petrol and £26,395 for the diesel.

Now that the new Ford Mondeo has finally graced us with its presence, the face-lifted Mazda6 is a rather timely arrival. The pair offer similar environmental performance, and are priced within a whisker of each other.

But the Mazda is a much nicer place to sit, and its engines offer far more enthusiastic performance than the somewhat languid-feeling units of the Ford. On top of that, the Mazda makes better and more intuitive use of technology, and is full of those useful little touches (the brilliant load cover of the Tourer and the easy-folding seats, for instance) that make living with a car a joy rather than a chore.

The Mazda6 was our segment favourite of last year. And as far as we’re concerned, everyone else is still playing catch-up.

Entry-level Price£19,795Price as tested£29,135
Engine4-cyl twin turbodiesel, 2191ccTransmission6-speed manual
Power175PS @ 4,500rpmTorque420Nm @ 2,000rpm
0-628.0 secsTop speed137 mph
Economy61.4 mpgCO2121 g/km
Dimensions4800 x 1840 x 1475 (LWH)Kerb Weight1602 kg