Another year, another round of worthwhile changes to the rightly well-regarded Mazda6.

Some are more subtle than others: there’s a new grille – similar in style to that of the new CX-5 – the chrome wings stretch further into the headlights, and the bumpers have been tweaked.

Even more subtle is an update to the firm’s favourite Soul Red paint, now described as deeper and brighter.

Much more obvious, though, are the changes made to the interior. Mazda continues in its mission to push the perception of its products further up-market, and perhaps the clearest signal of that intent comes from the creation of a new GT Sport Nav+ model.

While the whole range benefits from a redesigned dashboard with higher quality materials, a larger touch-screen, and even comfier seats, the GT Sport Nav+ features Nappa leather upholstery, suede across the fascia, and Sen wood trim – you know, from real trees.

The head-up display now projects directly on to the windscreen and is standard across the range, while the GT Sport Nav+ gains a new TFT display for the central speedo, although it feels as though Mazda haven’t really got to grips with this yet – I don’t know why we need two fuel gauges, for instance.

That aside, it’s all very tasteful and appealing, especially in optional Stone leather, and combined with the traditional Mazda6 strong-points of quality switch-gear, generous cabin space, and plenty of adjustment in the driving position, it’s hard to think of a nicer environment in which to eat up the miles.

That’s only been made easier by a raft of changes to the suspension – too much to list here, let’s just call it ‘all new’ – the result of which is a ride quality that is, well… exceptional.

the ride quality is exceptional

The big Mazda already handled far better than was strictly necessary, but now it feels even more engaging. Turn-in is sharp and decisive, while body-roll builds only progressively and without alarm.

Mazda say they’ve stuffed more sound insulation into the various crevices of the body; we’ve no reason to doubt them, and at speed progress is impressively hushed, although the 19-inch wheels of the Sport Nav models do still roar a bit.

However, it’s perhaps under the bonnet that the bulk of the changes have been made. The 2.0-litre petrol engines have had a series of updates – something to do with pistons, ports and nozzles – aimed at making them torquier and more efficient, while the 2.2-litre diesels gain clever multi-stage injection and new two-stage twin-turbochargers that increase power to 184ps (from 175ps) and torque to 445Nm (from 420Nm).

The 2.2 continues to be one of our favourite engines of all time, but in recognition of the shift away from diesel Mazda has added a new petrol option to the line-up. Having been available in other markets under the bonnet of the CX-9 (admittedly with a turbo), the 2.5-litre unit makes its UK debut at the top of the Mazda6 range. There, it offers 194ps and 258Nm of torque, while cylinder deactivation allows the shutdown of two of its four cylinders during light loads to save fuel.

It seems to work, too, notching up an impressive 41.8 mpg during a week’s testing, marginally beating its WLTP-certified 41.5 mpg official figure.

However, the 2.5 is only offered with a six-speed automatic, and that wouldn’t be our choice given its rev-hungry nature; the absence of Mazda’s excellent six-speed manual seems rather a missed opportunity.

Useful stuff like rear cross traffic alert is standard across the range, as is lane keep assist and radar cruise control, although we found the latter somewhat clunky in the real world, often losing sight of the car in front only to speed up towards it.

Adaptive LED headlights come as part of an £800 Safety Pack, along with a 360-degree parking camera. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay still aren’t included from the factory, but an accessory module is available as a retrofit option.

Prices start at £23,195 for the petrol saloon, £24,095 for the always-practical Tourer, and £30,795 for a 2.5 GT Sport Nav+.

So although we’d much prefer the new 2.5 to at least have the option of a manual gearbox, the Mazda6 Tourer remains our favourite wagon no matter the engine that powers it.

Tester’s Notes

  • Exceptional ride quality
  • Turns in flatly, decisive steering
  • Interior revisions add welcome touch of class
  • A-pillars seem thicker, obscure vision in turns
  • Radar cruise often loses sight of vehicle in front, abrupt with changes of speed
  • Engine sounds a little coarse at low speeds, offers un-premium initial start-up experience; settles down well once up to speed, however
  • Auto rather dim-witted, but no choice of manual for 2.5
  • CarPlay still not offered from factory, although accessory available to retrofit
  • 41.8 mpg on test
Entry-level Price£23,195Price as tested£32,695
Engine2488cc 4-cyl petrolTransmission6-speed manual
Power194ps @ 6,000rpmTorque258Nm @ 4,000rpm
0-628.1 secsTop speed139 mph
Economy41.5 mpgCO2156 g/km
Dimensions4805 x 1840 x 1475 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1610 kg

Alex

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.