Mazda6 2.2l 175ps Saloon Sport Nav review – New 6 Delivers on Style and Substance

Sporty, good looking exterior, attractively designed and made interior, 2.2 diesel is superb, good fuel economy, very competitive price

Boot space large but narrow vertically

Mazda6?

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The Mazda6 family dates back a fair while, in its various forms. Before the model badged as ‘6’ was brought out in 2002, there was the 626, which really dates back to 1978 in its first guise. This was a mid-sized family car, with good comfort levels and a high level of equipment, and that stayed for the next generation, or Mazda6. From 2002 until 2011 the 6 was, in all honesty, a decent but rather dull family car, with unexciting styling.

In 2012, the third generation 6 unveiled, with advanced Skyactiv technology bringing power and, low emissions and high fuel economy to the table, and with it a breath of fresh air for the Mazda line-up. We were sent the Mazda6 Saloon Sport 2.2l 175ps diesel automatic to review, and find out just how good it is…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

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While the second-gen 6 wasn’t exactly an exciting prospect, this new third-generation model is actually a very handsome car. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Mazda6 is beautiful, no, but I would say it’s both elegant and alluring, with bold lines that flow fluidly from the front to rear. Mazda state this is their first car to “fully express [their] design language KODO – Soul of Motion, giving the impression of movement even when the car is stationary”.

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Yes, this is a car that draws more attention that the average family saloon. Mazda have produced some great looking cars in the past, one such that sticks in the mind being the 3rd generation RX-7, and in a way although it’s a different car altogether, this latest 6 is reminiscent of that, because of the aerodynamic design of the two cars.

The Mazda6 is a wide car, and the frontal design pushes this so that you cannot ignore it, with an aggressive, hunched look, the 6 stares menacingly, a low front splitter giving it a sporty edge. The nose has a very modern shape, with a big grille, angry headlights and a muscular bonnet that pushes upwards boldly.

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Looking from a rear three-quarter viewpoint, the swage line jut out and flow in a way that makes the car look like its been cut lovingly from clay by the designers, and a then metal body wrapped around it immediately. It’s almost as if someone high up at Mazda has walked into the design room, seen the clay model and said “That’s the one chaps! Get it to the engineers pronto”.

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I love the Mazda6 saloon’s look, and the Tourer is also an attractive proposition if you’re in the market for an estate. They’re marketing this model as a premium car, and in fact, Mazda are aiming their 6 to be bought by people who’d normally buy higher-end marques like the BMW 3-series and Audi A4. Indeed, my view is that the Mazda6 is easily as good looking and executive-like than the above, perhaps being more appealing simply because you won’t see a billion-and-one of these on any given motorway journey, as you do with the A4 and 3-series.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Mazda Mazda6 Saloon Sport interior console front seats HDR 1The last second generation 6 wasn’t too bad inside, in all honesty, and it was decent enough to be on par with cars in its price range and bracket. However, the new Mazda6 cabin is actually very nice place to be. What I like is that even the base SE model with its cloth seats looks good, and there’s very little difference between it and the top Sport model regarding the physical trim.

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You still get and absolute ton of kit on the SE, such as hill-hold, bluetooth for phone and music, a 5.8″ touch screen multimedia system, USB and AUX ports, air conditioning, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control and more. However, if you want a more executive feel to your Mazda6, the Sport model is definitely the one to go for. The test car we had was optioned with the contrasting Light Stone Leather, which makes it look truly luxurious. So much so, in fact, that people were genuinely surprised when they opened the door to get in.

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It’s absolutely an attractive cabin, and the leather on the seats feels so beautifully soft and supple that it reminds me of the type in cars which cost over twice as much as the £27,600 Mazda6 Sport 2.2l 175ps- the Jaguar XJ, for example. The front seats are exceptionally comfortable, and even after a four hour journey I got to my destination without feeling uncomfortable in any way. Aside from the centre section, the rear seats are great, angled perfectly for a relaxing, pleasant ride, and there’s plenty of arm and leg room too, with a wide armrest featuring twin cupholders.

Mazda Mazda6 Saloon Sport HDR interior rear seats 2

To add to the lavishness, there’s a generous smattering of high-gloss, piano-effect plastics and satin-silver aluminium pieces on the door handles, steering wheel, gear surround and outlining the air vents and drivers info dials.

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All the dials and controls are well spaced and laid out for the driver, plus they’re all quiet, non-clicky and soft-touch too. There’s a Multi Commander – very similar to BMW’s iDrive – behind the gear selector, which allows control of the sat nav, car settings, phone and audio. Another benefit of the top Sport version of the Mazda6 is the 11-speaker BOSE surround-sound audio system, which pump out a truly awesome quality of sound, whatever you listen to.

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Talking of that, the touch screen is a nice one, with fluid graphics and very easy to find you way to whatever you want, i.e. phone, music etc, and the reversing camera gives a super-clear image too. The steering wheel is a good size, and grippy, with controls for the usual stereo, phone, cruise control and more. The big dials look classy and are crystal clear to read, with one housing a digital screen showing cruise set speed and the i-ELOOP brake energy being generated, amongst other features.

