Car Test   R0223
 
September 2002
First Drive Mazda 6 Diesels
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: Hatchback and Estate
The first thing to say about this new Mazda is that, if itís true to form, itís likely to oust most rivals in the reliability stakes.
  
   The second consideration is that thereís Ford money (and management) in Mazda these days, and some of what you see today in this all-new Mazda 6, will be seen in the future, with a Mondeo badge attached.
  
   However, our second-chance to get acquainted Ė this time with the diesel-powered five-door and estate versions Ė confirms that the 6 doesnít achieve Mondeo standards of road manners or interior space, though the latter is a match for most other upper-medium contenders. Our dimensions show that the estate car offers better rear headroom, although the rear seating and elegant folding arrangement are the same on all three body styles.
  
   Actually, our rear legroom measurement is improved, behind the driver on those cars that arenít fitted with the Bose sound system Ė this has its amplifier fitted under the seat, impinging on foot space.
  
   Which brings us nicely to the Ďbasicí S version, with its straightforward radio-cassette, manual air-con control button and still-ample kit inside. This version, as a 121bhp diesel, represents superb value for money: itís nicely trimmed, has no front centre armrest to impede the gearchange elbow and doesnít stint on safety or security. Perhaps the absence of a driverís lumbar adjuster is our only regret.
  
   On the road, one is conscious of the diesel activity, especially when overtaking and revving beyond 3500rpm. Itís a smooth, vibration-free operator below 1500rpm, however, and feels very effortless at any legal cruising speed. Thereís little incentive to pay £1500 more for the 136bhp TS Ė indeed; this engine feels harsher, with a harder edged note both when accelerating and cruising.
  
   The hatchbackís ride is entirely acceptable on better-surfaced main roads, but a lot of road rumble feeds into the cabin and tyre thump is sharp over potholes. The undulating roads of North Yorkshire also revealed a turbulent jostled response at times and these deficiencies were even more apparent on the (unladen) estate car we sampled.
  
   The steering undermines the car's cornering abilities, which for grip, predictability and roll-free attitude, makes all the right responses. No, the electro-hydraulic steering is a shade too light and displays some stickiness and vagueness from straight-ahead.
  
   Generous adjustment is provided for both seat and steering wheel to ensure a good driving position. Over-the-shoulder vision is best on the estate. Rear passengers have ample space and this is a wagon that imposes no compromise to seating comfort, either.
  
   There are plenty of oddment spaces, as well as a truly generous load deck, nicely trimmed even on the S version; thereís even more oddments stowage below deck, too.
  
   Back seat folding couldnít be simpler, but the arrangement does mean thereís no reassuring upright cushion to separate the load from the front seats.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • back seats fold with headrests in situ
  • audio/cruise controls on steering wheel
  • no load sill on estate car
  • back seat tilt-levers inside boot, below load cover
and GRIPES
  • no nudge strips on bumpers
  • "space saver" temporary-use spare wheel
  • "alligator jaw" facia-top box hard to open
VERDICT
Unlike some family cars, the less you pay for your new Mazda 6, the better impression it makes. Although the official mpg figures arenít as good as some, the 2.0 Sís insurance group 7 is remarkable. We reckon that whole-life costs will be very favourable, when the modelís anticipated reliability is factored in. OK, so it may not be family car motoringís most rewarding drive, but the Mazda 6ís merits, for dependable daily transport, make it a shrewd choice.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1998cc/turbo-diesel; 121 (or 136)bhp, both with 229 lb ft at 2000rpm; single overhead camshaft, 16 valves
drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 30.4mph/1000rpm in top gear
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs
rear: independent multilink, coil springs
tyres 7in alloy with 205/55R16 tyres
brakes discs front and rear with standard ABS; stability control with brake assist on TS≤/Sport
CO2 emissions 182-176g/km
0-62mph* 10.7-11.1sec
official mpg 42.8-44.1mpg
* maker's figures

THE MAZDA 6 RANGE
size and type upper-medium (mid-priced) saloon, hatchback and estate   trim levels S, TS, TS≤, Sport
engines petrol: 4cyl/1.8 litre/118bhp,
4/2.0/139, 4/2.3/164; diesel: 4/2.0/118, (4/2.0/130 due autumn 2002)
  drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual; 4-speed stepped automatic optional (5-speed automatic with manual override control due autumn 2002)
notable features available "one touch" back seat folding, roof airbags, crash-collapsible pedal assembly, alloy wheels on all versions

VITAL STATISTICS (cm)
length x width (folded mirrors) 470x178
front
- legroom 83-112
- headroom (no sunroof) 94-101
rear
- typical legroom 102
- typical kneeroom 74
- headroom 96
- hiproom 134
load space (all seats in use)(litres/cu ft) 570/20.2
load length (seats up/folded) 98-180
load width 107-135
load sill height (inside/outside) 0/59+
boot height 47
load aperture height 77
+ 17/64 on Hatchback
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