From £17,5858
Mazda 6 gets dynamic, refinement and equipment upgrades for its second facelift. It feels every bit as competent as before – but no more so

Our Verdict

Mazda 6

The Mazda 6 is a Ford Mondeo rival with rakish styling and lightweight, low-emissions tech

6 September 2016

What is it?

If you're feeling a little confused, don't worry, you did see a Mazda 6 facelift drive not long ago. Last year the car received some styling and chassis changes to bring it up to date, but now, for 2016 (or the 2017 model year) there are yet more revisions to keep it relevant next to rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb Estates

The changes apply to both the Saloon and the Tourer we're driving here, although visually, from the outside, there have been no changes at all, so you can stop squinting at the pictures. Inside, however, while both models' dimensions remain exactly the same, there have been material upgrades, while a more generous level of standard equipment has been applied to the higher SE-L Nav and Sport Nav trims. Every cars' city braking technology now recognises pedestrians, too. 

More notably, all Mazda 6 models now come with something called G-Vectoring Control, or GVC. Not to be confused with torque vectoring, GVC doesn't brake the wheels. Instead, when turning into a corner, the engine senses steering inputs and very slightly reduces its torque output, which in turn shifts the weight forward slightly and aids front tyre effectiveness. However, its benefits extend beyond that, also providing greater high-speed stability and increasing driver and passenger comfort. It's potentially clever stuff.

What's it like?

GVC has been designed to be imperceptible, which is lucky, because we couldn't detect a thing. Apparently we're talking about differences of 0.01-0.05g when entering corners, and it isn't intended to make the car handle better on the limit, just to make the whole process of cornering easier and more stable.

Either way, the Mazda 6 remains one of the better-handling cars in the class, benefitting from quite light but linear, precise steering and an eagerness to turn in to corners not always demonstrated by its rivals. It also takes a lot before the front wheels begin to protest and give up grip, and for what feels like quite a large car from behind the wheel, its body stays propped up nicely. Ultimately a Mondeo Estate is more rounded dynamically, but the 6 isn't far short. 

The 148bhp version of this diesel seems to make the most sense. Work has been done to reduce turbo lag and improve torque delivery, and while it's difficult to detect this over the old car, the lesser of the two diesels remains happy to pull from 1800rpm and doesn't suffer too narrow a band on song. The 168bhp version is quicker in a sprint and in gear, but not by enough to warrant the extra cash needed to buy and run it. 

Mazda has also worked on diesel refinement. It has revised its 2.2-litre unit's pistons to ensure less vibration and fiddled with the injector timing in an effort to cancel out some of the engine's higher-frequency sounds. There are also upgraded door seals and sound-deadening materials throughout. The results in this department are more obvious: the 148bhp model we tried felt smoother and quieter under load than before, although it's still not class-leading in this respect, even if the fluid feel of its manual gearbox just might be. 

Decent agility is mixed with a commendable ride. Our test car wore 17in alloys, which picked up on some of the sharper ruts of our Spanish test route but got better with speed to provide a cosseting motorway cruise. Having also tried the larger 19in wheels, which add more fidget without much dynamic gain, we'd say the former are the way to go.

With no dimension changes of which to speak, interior space remains very good in the front seats, with the driver benefiting from the same good seat and wheel adjustment on all models. Two more adults will sit comfortably in the rear seats, although a Skoda Superb does a better job, and the Mazda's 522-litre boot has the low loading lip, folding rear seat levers and flat floor you'd expect, but not the Skoda's outright space. 

All 6s now come with a new leather steering wheel and upgraded dash trims, which, together with Mazda's continued competence at creating slick, substantial switchgear and one of the class's best infotainment systems when it comes to ease of use, makes the 6's cabin an even nicer place in which to spend time than it was before.

Should I buy one?

It's fair to say that Mazda's 6 facelift is a light one, and although much has been made about its new G-Vectoring technology, there's very little difference between this and the previous car in terms of the way it drives. Still, the 6 is a decent steer, and subtle is exactly how Mazda wants it. 

On a more positive note, the diesels we drove are certainly more refined and continue to make far more sense than either of the petrol options. The cabin is also now slightly more upmarket, and Mazda isn't charging a penny more than it did for this new car than the old. That's particularly good news for Sport Nav trim buyers, who now get a head-up display with traffic sign recognition, a heated steering wheel and new electric memory seats thrown in. 

It's a better car than before, then, and offers a more stylish approach than many of its estate rivals. The fact remains, though, that it still isn't the best; a Mondeo Estate is even better to drive and a Skoda Superb Estate manages to be classier, more spacious, more practical, similarly refined and good to drive for less money. 

Mazda 6 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 Tourer  

Location Spain; On Sale Autumn 2016; Price (from) £23,195; Engine 4 cyls, 2191cc, diesel; Power 148bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1800-2600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1420kg; 0-62mph 9.2sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 67.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 110g/km, 22% Rivals Ford Mondeo Estate, Skoda Superb Estate

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Comments
7

6 September 2016
Shall be more reliable than a WAG alternative or Ford alternative.

6 September 2016
Fords are actually reliable.. More so than VW probably equal to the Mazda.

6 September 2016
Likeable car. Would be more interesting if you tested the petrol version, though, which is a more interesting alternative and better for those who don't do big mileage.

6 September 2016
Autocar admitted that has got it wrong viz the Mondeo - I'd have a 6 every time over the current Mundano.
The car-buying public gets what it deserves, unfortunately ...

6 September 2016
Really ? ? Mondeo over this?..I'm having a hard time agreeing with you on this one Autocar.

6 September 2016
(On a more positive note, the diesels we drove are certainly more refined and continue to make far more sense than either of the petrol options. )

Context, Autocar, is everything.
A low mileage user will not enjoy having to pay for dpf issues that the petrol doesn't experience.

Where has all Japanese design went to?

6 September 2016
Nice looking estate, could use a bit of colour inside but otherwise nothing major to fault. A former neighbour had a 6 hatchback which was a really comfy car and quite classy inside. There are several others to take into account, Passat, Superb and Avensis spring to mind. Mondeo? Not a chance. Autocar will keep pushing Ford to keep the money rolling in, but nobody with any sense will take notice.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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