The Mazda 6 has long been considered a worthy but uninspiring mid-sized saloon or estate – but no longer, because the latest generation of the car is now good enough to rank among the best.

This is because the 6 has taken a leap forward in terms of technology, efficiency, dynamics and design. Mazda has achieved this stride forward through the full implementation of its oft-mentioned SkyActiv technology, which has dramatically transformed the appeal of its flagship.

The full meaning of SkyActiv will be explored in more detail throughout this test, but the short summary is that this ground-breaking approach to car-building means that Mazda’s days of being an also-ran in the segment are, for the time being, a thing of the past.

The company says the 6 is larger, lighter and much more economical, endowed with the kind of performance figures and low emissions that make waves on a fleet manager’s spreadsheet. A good deal of technology migrates from the Mazda CX-5 we tested last year, but there is fresh innovation, too. The third generation 6 has been given two facelifts during its lifecycle thus far. The first one for the 2016 models consisted of changes to the Sport Nav trim, which included LED headlights and foglights and a new radiator grille. Inside the whole range benefit from updated fascia, new console, infotainment system and the addition of an electronic parking brake. The changes for the 2017 model was again done to keep pace with the evolving mid-sized saloon segment. The headlines include an improvement in the equipment levels and the addition of active safety systems. 

What we have here, then, is a seriously credible car available in saloon and estate form, with a variety of appealing petrol and diesel engines.

However, as ever, the 6 will need every advantage going as it locks horns with heavyweights such as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat in a bid to attract buyers.

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Mini Countryman Cooper S
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    All-new bigger Mini continues to make a curious, flawed crossover hatchback, though it’s more compelling to drive than some and more practical than it used to be
  • Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    Plug-in petrol-electric Panamera makes a better case than ever to supplant the diesel best seller, but it still appeals more to the head than the heart
  • MX-5 RF 2.0 160
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    The distinctive 'retractable fastback' roadster promises typical MX-5 dynamics coupled with better refinement. It achieves the former, but the latter isn't quite there yet
  • Hyundai i30 1.4 T-GDi Premium
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    Facing increasingly formidable opposition, the Hyundai i30 has been overhauled for 2017. The result is a recognisably mixed bag
  • 2016 Infiniti Q50 Country Road
    First Drive
    12 January 2017
    Infiniti’s premium mid-sized saloon packs a serious punch, but lacks the dynamic prowess of European rivals