Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Review: Mazda6 range

Mazda’s latest 6 builds on its strengths and it has plenty of those. Steve Walker reports.

The corporate persona fostered by Mazda in recent times has been one of a mainstream brand with strong sporting tendencies.

Building on the success of the MX-5 roadster and the innovative RX-8 coupe, the company has also built a pronounced dynamic edge into its more practical models to help get them noticed. The Mazda6 has profited more than most from this approach, regularly being singled-out amongst the sportiest models in the medium range family car class. Here we look at the latest facelifted version which aims to further emphasise its core athleticism.

Sportiness is a sought-after commodity in most kinds of car to a greater of lesser extent. In a conventional family model like the Mazda6, it usually boils down to some sleek styling and an engaging driving experience. The powerful engines and firm suspension fitted to more specialist performance models would respectively be too costly and wearing for the Mazda6’s wide audience.

Rather than being sporty in the grand scheme of things then, the Mazda6 is a more stylish and agile proposition compared to the majority of its medium range rivals. These are useful qualities to have in a market that’s dominated by business users who are rarely averse to outshining colleagues in the company car park. The latest Mazda6 is sportier than ever but that’s by no means the only string to its bow.

"the latest Mazda6 is going all out to enhance its reputation as one of the most engaging driver’s cars in the medium range class"

The nature of the medium range market where the Mazda6 competes is that diesel will command a big percentage of sales but the Mazda6 petrol range is looking stronger than ever. It opens with a 1.8-litre 118bhp unit that won’t garner many headlines but above that is a more advanced 2.0-litre DISI option with direct fuel injection technology and 153bhp. This unit is 1.5s quicker over the 0-62mph increment than the 1.8 with a 10.3s time and is more able to get the most out of the talented Mazda6 chassis as a result. Faster still is the 2.5-litre petrol, another four-cylinder unit with 168bhp and an 8.5s time for the sprint.

The diesels are all 2.2-litre MZR-CD units using common-rail injection technology. Even the entry-level 127bhp version has substantially more torque that the 2.5-litre petrol with 340Nm from 1,800rpm compared to 226Nm at 4,000rpm. Beyond that, there’s a 161bhp unit with 360Nm and a 178bhp one with 400Nm that can get from standstill to 62mph in 8.4s.

More than the engines themselves, which are chosen as much for economy as for outright pace, it’s the Mazda6 chassis that will supply the enjoyment for keen drivers. The fully-independent suspension system has been enhanced on the latest cars with numerous small modifications designed to bring more grip, stability and comfort. The steering, the one weak point in the Mazda6 driving experience, is also upgraded with revisions to the mounting bushes and the power assistance.

Without doing anything too dramatic or innovative to challenge the styling conventions of the medium range market, the Mazda6 is a very good-looking car. The latest models can be identified by even shapelier headlamps and a more sculpted bumper beneath featuring a trio of large intakes - the outer ones housing the fog lamps within their chromed boarders. The light clusters have also been tweaked at the rear and inside is a higher quality feel helped by chrome dials and piano-black trim inserts.

The Mazda6 is a large car that has plenty of pace for five occupants and a big boot. The hatchback models offer 510 litres of capacity below the car’s belt-line but you only get 9 litres more inside the estate version. In the rear, the 60/40 split seatbacks fold forward with a simple, single movement, presenting a flat luggage floor and a 1,702-litre capacity that increases to 1,751 litres in the estate.

The hatchback and estate bodystyles are available in S, TS, TS2 and Sport trim levels and Mazda’s usual generous specifications apply. A number of innovative features are available on the latest models including adaptive bi-xenon headlampos that swivel to illuminate bends in the road, the ESS Emergency Stop Signal that flashes the hazard lights to warn drivers behind of sharp braking manouvers and HLA Hill Launch Assist that prevents the car rolling back when pulling away up inclines. Leather trim is standard from the TS2 models upwards.

The sharky lines of the Mazda6 aren’t just for show: they help give the car one of the lowest aerodynamic drag coefficients in the class which, in turn, aids fuel economy. The lowest upfront costs are those of the 1.8-litre petrol and it can manage a respectable 43mpg with 155g/km emissions but the 54mpg and 139g/km available from the 127bhp diesel will be tempting for company car users. The two more powerful diesels yield identical economy and emissions of 52mpg and 143g/km, which is good going for the performance that’s on offer.

The Mazda6 sits somewhere between Ford and Vauxhall and Honda and Volkswagen when it comes to residual values – although your dealer will probably tell you different. Expect insurance groupings to sit in the group 8 to 13 bracket.

Sportiness is at the centre of much of what Mazda does these days and the latest Mazda6 is going all out to enhance its reputation as one of the most engaging driver’s cars in the medium range class. In keeping with the requirements of the fleet customers that are so important in this market sector, the Mazda6 engine options offer a compromise between performance and economy. Modifications to chassis and steering aim to improve the driving experience and the sharp looks of the car have also been enhanced. The 6 remains a practical choice too with its roomy cabin and generous equipment levels, so it’s a polished all-rounder and a good option for those who enjoy the sportier side of life.

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