Enhancements to the 2017 Mazda6 furthers its position as one of the best sub-premium saloons on the market.
In the metal
The Mazda6 has received some updates for 2017, but visually the only difference you will notice (if you look particularly hard) are new door mirrors. They feature repositioned indicators, are now electrically folding and have a more aerodynamic shape that helps to reduce wind noise. Mazda is also introducing a new colour called 'Machine Grey' to the already strong palette. It remains one of the best-looking saloons on sale today thanks to its flowing lines and distinctive front-end styling. The 19-inch alloy wheels look the part too and overall it has a style that puts it at the sharp end of the segment.
Inside, the changes are slightly more noticeable. Firstly, there's an all-new steering wheel. It remains the same size as before, but has a more appealing design. There are fewer buttons, but no less functionality as four of the buttons have three-way functionality and are easily controlled by your thumb when driving. Mazda has also added a heating function to the steering wheel, a luxury typically seen on more premium cars. Some of the instrument dials have been redesigned and feature new graphics that are of a higher quality than before. Similarly, the head-up display (standard on Platinum specification) gets some upgrades to add greater clarity and more colour.
For this 2017 model, Mazda has added two new technological features aimed at enhancing the driving experience. The first of these is called G-Vectoring Control. Input data from the steering wheel signals a minute reduction in engine output to cause a load shift of around 30kg to the front wheels just before turning fully for a corner, thus adding to grip levels.
The slight reduction in engine power at the moment of turn in isn't perceptible; according to Mazda engineers, lifting off the throttle normally results in a deceleration force of 0.1G, whereas this system tends to operate between 0.01- and 0.05G. Data also suggests that this system bolsters stability and can lead to a smoother ride for passengers thanks to reduced lateral loads. In reality, we found it hard to judge just how much better the Mazda6 could take corners as the system is permanently engaged and this was previously not a major area of concern in the car's dynamics in any case.
Far more noticeable is the more refined nature of the diesel engine. Through a system called Natural Sound Smoother, a small damper, which looks like a cylinder, is fitted into the hollow part of the piston pin in each cylinder and helps to stifle diesel 'knock' during combustion. A secondary system, called Natural Sound Frequency Control, tweaks the engine timing in 100-microsecond bursts, creating pressure waves that match and thus cancel out three frequency bands that have been found to be the loudest during operation. The result of all that science is a diesel engine that is impressively quiet, particularly at higher cruising speeds.
These added refinements complement what was already an excellent car to drive. With 150hp, the 2.2-litre diesel engine never feels stressed and that adds to the smoothness of its performance - for a car of its size this power is more than adequate. You can opt for a more powerful 175hp version, which includes the automatic transmission, but this also carries a €3,000 price premium. The automatic is quite smooth, but the six-speed manual gearbox has a slick action to it, which, combined with the engine's torque, means only minimal shifting. The suspension quality is just on the firm side, yet supple enough to make longer journeys feel almost effortless.
Mazda has paid close attention to ensuring the driving position is ergonomic and comfortable too. Excepting the Volkswagen Passat and possibly the Skoda Superb, you have to move up to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz levels to get a similar amount of comfort and refinement in the saloon class, such is the quality of finish in the Mazda6.
What you get for your money
Mazda is fitting its new technology to all Mazda6s as standard, though the new head-up display is included on the top tier Platinum model only. Standard equipment at this specification also includes electrically adjustable and heated front seats, cruise control, reversing camera and keyless entry and start, along with smart city braking and hill hold assist. The only downside is the price, which sees it pitched a couple of thousand euros more than its closest rivals.
The enhancements made to the 2017-spec Mazda6 build on what was already a very solid base. It is now one of the best and most refined cars in its segment and although it isn't the cheapest it does come with a strong feeling of quality.