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Open the boot lid, and there’s a cavernous amount of storage space. While vertically it is fairly narrow, it seems to go back for miles. Specs are 483 litres seats up, and a massive 1,632 litres rear seats folded! The only thing I could really find to complain about was that the plastic trim surrounding the automatic gear lever was flimsy in places, and felt like it’d break easily. Something Mazda should address if they’re going up against BMW and Audi, as they wouldn’t let that sort of thing fly.

Mazda Mazda6 Saloon Sport HDR boot trunk space 1

Mazda Mazda6 Saloon Sport HDR boot trunk space 4

In summary, the Mazda6 Saloon Sport cabin is luxurious and refined, comfortable for the driver and passengers, and is also very well spec’d with lots of good features. If a dealership has the Sport version in, go have a sit inside, as you’ll likely find it as agreeable and appealing as I do. A contender for Germany’s big guns? I’d have to say affirmative to that.

Engine and gearbox

There are two engines available with the Mazda6, and four different power outputs altogether. There’s a 2.0 litre SKYACTIV-G naturally-aspirated petrol with 145 ps or 165 ps, and a 2.2 litre SKYACTIV-D twin-turbo diesel with either 150 ps or the one we had, 175 ps. To get this out the way early, as well as this diesel model, I’ve also driven the 2.0 165ps petrol Tourer with the manual gearbox (no option for an auto with the 165), and it doesn’t even come close to the performance of the 175ps diesel.

Mazda Mazda6 Saloon Sport 2.2l 175ps diesel automatic review HDR Engine

On a Mazda SKYACTIV press day in a hilly area, the 165ps petrol felt almost sluggish and underpowered on the steeper sections of road, and I wasn’t impressed with the power delivery. In fact I was rather underwhelmed. The redeeming feature is the impressive fuel economy the petrol achieves, with up to a quoted 57.6 mph, and 47.9 Combined, plus a 135 g/km CO2 means it’s okay on car tax at £125 p/y (Jan. ’14). The 0 – 62 mph time is decent at 9.1 seconds, but it just didn’t feel that quick once rolling.

However, the 2.2 litre, 4-cylinder DOHC 175ps with automatic transmission is a superb choice, with just £105 per year tax (Jan. ’14) thanks to a low 127 g/km CO2 emissions. As well as the 175 PS power output, the more important torque figure reads as a stonking 310 lb ft (420 Nm) thanks to those twin-turbo’s. 0 – 62 mph is completed in a nifty 8.4 seconds and it’ll touch 134 mph v-max.

Fuel consumption is really very good, and for once the official figures almost tally up with the real-life ones I got. Quoted figures (UK MPG) are 47.9 urban, 67.3 extra urban and 58.9 combined. On a 7.5 hour round-trip on motorways, I easily managed an average of 57 miles-per-gallon, and slowing for the dreaded 50 mph limit through roadworks, I was getting into the mid-60’s mpg.

This is due to Mazda SKYACTIV technology, and the i-ELOOP system which are explained in-depth here. This will be included on every new Mazda from now on. The i-ELOOP (Intelligent Energy Loop) system is a capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system, and in short works by a 12V-25V double-layer capacitor being charged each time you release the accelerator, charging it fully within the average deceleration time of 7 – 10 seconds. Impressively, this is enough stored power to run components such as the climate control and audio systems for 60 seconds. Combined with i-Stop (stop-start), this makes the cars up to 10% more fuel efficient. Clever stuff, eh!

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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With a round-trip of over 400 miles to cover, I slide into the drivers seats of the Mazda6 Saloon Sport and feel immediately cosseted in the luxurious cabin. I’m guessing that, if anything, this is at least going to be a comfortable journey for me. I press the starter button, and the 2.2 litre fires into life quickly. The noise from the diesel engine is muted as I let it warm up for a couple of minutes, the dulled rumbling reminding me further that this Mazda is an executive-type car, and there’s wads of sound-deadening to make sure the sound of a noisy diesel doesn’t spoil the experience.

After putting the address into the sat nav, I pulling the auto selector into D, the Mazda6 glides away from the parking space and onto the road smoothly. As I arrive at the top of the slip road leading to the motorway, I plant the accelerator and the 2.2 litre twin-turbo rewards my input by delivering a powerful wave of torque, which I ride up to speed and into the flow of traffic. This Mazda6 175ps cannot be accused of being a slouch, simply because it isn’t.

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The 310 lb ft (420 Nm) torque is at its max at just 2,000 rpm, so there’s loads of low-down grunt to be had, while the 175 PS hits its peak at 4,500 rpm. When you get up to those revs, the engine note changes, and it sounds completely different to the rest of the range. There’s a rorty-ness about it, and it roars and growls in a very un-diesel-like manner. Whatever makes this happen, it sounds great.

Gear changes fromt the 6-speed auto ‘box are smooth and quick enough. Being able to change manually by pushing the lever over manually while in D, and then simply pushing up or down to select your gear, gives you a little more input, and works to make the drive more a stirring experience, and more interactive for you the driver too.

