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Mazda's latest model has 6 appeal

Mazda can compete against some big-hitting rivals with this baby
Mazda can compete against some big-hitting rivals with this baby

ANDY RAYFIELD delivers his verdict on the Mazda6

The birth of the new Mazda6 brings the modern Japanese company full circle. It was the launch of the original 6 in 2002 which saw Mazda shake off the shackles of mediocrity and adopt its Zoom-Zoom philosophy of car building.

Seven years and an entire fleet of ranges later, the original standard-bearer has had a comprehensive facelift.

Lighter, more aerodynamic, better equipped and with improved fuel economy, the 6 is refreshed and ready to continue the fight in one of the most competitive sectors in the market.

When you go head-to-head with Ford’s wonderful new Mondeo, BMW’s 3 series, the Vauxhall Vectra, Renault Laguna and Citroen C5, you need plenty in your armoury.

Mazda’s designers have had the good sense to follow the evolution rather than revolution school of thinking. This version adopts the high and sporty front wing and wheel arch look which is gradually permeating the Mazda family from the RX-8 down. This gives it the necessary edge and presence from the front.

The saloon has a sturdy back end reminiscent of a Citroen or Renault.

It works better from a driver’s eye view when following rather than standing and looking down on it, but when you see the cavernous boot area it conceals the reason for the bulk becomes clear; you could easily lose a week’s worth of shopping in there!

The hatchback has an altogether more predictable and agreeable look and will probably be the bigger seller when the 6 goes on sale here before the end of the year.

The estate version will follow in the New Year and here the design team has produced something very, very special. The back end is incredibly sexy!

More than 300 hours of wind tunnel testing has given the 6 a best-in-class drag coefficient, meaning fuel economy improves. Road and wind noise have also been reduced.

With a 16-strong line-up of models pencilled in for the UK by the end of the year, there is plenty of choice even though Mazda claims to have simplified the range.

Petrol engines will lead the way with 1.8, 2.0 and 2.5 litre options. 2.0 diesels will follow.

With the oil burners Mazda is making a concerted advance on the fleet sales market. They are starting from a strong base – the old 6 was always popular with company car drivers and Mazda claims that what it describes as a modest price increase from the old model will be offset by a five band reduction in company car tax and better residual values.

But none of this matters if the car doesn’t drive well. And we’ll have to hold fire on our verdict on the diesel engines as at last week’s European launch Mazda only provided petrol-engined saloons.

There was much talk at the launch of Kizuna – a Japanese phrase meaning an emotional connection between car and driver. A fine philosophy and, it has to be said, it is a pleasure to drive.

The electrically-powered steering takes its cue from the sporty RX-8 and assists the driver while never leaving you feeling anything but in total control while the suspension is firm without being uncomfortable.

The cabin is an entirely pleasant place to be, with the noise from the outside reduced to a minimum, and there is plenty of leg room in the back.

The 1.8 is a perfectly adequate engine while the 2.5 provides plenty of punch. An optional sports kit will be available here but if you really want a racy drive, best keep your powder dry, save a few more pennies, and snap up an MPS version which, despite their coyness about the subject, Mazda is sure to unleash some time soon.

The fact Mazda’s latest baby can take on some seriously big-hitting competitors with an air of confidence shows how far this Japanese manufacturer has Zoom-Zoomed.



PRICES: £14,500-£24,000 [est] – on the road


CO2 EMISSIONS: 149-192g/km

PERFORMANCE: [2.0L DE] 0-60mph 9.4s/Max speed 134 mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: [2.0L DE] (combined) 50.4mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, window & side airbags, ESP, ABS, traction control

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