The sporty but sensible Mazda 6

 
Ryan Borroff
With the price of fuel about to go up again, it’s no surprise so many of us now consider fuel economy one of the most important considerations when buying a new car. It’s the latest front to open up in the battle to attract car buyers and Mazda has made a massive effort to ensure its latest Mazda 6 saloon is as economical and efficient as possible.

Mazda wants to become the go-to manufacturer for economical, clean cars but without losing the element of fun that’s vital to its brand image. This is why Mazda’s UK boss, Jeremy Thompson, says the new Mazda 6 saloon is the most important car the firm has ever made. Mazda’s ambition is for its latest four-door family saloon to shake up the European market. It wants to attract drivers who would otherwise have opted for a Ford Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat or perhaps even a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4.

Most family saloons are not known for their visual excitement but the new 6 looks good. At last week’s launch, in a very cold Scotland and on frequently icy roads, the car I was driving attracted a good deal of attention. Its styling is dramatic, if a little fussy. The front of the car has a wild, feline face and looks muscular. It’s not exactly elegant but it’s enough to stand out from the competition.

The cabin, though, is a little bit dull. It’s comfortable enough but not very plush – it just feels a little… ordinary. Our top-spec Sport Nav model also had a wine-coloured dash trim matching the sporty seat piping. I preferred the mid-spec SE-L trim. The steering wheel, though, is a strong point. Wrapped in leather it’s small and sporty and looks great. In terms of functionality, everything is well laid out and intuitive and the interior feels like it has been built to last. It’s spacious too, particularly in the rear.

Mazda is offering a choice of 143bhp and 163bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines and 148bhp or 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel engines, with new six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. We drove all but the lower-powered petrol version in a number of different guises. Each has a good balance of economy and performance thanks to a series of incremental performance efficiency tweaks. One new feature is an “i-Eloop system”, which is unusual because it powers systems like lighting, audio and aircon using brake energy regeneration, bypassing the battery. The result is significant fuel savings and reduced CO2 emissions. Make no mistake about it, CO2 emission figures of 119g/km and combined fuel consumption of 62.8mpg is excellent for a car this big.

The 2.2-litre diesel model I drove in Sport trim feels agile and the steering and handling were solid. My only real complaint would be that, on 19-inch wheels, the car suffered from quite a lot of road noise. The lower-spec model with 17-inch wheels could well be a better and more comfortable option for many drivers.

All in all, the new Mazda 6 is a good choice for anyone who wants an economical family saloon for a daily commute; someone who does a lot of miles and wants to enjoy them as much as possible. It succeeds in striking a balance between performance and efficiency, appealing to the heart as well as the head.

THE FACTS:
THE MAZDA 6
PRICE: £26,095
0-62MPH: 7.9 secs
TOP SPEED: 139mph
CO2 G/KM: 119g/km
MPG COMBINED: 62.8mpg

The VERDICT:
DESIGN ****
PERFORMANCE ****
PRACTICALITY ****
VALUE FOR MONEY ****