First Drive: Mazda6
In a tough sector, the 6 offers something a little different to the norm, says Alex Grant.
SECTOR Upper Medium PRICE £23,195-£33,585 FUEL 64.2-41.5mpg CO2 117-156g/km
Launched as part of an all-new range in 2013, the Mazda6 perhaps arrived too late in Europe to get the recognition it deserves. Mazda’s former best-selling nameplate faces the same challenges as its rivals; fending off SUVs (including its CX-5 stablemate) and premium brands. Surviving means doing things differently.
In a segment with a high diesel and fleet mix, those challenges don’t get any easier. Reduced rental means half of UK Mazda6 sales are to private customers, while diesel has dropped from a 77% fleet share last year, to 59% this year. Behind the new CX-5-esque nose, and significantly improved cabin, it’s adjusting to a toughening market.
However, it isn’t following the crowd. Mazda believes in ‘rightsized’ engines, so the 2.2-litre diesel lives on in 148bhp and 182bhp guises, albeit now with AdBlue injection, and an automatic transmission that significantly hikes up CO2 emissions. These arrive in September. From launch, the 6 gets 143bhp and 163bhp 2.0-litre petrols, and Europe is also getting the 192bhp 2.5-litre petrol for the first time.
Mazda sees a future for diesel, but tax band parity with cheaper petrols could disincentivise some drivers. They are appealing to drive, offering quiet, progressive power delivery and close to published efficiency figures on a mixed route – particularly impressive for the 2.5-litre, which can shut down two cylinders when it’s not working hard. However, that’s reserved for the range-topping GT Sport Nav+ trim, alongside the most potent diesel.
Otherwise, it’s incremental, barely-detectable, changes to what was already a comfortable, but driver-focused, option in its class. Adaptive cruise control is standard, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are optional, while SE-L Lux Nav+ adds leather to the fleet-favourite trim. Not enough to turn the segment around, but certainly worth a deeper look.