Car Test   R0247
 
June 2002
Brief Test Mazda 6
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APART from the hugely successful MX-5, there haven’t been too many memorable Mazdas over the last few years. But spearheaded by its new “Zoom, Zoom” advertising campaign, Mazda is pulling out all the stops to show us that its little roadster wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. It’s determined to rejuvenate its range and restore some sparkle to its image.
   Over the next year or two, we can expect a wholesale renewal of much of its line-up, and the process has already started with the Mondeo-sized Mazda 6. This upper-medium contender is brand new from top to tyre-tread, as it seeks to exude more style, driver appeal and sophistication than its lacklustre 626 predecessor, from which it’s keen to distance itself.
   The full Mazda 6 line-up (once completed later this year) will comprise a saloon, a five-door hatch and an estate. Power comes from a trio of all-new 1.8, 2.0 and 2.3-litre petrol engines (offering 118, 139 and 164bhp respectively), with a pair of new common-rail, direct-injection two-litre diesel (119 and 134bhp) joining these around September.
   The 6 hopes to lure buyers out of their Mondeos and Vectras, as well as lower-end Passats, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4s; it certainly makes a good impression as soon as you climb aboard. The distinctive, stylish cabin offers a fine driving position, good all-round vision and well-placed minor controls, together with generous passenger space, front and rear.
   We sampled all three petrol engines on our introductory drive. The 1.8 is willing and subdued at a gentler pace, but thereafter feels a shade sluggish – it needs plenty of gearstick stirring to keep the sizeable 6 on the boil.
   Trading up to the two-litre brings easier, more agreeable performance (with a claimed sub-10sec 0-62mph sprint), but, like its smaller offering, it retains a healthy hankering for revs.
   The balancer shaft-equipped 2.3-litre (available in both saloon and five-door Sport) is the cream of the crop, delivering ample top-end urge, yet with plenty of smooth, eager mid-range pull, too.
   The rev-happy engines complement a subtly sporty chassis, yet despite its taut, agile handling, the 6 also treats it occupants to a compliant, well-cushioned ride.
   The spacious, well-appointed cabin sports ample storage spaces, and safety hasn’t been neglected, with side airbags plus front and rear curtain bags on all models.
   Rounding off the rear is a roomy, well-shaped boot, and both the saloon and hatch have a neat trick up their sleeve – the back seats self-fold at the tug of a boot-mounted lever.
  
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • big boot/neat boot lid hinges on saloon
  • audio/cruise controls on steering wheel
  • stylish/subtly sporty cabin presentation
  • Bose premium audio system (optional)
and GRIPES
  • handy seat folding, but rear cushion fixed
  • handbrake/armrest foul gearchanging elbow
  • alloys standard … but space-saver spare
  • facia-top cubby release catch awkward
VERDICT
Keen to put some of its dull-but-dependable products of the past behind it, Mazda is going all-out to smarten up its act. The 6 won’t knock the likes of the Mondeo or BMW 3-Series off their perches, but it’s clearly moving in the right direction, bringing smart new looks, a fine ride and significantly enhanced driver-appeal to Mazda’s family-sized contender.


THE MAZDA 6 RANGE
size and type upper medium (mid-priced) saloon, hatchback and estate   trim levels S, TS, TS2 and Sport
engines petrol: 4cyl/1.8 litre/118bhp, 4/2.0/139, 4/2.3/164 diesel: 4/2.0/119 and 4/2.0/134 (due autumn 2002)   drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual; 4-speed torque converter automatic optional; (5-speed “Activematic” with manual override due autumn 2002)
notable features all-new engines, transmission and chassis; two-stage front airbags, side airbags plus head-level curtain ‘bags standard on all; self-folding back seats on saloon, with fully-flat load floor on hatch and estate models; top-of-the-range 4-wheel drive Sport 4 estate model (due late 2002)

VITAL STATISTICS (cm)
length x width 467x178
front
- legroom 83-112
- headroom 94-101
rear
- typical legroom 102
- typical kneeroom 74
- headroom 92
- hiproom 134
load space
(litres/cu ft)
550/19.4
load length 83-180
load width 110-149
load sill height (inside/outside) 17/68
boot height 53
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