The Mazda6 looks great, it’s spacious, good to drive, and has impressive official economy of 67.3mpg.
Mazda has been relatively slow bringing green cars to market, however the company is now rolling out its ‘SKYACTIV’ technologies across its range. The CX-5 SUV was the first car to benefit from these fuel-saving features, now it’s the turn of the Mazda6 saloon.
During our week with the Mazda6 we had more comments from people about how good-looking it was than we’ve had with any other car. A real effort has been made with the design, with flowing lines that give it the presence of a car from the class above, such as an Infinity. This ‘KODO’ design language provides the Mazda with a genuine differentiation from cars such as a Volkswagen Passat which are very square and don’t exhibit much creativity in the area of design.
The interior design is also well crafted, and it gets even better, as the Mazda6 has a spacious interior, offering lots of rear legroom, and a large boot.
Mechanically, the Mazda has a 2.2-litre 150PS diesel engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. A 2.2-litre diesel engine may sound relatively large in the current climate of downsizing, but the idea is that a large engine is actually more economical in real-life driving than a downsized unit, because it’s not as working as hard. This is a theory that we would agree with, especially with a car of this class that will typically be used as a company car, and which is therefore likely to be driving up and down the nation’s motorways on a regular basis.
However this isn’t just a basic diesel engine, Mazda has introduced certain technologies to optimise efficiency, under the label of SKYACTIV, in three key areas: engines, transmissions, and lightweight construction. The SKYACTIV-D engine has a 14:1 compression ratio – unusually low for a diesel and the lowest currently available – which enhances fuel combustion and efficiency, while reducing harmful emissions, especially of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The SKYACTIV-D is so clean that it can already comply with Euro 6 emission standards, due to come into effect in September 2014, without expensive NOx after-treatment.
The Mazda6 also has an i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system that the company claims can boost fuel economy by up to 10 percent, as well as a stop/start system.
The manual gearbox (as well as the automatic) is also new, and is lighter in order to result in better economy. In addition, the whole car is designed to be as lightweight as possible.
The Mazda6 does feel lighter and more agile than the class average, and it has a smooth, refined and quiet engine that doesn’t feel like a diesel. Helped by a variable twin turbocharger, it feels flexible, with good levels of power and torque (380Nm). It also has responsive steering, decent handling, and a comfortable ride on smooth motorway surfaces, but the suspension can feel quite firm over speed bumps and other imperfections in the road.
So overall the Mazda6 is without doubt an enjoyable car to drive. However we have a few observations in certain areas; from our seating position we couldn’t actually see the start/stop switch behind indicator stalk, the steering wheel felt too ‘slippery’, and the satnav isn’t the best system around. However our major gripe is that the car locked itself automatically every time you closed the driver’s door; very annoying when you want to take something else out of the car.
The Mazda6 has official combined fuel economy of 67.3 mpg, along with emissions of just 108g/km CO2. This is excellent for a car of this class, and is no doubt helped by the car’s stop/start system, which seemed to work very effectively. Based on our experience of the Mazda CX-5 with the same powertrain we would expect to achieve 55-60mpg in real life from the Mazda6. It’s therefore unfortunate that our fuel economy result showed that we only achieved a result of 43.4mpg. After seven years of monitoring the fuel economy of a wide range of different cars we’re used to seeing low results for certain types of powertrains, including around 43mpg for some diesel-electric hybrids, but we wouldn’t expect to see a mid-40’s figure for a car such as the Mazda6 with such a fairly conventional powertrain. We therefore have to give the Mazda6 the benefit of doubt and conclude that either the result was inaccurate or that the car had some mechanical problem.
The Mazda6 2.2D 150PS Saloon Sport Nav costs £25,595, which includes good levels of equipment. Over and above ‘SE-L’ trim, the Sport Nav model has 225/45 R19 tyres with 19” alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, Bi-Xenon headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System, smart remote keyless entry, reversing camera with dynamic parking guidance lines, premium Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system with eleven speakers, integrated navigation system powered by TomTom technology, leather trim, 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory setting, 4-way power adjustable passenger seat, and heated front seats.
In addition our test car had the options of metallic/mica/pearlescent paint (£520) and Light Stone Leather Trim (£200) bringing the price of our test car to £26,315.
The Mazda6 is also available with 173bhp from the same 2.2-litre diesel engine (only available in top of the range Sport trim), as opposed to the 148bhp from our test car. There’s also a 2.0-litre petrol engine, with either 143bhp or 163bhp. Although the petrol emits as little as 129g/km CO2, we’d recommend the diesel. Trim specs range from SE through SE-L and SE-L Nav up to Sport.
The Mazda6 is a car that you really want to like. It looks great and it generally drives very well. It has a low company car tax rating as well as zero road tax to pay in its first year. It has a potentially excellent official fuel economy of 67.3 mpg, so it’s a shame that our test result appeared to throw up an error, resulting in only a mid-40’s figure. In its segment of front-wheel drive saloons, we’d say this is the best car in its class, being better to drive and better to look at than its competitors. However in our eyes it’s always going to struggle when pitched against the rear-wheel drive BMW 3 Series, which may be more expensive, but which seems to do everything so well.
The Mazda6 is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10. With a more conclusive fuel economy result in the mid-50’s or upwards, it could potentially achieve a 9 out of 10.
Mazda provided another test car to see if we could obtain a better fuel economy figure. We also lived with this car for a week, driving on varied cycles, and covered over 600 miles. We achieved an average of 46.3mpg. This is slightly better than our first test car, but only by around 3mpg, and is still lower than we would expect from a car with an official economy figure of 67.3mpg. This result is around 30% worse than the official figure, whereas the industry average is for real-life economy to be around 20-25% worse than the official figure. Based on our experience with the Mazda CX-5 with similar SKYACTIV technologies, we’re surprised that the Mazda6 has such a low real-life miles per gallon figure. Next test: the Mazda3. Again, we have high hopes…