BY STEVE WALKER
Recommending a car to someone can be dangerous. If your opinion has been sought, there's a good chance that the person has already settled on a vehicle and is merely after confirmation. In which case, fingering a model other than the one they've earmarked is only likely to produce animosity. Even worse is when your advice is actually followed. They buy the car, don't like it and want to know what you thought you were playing at when you recommended it. There are other nightmare scenarios too, which is why it pays to have a few default cars to fall back on. These shouldn't be too obvious if you want to look like you know your stuff. For family car buyers, a used Mazda6 is a sure-fire bet.
Models Covered: 4dr saloon, 5dr hatch, 5dr estate (1.8, 2.0, 2.5 petrol, 2.0, 2.2 diesel [S, TS, TS2, Sport, Sport Luxury])
Ford was embarking on a purple patch of epic proportions around the time that the first car carrying the Mazda6 name arrived in 2002. Fiesta, Focus, Ka, C-MAX, S-MAX, Galaxy: these cars were to rule the roosts in their respective market sectors over the coming years with their sharp design and finely honed driving dynamics. Mazda, being part-owned by Ford, was in the happy position of being taken along for the ride. That first Mazda6 was a gigantic advance from the tedious 626 that preceded it, largely because it was based on the platform of the Ford Mondeo. When a new Mondeo arrived in early 2007 to major critical acclaim, an all-new Mazda6 based on that car was only a matter of months behind. Mazda can't have believed its luck. This second generation Mazda6 arrived with a solid but unremarkable engine range in November 2007. There were 1.8, 2.0 and 2.5-litre normally-aspirated petrol engines plus a 2.0-litre diesel. Trim levels too gave little cause for excitement with S, TS, TS2 and Sport lines following the same formula as the old model. Saloon, hatchback and estate versions were offered but much more exciting was the way the Mazda6 looked and the way it drove. In January 2009, the 2.0-litre diesel engine was replaced by a trio of 2.2-litre units with 123, 161 and 183bhp. A Sports Luxury trim level had also been introduced at the top of the range. A facelift in 2010 brought subtle styling tweaks and upgrades to ride and handling. The engines were also revised gaining improved economy, while an all new 2.0 petrol with 153bhp was also introduced.
What You Get
A key design criteria on the second generation Mazda6 was that 'it should still look fresh in ten years time' which sounds like great news for used buyers. The stylists certainly created a good looking and slippery shape with a drag coefficient of Cd 0.26 for the 4735mm long hatchback and saloon versions. Mindful that rivals were getting larger, Mazda's designers knew they needed a larger cabin, yet the shape needed to retain the sharp sportiness of the original version. By and large, they succeeded. The windscreen is deeper and higher, creating a feeling of spaciousness actually delivered by a slightly wider body that offers occupants greater shoulder room. Thanks to the longer wheelbase, knee room for the rear passengers increased by 13mm. In the rear, the 60/40 split seatbacks fold forward with a simple, single movement (using Mazda's neat karakuri folding system), presenting a flat luggage floor. We liked the fact that on the estate model, the rear tonneau cover automatically moves upwards as the tailgate is opened, eliminating the need to handle the cover every time cargo is loaded or unloaded. The car feels impressively well screwed together. Body panel gaps were greatly reduced and higher quality materials introduced for more of premium feel. It's still wasn't the plushest cabin in the medium range sector with an over-reliance on dark plastics in evidence but it comes close.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Mazda has a strong reputation for reliability and the Mazda6 should prove a durable companion. Some of the minor interior plastics aren't of the highest quality so check for wear and tear in out of sight areas. The 2.0-litre diesel engines can have issues with their DPF diesel particulate filter, especially if they're predominantly driven at low speeds in urban areas.
(approx. based on Mazda6 2.5). Parts prices aren't cheap, although they aren't too different from some of the Mazda's more alluring rivals. A clutch assembly will cost around £150, while a new radiator is a reasonable £130. An alternator weighs in at around £250, while a starter motor retails for about £200.
On the Road
The Mazda6 zoom-zoom tagline wasn't just an advertising gimmick: the original Mazda6 genuinely was the first Mazda family car you could look forward to driving. This has been an approach further developed in the second generation model. Mazda engineers have correctly identified that driving experience is mainly about suspension, steering and transmission. So, there's a fully independent suspension system delivering excellent ride comfort and reduced road noise. The old rather woolly hydraulic power steering set-up was ditched to be replaced with the Mazda RX-8 sports car's electric system in order to achieve optimal steering assistance at the widest number of speed variations. Incidentally, the adoption of electric assistance also improved fuel economy by approximately two percent. The six-speed manual transmission offers an especially precise shift action with built-in positive stops for the extremes of the gearlever's movements. In general, the Mazda6 feels a highly polished proposition on the road.
Medium range family cars are often perceived as dull and unexciting but this Mazda6 does a great job of injecting some life into proceedings. Its strengths are those sportscar looks and its balanced, responsive handling. The engine range is decent but nothing special, with the exception of the 2.2-litre diesels that arrived later, and the interior might be a little dark for some tastes but otherwise, this is a car that you can recommend with virtual impunity.