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.

Road tester
Previous Mazda 6s were confined to also-ran status. Not anymore

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.

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.