Overall rating: 4/5
Mazda's 6 takes two steps towards the likes of the Volkswagen Passat thanks to better interior and technology, but one step back on the handling front.
In the Metal:
The exterior designers in Mazda obviously believe the job they did with the original 6 was a good one as they have gone for the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' line in the styling for the updated car. The changes really are minimal, amounting to a new grille, LED lamps for the headlights and a reshaping of the fog light apertures to take into account the move from halogen to LED technology, but the 6 was a good looking car to begin with so you can somewhat forgive the designers for not tinkering too much. Somewhat bizarrely, the exterior changes only apply to range topping Platinum models though - opt for a lower spec Executive and you have a car that looks the same as before.
At least the inside changes no matter what specification you opt for. Gone are the dull and most definitely sub-premium fittings of the 2012 car to be replaced by a much more modern and stylish looking interior. Based on the one that debuted in the smaller Mazda3, the changes bring a touch of quality that was sorely missing from the Mazda6 cabin before.
The infotainment screen is now a standalone unit, devoid of the cheap switchgear that surrounded it before, and it is mounted better, sitting atop the dashboard rather than haphazardly 'in' the dash. The air conditioning controls have been redesigned too, dropping from three dials down to two, and with white rather than orange backlighting. It seems like a small thing but taken as a whole it leads to a less fussy centre console design. The central tunnel between the seats is also new - higher and wider than before thanks to the removal of the mechanical handbrake lever and fitment of an electronic unit. This means the Commander rotary dial for the infotainment system falls closer to hand.
And close at hand is where you want it as the system can now do a lot more than before thanks to MZD Connect. You can now check in on social media while sitting in traffic, stream from your favourite online music sources and a lot more besides. If it is internet in the car you want then Mazda has served it up for you.
When it was released two years ago, the Mazda6 was lauded for possessing the sort of engaging drive we normally only associate with the Ford Mondeo. Others have tried to match the Mondeo's on-road abilities but fallen short, the 6 on the other hand came tantalisingly close while also (somehow) competing with the Volkswagen Passat in the comfort stakes when not being driven... ahem... enthusiastically. But time and tide wait for no man and the two leaders of the segment have recently been updated and taken a rather large step away from the Mazda. This is as much part of Ford's/Volkswagen's doing as it is Mazda's.
You see, for this update the Mazda engineers decided to fiddle with the suspension and in doing so they took away some of the 6's character. Before it would have happily nipped and darted between the corners on the mountains outside Barcelona whereas the new one rolls though them instead: it's too soft. We will raise our hands and say you do have to be going at quite a lick (you will not notice this roll at urban speeds), but for a car so vaunted for its handling prowess to lean into corners rather than pull through, in only one update, is quite disconcerting. We are all for comfort and dialling out a touch of sportiness where required but the suspension in the 'old' 6 was quite adept at soaking up the miles anyway. Odd!
It would appear that Mazda, upon listening to reports from journalists and consumers, decided the 6 needed to be more refined, more Passat than Mondeo. And so the 'new' 6 gets additional sound insulation and better seals to keep noise out. It works too with the distant rumble of the 2.2-litre SkyActivD engine only really making itself known at high revs. That may sound strange when talking about a diesel engine but the Mazda unit loves revs in a way that no other diesel engine does. This might go some way to explaining why you are unlikely to see the official combined fuel consumption figure of 3.9 litres/100km (72.4mpg) - it is just so easy to exploit the 150hp/380Nm engine.
What you get for your Money:
Now for the bad news; the 2015 Mazda6 is, on average, €500 more expensive than its 2012 counterpart. This means the new car will start at €29,295 when it arrives later this month. The blow is somewhat softened by the level of standard equipment though. The grades offered are Executive, Executive SE and Platinum with all grades getting DAB radio, seven-inch multimedia screen, Multimedia Commander, MZD Connect infotainment and an optional Integrated Navigation system. There is also a new optional Light Pack available on the Executive SE saloon.
There is also a host of additional safety kit added including Adaptive LED Headlights (ALH), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Driver Attention Alert (DAA). Smart City Brake now works in reverse as well as forward. Platinum models also get a handy Heads Up Display as standard.
Proving that the Mazda6 is now a global player a few tweaks have been made to drivetrains for different markets. A 195hp 2.5-litre petrol engine has been added to the line-up, primarily for the American and Russian markets and, for the first time, the 6 is now available with all-wheel drive. This addition is only available on wagon models and has been added due to demand from central Europe. There are no official plans to bring either of these models to Ireland but if you yearn for an AWD Mazda6 wagon we're sure your local dealer will be only too happy to help.
Is a new interior worth €500? In the case of the 2015 Mazda6 the answer is 'just about' and this is a good thing as if you opt for a lower specification car you don't even get the (minimal) exterior upgrades. But the cabin just about seals the deal; quieter and more refined than before it offers the kind of quality that the 6 was missing. Add in a range of safety related acronyms and the extra €500 is just about worth it. Why did the engineers have to mess with the handling though?