From £25,1457
Mazda’s refreshed Mondeo rival is richer inside and softer-riding than before but loses its dynamic edge

What is it?

The Mazda 6, the Japanese firm’s full-size family saloon/estate, has been given a mid-life refresh for 2015.

In order to keep pace with a part of the market that’s seen plenty of recent renewal, the car has had some exterior and interior styling improvements, powertrain and chassis tweaks, added active safety equipment and extra standard kit.

The exterior styling updates are mainly to top-of-the-range Sport Nav models, which get a bolder-looking radiator grille and a wider chrome ‘wing’ grille bar, as well as standard LED headlamps, LED foglights and new 19in alloy wheels.

All models benefit from an interior refresh consisting of all-new instruments, an updated fascia, a new centre console, a new multimedia set-up and an electronic parking brake.

The powertrain and suspension changes are focused on improving mechanical and rolling refinement. Extra sound deadening has been added and new dampers and bushings have been specified for a softer, quieter ride.

Standard equipment on entry-level SE-grade cars now includes heated door mirrors, 17in alloys, a DAB radio and Mazda’s 7.0in touchscreen multimedia system with MZD-Connect online and social networking functions.

The full-house Sport Nav version comes with heated leather seats, reversing camera, Bose surround audio, European sat-nav, keyless entry and a new head-up display. Plenty of kit for your £26k, just as Mazda suggests.

The new active safety systems, meanwhile, are offered as an option on Sport Nav models. They’re bundled to include adaptive LED headlights, lane keeping assist, driver attention alert, blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and rear smart city brake support.

What's it like?

Mazda’s apparent intention was to make the 6 a more mature, refined and technologically sophisticated prospect. Whether you think that was called for depends on your perspective – but it has worked well in some departments. Not well enough to force a massive reshuffling of the class order, but well enough to widen the car’s appeal and keep it broadly competitive.

Our test car was a 148bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel Tourer, in mid-spec SE-L trim, with Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission, so it didn’t have the exterior styling updates of Sport Nav cars – but the new interior is a decent improvement.

For starters, Mazda’s easily smudged, fingerprint-magnet gloss black fascia trim has been replaced by a fillet of leather-faced plastic – and it’s vastly preferable. Applying the touchscreen multimedia screen, rotary controller and heating and ventilation controls of the Mazda 3 looks much neater than what went before, too. The new clocks are a bit uninspiring, but clear to read.

And while the sprinkling of richer materials is generally very welcome, the cabin still has as many cheaper-looking fixtures, some hard and inconsistently finished. This is one of the more practical cabins in the class, and it's now better looking and better equipped – but it’s relatively plain compared with the best.

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At idle, at low revs and under light load, the diesel engine’s gruffness and vibration are now more thoroughly suppressed. Its main attraction is a fat slug of low and mid-range torque that’s generous enough for the everyday flow of traffic and typical daily use without ever really needing more than half-throttle or 3000rpm.

Extend it beyond that point and it gets more noisy – but not discouragingly so. The gearbox manages both upshifts and kickdown judiciously, and it harnesses the engine’s low-range strength and cleanliness of response very well indeed.

In other respects, Mazda has had less success in putting manners on this car. Even on standard 17in rims, our test car created above-average levels of road noise and allowed more fluttering wind noise into the cabin than some of its rivals.

A little dynamic progress has been made; the car is significantly more compliant than it was and rides smooth asphalt and gentler bumps much more comfortably. But hit a more coarse stretch of road and the chassis shows its uncouth side.

Those new dampers and bushings fail to filter out much surface roar at all, and the car fidgets and pings slightly over smaller disturbances of the kind that a more refined, rubber-footed family saloon might absorb.

There’s mixed news, too, about the car’s handling - an undoubted selling point for keen drivers up until now- because it isn’t just the Mazda 6’s ride that has been softened. The weighty, quietly feelsome steering of the outgoing car has been replaced by a set-up that’s just as direct, but lighter in your hands and a little lacking in centre feel.

Power assistance isn’t nearly as discreet, apparently building as you add angle and making the car a little vague and hard to place through a corner. Grip, response and body control are all still strong – but driving the car is marginally less enjoyable than it was.

Should I buy one?

Mazda’s updates for the undoubtedly handsome 6 have answered many of our criticisms directly. The new navigation and multimedia systems, and parts of the interior, are big improvements on what went before, and the generous standard equipment level of mid and high-spec cars will make them an appealing prospect to company car users.

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But to those who’ve been drawn to the Mazda 6 during the past decade or so for its vivacious, quick-witted handling, this version offers a compromise: greater refinement, at the price of softer reactions and a bit less driver engagement.

In short – to the likes of us, at any rate – it does seem as if Mazda has chipped away at one outstanding selling point for the sake of many smaller, ultimately less convincing ones.

Mazda 6 Tourer 2.2d 150 SE-L Nav auto

Price £25,995; Engine 4 cyls, 2191cc, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 4500rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 2600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1604kg; Top speed 126mph; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Economy 57.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 129g/km, 21% 

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Elendil 10 February 2015

Not the car its predecessor was

The old 6 was superb, great styling, handling and with the 2.5 petrol smooth and fast (and still relatively economical).

No equivalent of the old Mazda 6 2.5 Petrol Sport now - as a result I didn't replace my old 6 with this one.
Nothing in these mods for me (softer, still no sporting petrol engine).

Make the next 6 sporty and modern looking and let us have the new 2.5 petrol or god forbid a V6.

Daniel Joseph 9 February 2015

Trying to follow the Mondeo into Passat territory...

...and losing its usp in the process. Shame. What do keen drivers who need a family car do now?
Marv 10 February 2015


Daniel Joseph wrote:

...and losing its usp in the process. Shame. What do keen drivers who need a family car do now?

I didn't buy the current model as I was hoping for some improvements to the interior and waited specifically for this update. The dash is big improvement, but your comments about the steering are a little concerning. I'm hoping the Sport Nav has a different suspension and steering set up. I'm happy to forgo some refinement for a more entertaining drive. I'm also a little gutted Mazda have chose not to provide the option of the AWD version in the UK due to "lack of demand" I was looking forward to an alternative to A4 Quattro's and X-Drive 3 Series :o(

P.S. The website has some non customer friendly bugs in it. Your following is at risk.