Wednesday 12 December 2018

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Cork Independent

Motors

Six of the best for Mazda

Wednesday, 14th November, 2018 4:51pm

The current Mazda 6 seems to have been around for half of forever, but actually it has been on sale merely since 2012.

The possible reason it feels longer is that Mazda has constantly been tweaking and updating the car. A minor styling nip and tuck here, a clever front torque-distribution system there, a cabin update somewhere else.

Mazda really does stick to a rather Porsche-esque mantra of constant, small, improvements to its cars, which is also possibly why the 6 still manages to feel fresh and vibrant.

And that’s in a sector of the market suffering more than a few travails. The traditional family saloon corner of the marker has been hit hard, harder than most, by the rise and rise of SUVs, and sales have plummeted as a result.

The 6 hasn’t been immune to that, but it’s hanging on in there in sales terms, behind its own brother, the CX-5 SUV, but outselling such rivals as the Kia Optima, the Volvo S60, and — this year at any rate — the mighty BMW 3 Series.

So, what’s new this time around? The 2018 car adopts a new frontal design focused around a new grille, which has the mesh positioned deeper within the surround to create a more sophisticated and muscular face.

The revised LED headlamps integrate signature wing tips from grille surround to underscore their predator style, while the redesigned lower bumper features an allegedly sleeker profile and a more aerodynamically efficient air intake.

At the rear, the saloon has a remodelled boot lid (well done if you can spot that), while both the saloon and Tourer estate feature cleaner rear bumper styling with more body coloured areas.

There’s also Soul Red Crystal metallic paint as an option, which thanks to Mazda’s unique threelayer Takuminuri painting technology increases (get this) brightness by approximately 20 per cent and depth by 50 per cent, compared to previous Soul Red metallic paint. Which is a long-winded way of saying that it’s a richer colour.

At any rate, our test car came in metallic grey, which looked very smart indeed, and showed off the 6’s rather lovely lines to great effect.

Mechanical changes are significant this time around, too, but in one major way not for Ireland. That’s the new 2.5 litre petrol engine which sadly isn’t coming here. Which is a bit of a shame, as it’s a very smooth engine, with 194hp and it has cylinder deactivation too, so two cylinders shut down on light throttle loads, which helps give it genuinely, surprisingly good real-world fuel economy. But as I say, it’s not coming here. Pity.

Definitely coming here is the updated 2.2 litre diesel four-cylinder, familiar from the 6 going back to the 2012 launch. The mainstream 150hp model carries over unchanged, but the range-topping one has been upgraded from 175hp to 184hp. There’s 445Nm of torque too, and happily that’s the version we’re testing here, in top-spec Platinum Plus form.

Now, there’s a big caveat here and that’s the price tag. If you want this toppermost 6, you’ll have to shell out more than €40,000. In fact, our test car landed with an options inclusive price of €45,145. Which is a lot. A lot for a car with a Mazda badge at any rate.

However, the 6 Platinum Plus just about justifies its price — this is a supposedly humble family car that really can trade blows with the German saloon car royalty.

That’s most apparent in the interior, where Mazda has done Trojan work when it comes to quality, fit, finish, and comfort.

The Nappa leather on the seats, finished in a rich dark brown colour, is almost worth the price of admission alone.

The seats themselves are superbly comfortable, and the quality and tactility of the leather really lifts the overall ambience of the interior.

That’s backed up by the equally lovely soft-grain leather on the dash, and the silky-smooth Japanese Sen wood on the doors, although it must be said that the wood trim looks a little lost in the door panel. It’s a pity not more was made of such a piece of fine craftsmanship.

The rest of the cabin stands up to scrutiny too, although you don’t have to look hard to find some of the cheaper grades of plastics. The 6 is a family saloon after all, so perhaps one has to accept and expect that not all of the cabin can be up to the standards of things such as the leather and woodwork.

Ah well, at least the part-digital instruments look good, and the infotainment system, although a little clunky in places, now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Space is, in general very good, although you could argue that the boot is a little on the small side. Still, if that’s an issue, you could (and should, really) go for the even more handsome estate version.

Where the 6 really scores big, though, is in the way it drives. In a word, it’s delightful. The steering is light, but sharp, direct, and has pretty decent feel and feedback.

The suspension is gentle enough that bumps and poor urban surfaces won’t upset you too much, but it’s firm enough to keep the body stable, level, and controlled when cornering.

The 6 feels remarkably enthusiastic for a family four-door when you’re on the right road, and now easily eclipses the previous class champ — the Ford Mondeo — when it comes to outright driver appeal.

The engine’s good too — plenty of power, and that lively low-down grunt that makes diesel driving so addictive, but with good refinement too.

Familiar, then? Yes, well the 6 would be having been around for so long. Not so long that it feels old, or tired though.

And not so long that it’s not still a hugely welcome addition to the market.

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