Good: stylish car with performance to match
Not so good: dull interior doesn't quite live up to the handsome exterior
One of the most surprising things about the new Mazda6 is the number of compliments that it receives on foot of its looks. Mazda has done an excellent job of making the new 6, both in saloon and Touring versions, a very good looking car. The Japanese manufacturer attributes this to its 'KODO - Soul of Motion' design themes, which many may just put down to being some marketing mumbo-jumbo. Either way, the Mazda6 now appears to be one of the best-looking cars in its class and undoubtedly has a more premium image.
The front of the Mazda6 is dominated by a large grille, which is very similar to the one seen on the CX-5 and now the 'face' of Mazda. The lines over the front wheelarches slope down and into the doors giving a real flowing shape to the design. In Tourer guise the back end is functional in appearance but loses none of the style of the four-door saloon.
Moving to the interior, the design has been kept simple with the majority of the more commonly-used controls placed either on the multifunction steering wheel or within easy reach of it. The centre console is dominated by a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen display that is home to the optional satellite navigation system and some of the secondary and climate controls. Behind the wheel are three easy-to-read-clocks: the left is a rev counter, a large speedometer is placed centrally, and on the right is a digital display that illustrates a number of different features including Mazda's i-ELOOP energy regeneration system. This harvests some of the kinetic energy usually lost during braking and stores it short-term before going towards powering some of the ancillary items. It is not a hybrid system per se, but it does do its bit to help reduce fuel consumption, although following a week of driving, I didn't find the Skyactiv system to be any more economical than some of the other diesel engines currently on the market.
The rest of the cabin is spacious and well thought out but does suffer from black plastic overkill. In its defence, the quality of the materials used is of a higher standard than in the past. Rear passengers will enjoy ample amounts of legroom for a car in this class while the back seats also fold down very easily in a 60/40 split allowing larger objects to be carried in the boot. The cargo area has a low loading height too, which is always a plus when making trips to popular Scandinavian flat-pack furniture stores.
On the road the Mazda6 has all the feel of a very well put together car. It rides the poorer surfaces well while keeping road noise to a minimum the majority of the time. In fact, Mazda has gone to great lengths to make this car feel as refined as possible. One of the measures is a sound-insulating middle layer that has been added to the windscreen to further reduce wind noise.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine delivers power evenly across the rev range. It is particularly well suited to the automatic gearbox that is smooth and reacts well to changes in driving style. In the usual stop-start city driving conditions the automatic gearbox copes well but it is on the more open road where it really shines.
It isn't quite a game-changer in its class but the new Mazda6 will certainly tempt those who in the past may not have given the brand a look-in. It brilliantly demonstrates many of the stereotypical qualities attributed to Japanese cars yet manages to also deliver a driving experience most would expect to find in a well-fettled European car.