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The Mazda6 rides very well, and the long drive down the motorway shows it to be faultless in that department. The 6 has MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension, set up so that you can give it some on a flowing road and actually enjoy chucking around the corners with gusto, while it also allows a smooth ride on even bad road surfaces. A good all-round set-up, I found, and there’s certainly been some fettling on Mazda’s part to make sure you have the best of both worlds as possible.

Back on the motorway, and I’m happy. The deep leather of the seat is snug, and any road or wind noise is kept impressively low, while that fantastic BOSE speaker system makes playing my favourite tracks a joy. Then, without warning, the traffic pulls up sharply, going from 70 mph to around 30 as harshly as is possible. I brake as hard as possible to avoid a collision, and then the Mazda’s driver-assistance systems kick in, the Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) applying even more power the brakes, flashing the hazard warning lights at the same time. Phew. Close one, but one thing is was good for is showing just how tack-sharp and powerful the brakes are on the Mazda6. Point proven!

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There’s a lot of electronic safety tech on the 6 as standard, such as dynamic stability control (DSC), traction control (TCS), but the higher models also feature Smart City Brake Support (SCSB) – demonstrated here – plus rear-vehicle monitoring and Lane Departure Warning. One thing to remember is that the SCSB actually lower your insurance by up to six groups, meaning you may claw back some of the extra money you shelled out on a higher model.

Overall. I could not find anything I disliked about the way the Mazda6 drove. There’s plenty of torque from the 2.2 diesel 175ps, along with very good fuel economy, the ride is superb whether you’re in the city, on a motorway or on a winding mountain road, and the interior comfort level is simply excellent. As an an all-rounder, it’s a great car, but as a long-distance cruiser, the Mazda6 is absolutely sublime.

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Price

Up against its rivals, the Mazda6 comes out well in regards to pricing, and how well it is spec’d in comparison. The saloon version of the Mazda6 2.2 150ps SE-L Nav (just below the highest Sport spec), comes out at £23,140. A few examples of just how well-priced it is within the market are; Ford Mondeo 1.6 TDCI Titanium at £22.2k , but it lacks the touchscreen & sat nav, tinted windows and SCSB system of the 6. BMW 3 series 2.0 EfficientDynamics is over £28,000, and again lacks a lot of Mazda’s equipment, which would take it to nearer £32k.

The Audi A4 2.0 TDie SE is £26,500 and as with the Beemer, is minus the majority of the Mazda’s standard kit on the SE-L Nav. The Vauxhall Insignia 2.0CDTi Exclusiv ecoFLEX is cheaper at £22,200, but lacks almost every piece of tech on the Mazda6, and it’s the same story with Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC ES which starts at £24,150. The closest rival for in terms of spec and pricing is the Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDI Premium at £23,225, but still doesn’t have the SCBS of the 6.

The Sport Nav model I had on test came out at just over £28,000, and it absolutely felt worth the money.

Mazda6 2.2l 175ps Saloon Sport Nav verdict & score

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After a week’s worth of testing… no wait, actually I liked the Mazda6 after just a few hours with it. The rest of the time was spent getting to know ever detail of it further, as the more I discovered about the car, the more regard I had for it. My choice of all the Mazda6 models would be the one I had on test. Okay, perhaps I’d have the Tourer over the Saloon though. Even if you prefer petrol over diesel as a rule though, I think you’ll still be won over by the 175ps twin-turbo – I don’t see how you couldn’t be.

While my preference is the automatic over the manual – as there’s little difference in fuel economy – if you like to be in total control, the manual ‘box is a good one, as it has a good crisp and precise movement. For me, the Mazda6 is a great package overall. It’s a handsome car which is roomy, comfortable, well-spec’d as standard, safe, competitively-priced with a decent range of engines. As a family car or one for the salesman or executive, the Mazda6 would be a very wise choice indeed.

Do you own a Fiat 500L Trekking? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Score & specs

Exterior  8
Interior  8
Engine (2.2D)  8
Gearbox  8
Price  8
Drive & ride  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10

Model (as tested)  Mazda6 2.2l 175ps Saloon Sport Nav
Spec includes  19″ alloy wheels, Smart City Brake Support, DSC, TCS, hill hold, ABS+EBD, 5.8″ touchscreen with bluetooth, aux-in & USB port, cruise control, electric & heated adjustable mirrors, leather seating, all-round power windows, dual-zone climate control, Bi-xenon adaptive front headlights, keyless entry & start See specs for more
Options you should spec  Soul Red (£660) or Stormy Blue Mica (£530) paint
The Competition  Ford Mondeo, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Vauxhall Insignia, Honda Accord, Hyundai i40, Kia Optima
Price  (Jan ’14) £19,595 – £27,295
Engine  2.2 litre twin-turbo-diesel, 4-cylinder, 16-valve
Power, Torque, CO2  175 ps (172 hp) @ 4,500 rpm, 310 lb ft (420 Nm) @ 2,000 rpm | CO2: 122 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed automatic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 134 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.4 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 47.1, Extra urban: 67.3, Combined: 58.9
Weight (kerb)  1,578 kilograms (3,478 lbs) – including 75 kg driver
Websites  Mazda UK, Mazda USA, Mazda Global

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Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris DaviesMatthew Davies

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