Diesels are quick but slightly sporty feel comes with too firm a ride, and the steering feels a bit vague
Interior feels smart enough, and generally the dashboard is easy to use, bar the fussy infotainment system
Clever electronic safety features and a good spread of airbags
Not quite as good as other Japanese manufacturers
Spacious up front but rear headroom has its limits; boot space decent but with saloon practicality only
Even entry-level cars have plenty of standard equipment
The Mazda 6 has a slightly sporty feel to it, which comes from firm suspension that limits the car's body movements on bends and makes it feel glued to the road. However, the same firmness makes the car feel jiggly a lot of the time, even at speed and on the smaller, 17-inch alloys available. The light steering has some appeal for parking and urban driving but it doesn't feel solid enough when you're driving in a straight line, so it isn't as reassuring as it should be on the motorway. Of the four engine variants on offer, we'd recommend the 148bhp diesel, which is plenty quick enough for most people's needs and relaxing to drive, too, making the 173bhp diesel seem an unnecessary expense (it also comes only in the range-topping Sport trim, whose larger alloys make the ride even firmer). The two petrol engines are a bit short of oomph so you need to work the gears and accelerator a fair bit to keep them feeling alive. On the whole the Mazda 6 is fairly quiet inside, but Mazda's attempt to appeal to racier drivers by an adding artificial engine roar when you put your foot down creates intrusive engine noise when the revs rise.
The cabin is smart enough, if not as plush as some rivals', and the dashboard is relatively uncluttered and simple to use. It's a shame the infotainment system looks like something of an afterthought, though; Mazda needs to integrate it fully into the dash design and remove some of the unnecessary buttons. There's masses of room in the front two seats and plenty in the back, although taller rear passengers may find headroom a bit limited. The boot is big but the saloon body does hamper its practicality - the Mazda 6 estate is the obvious solution here.
Even entry-level SE spec includes electric door mirrors, keyless start, air-con and a colour touch-screen as standard. SE-L adds rain-sensing wipers, climate control, and both front and rear parking sensors, while SE-L Nav brings (you guessed it) sat-nav. Sport cars get bigger alloys (bear in mind that these will increase road noise and make the ride even firmer), leather trim, bi-xenon headlights and keyless entry.
This latest version of the Mazda 6 is too new to have been included in the last JD Power customer satisfaction survey but the previous-generation car received only average marks for mechanical reliability, which is below par for most Japanese manufacturers. Still, the interior feels built to last, so there should be no worries there. As for safety, there are front, side and curtain airbags, and some clever features including radar-controlled cruise control and Smart City Brake Support, which brings the car to a halt if it detects an imminent impact between 2.5-19mph.
For such a big car, the Mazda 6 is impressively efficient and clean. The most frugal is the lower-powered diesel which delivers 68.9mpg and emits 108g/km CO2, putting it one tax band below the cleanest Ford Mondeo. However, its saloon boot makes it less practical than the Mondeo, and it's not as good to drive or to ride in.