What is it?
Load-lugging version of Mazda's impressive new Mondeo-challenger. The estate is 30mm longer in the rear overhang than the saloon and hatch, giving the load bay more generous carrying capacity than the outgoing Mazda 6 estate.
With the seats-up it boasts 519 litres of luggage volume, an increase of 14 litres and with the seats down 1751 litres, an increase of 39 litres. All that extra carrying capacity comes from the longer loading bay, which can swallow objects 1926mm long, with the seats folded down.
These numbers put the Mazda near the top of the class. Outright carrying capacity is bigger than the commodious Mondeo and VW Passat, although both these competitors have more space when all five chairs are in use.
Also revised is Mazda's all-important 2.0-litre diesel. New are a remapped ECU, sequential valve-timing and redesigned intake and exhaust manifolds. Fuel economy is up seven per cent and CO2 emissions down 11 per cent.
What's it like?
A satisfying blend of driving fun and everyday practicality. Compared to the old 6, the new one feels much more grown-up. And just like the hatchback Mazda 6, which Autocar has already rated highly, the estate steers sharply and rides well with the new diesel engine delivering the expected waft of torque to make progress smooth and effortless.
The electric power steering, with its assistance motor now mounted on the rack, is much more linear and pleasant to wield. Improved refinement of the new diesel engine is noticeable, too. Although it's still audible in the cabin, so still behind the class best, the concert-hall quiet BMW 320d.
The estate boot swallowed a couple of overnight bags and briefcases with ease and with plenty of space over. Irritatingly, the rear seats don't fold flat, so pushing a large heavy object in the back won't be easy. Mazda says it deliberately kept the load lip as low as possible, rather than raising it to create a flat floor, as many competitors do.
The new rear suspension, now with vertically-mounted dampers in place of horizontal ones, also narrows the load bay at a critical point. Mazda maintains that the load bay is still class-competitive and, at the critical 'reach-in' point where the average owner can access while standing at the ear of the car, the load bay is wider than the class average.
Another neat point is the unique load bay cover. Brilliantly clever, this remains attached to the tailgate as it opens, making for one-touch access to the boot. It can also be removed and stowed under the load bay floor, another clever touch.
Should I buy one?
The Mazda 6 estate deserves a place on every buyer's shortlist. Stylish, yet practical; good to drive yet comfortable. A big step forward are the cabin materials, particularly the soft-touch dashboard. Prices are towards the high-end of the class, but so is the Mazda 6 estate.