Mazda 6 2.0 TD High Power TS2
By Piers Ward
Cute roadsters like Mazda's MX-5 are great for image-building. However, when it comes to profits, there's nothing like a big-selling family car. And that's why the Japanese firm needs its facelifted 6 to deliver.
Last year, the model accounted for more than 30 per cent of the company's sales, and the latest changes aim to give that figure an extra boost.
All the engines have been tuned, and the transmissions and suspension tweaked. Inside, the 6 features a revised interior, which has a 'piano black' centre console with new radio and CD controls, as well as chrome surrounds for the dials.
Build quality is as impressive as ever, although some of the plastics now feel cheap compared with those of the class leaders such as the latest VW Passat. Crucially, however, the practical cabin layout is unchanged and the Mazda family feel is still present. There's plenty of rear legroom and the saloon's boot is big enough for most people's needs.
Outside, the firm has also altered the styling, but you'd be hard-pressed to see the difference. There's a new grille and the bumpers have been reprofiled but overall, the sharp looks remain intact. Meanwhile, under the bonnet, the engines have received more attention. We tested the Euro IV-compliant High Power 2.0-litre diesel, which pushes out 141bhp - a 5bhp increase. It's a responsive unit with lots of mid-range punch for easy overtaking. Refinement is also better, especially when cruising at motorway speeds, helped by a new six-speed gearbox.
The extra ratio has also boosted fuel economy by nearly 4mpg, taking it to 47.1mpg, while CO2 has been lowered to 165g/km - good news for company car buyers. But we have our doubts about the new suspension settings. Body roll is well controlled and the steering precise, but the ride disappoints compared with the class leaders.
The 6 still impresses, though. It has been revised in the right areas and there's no reason to doubt that Mazda's sales targets will be met. But with this sector more competitive than ever, the upgrades aren't quite enough to push the new 6 to the top spot.
The 6 has improved with a quieter, punchier diesel and new six-speed gearbox. Although key rivals such as Honda's Accord and the latest VW Passat have already raised the game, the Mazda is a credible alternative.
At a Glance
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 141bhp
* 0-62mph: 9.5secs
* Price: £19,200 (est)