Car Test   R0342
  See also R0280  R0223 
July 2003
  Mazda 6
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.0 TS2 Estate (Diesel)
The first thing to say about this latest contender in the thickly populated upper-medium sector is that, if it's true to form, it's likely to outdo most rivals in the reliability stakes.
   This was certainly true of the old 626, but sadly, that was about the only winsome aspect of the old model; but 6 is out to dissipate that lacklustre image- hence all the "Zoom Zoom" hype.
   The next thing you ought to know is that there's a lot of Ford money (and management) in Mazda these days, and some of what you see today will also be seen in the next Mondeo.
   The Mazda 6 is, indeed, a much better performer than its predecessor; in terms of performance, economy and general road manners, it's now up there with the rest of the pack.
   Perhaps its biggest problem is the Mondeo, however - somehow, elements of steering response, rear passenger space and general deportment still lack that special something that makes the Ford so gratifying to drive.
   This diesel version combined with the estate car treatment, shows off this Mazda in the best light however. It is a very well conceived wagon that presents no disadvantages to comfort or road manners, with its better load space and practicality attained without any loss of trim quality or presence.
   Naturally, this 136 bhp version, accompanied by top TS² trim, represents the lap of luxury, but, with our own money, we would focus on the 121bhp S version. This offers impressive value and remains notably well equipped, for a saving of £3000, no less. It still has alloy wheels and air-con, the full injury-prevention and security features inside, with ABS as well, of course.
   If anything, the lower-powered diesel is a shade smoother at lower revs too - though there was precious little to object to on this test car.
   Both offer a good driving position, with generous adjustments for both seat and wheel. Over-the-shoulder vision is best in this estate version and wipers front and rear do all you could ask (except that the rear one doesn't come on, in sympathy, with reverse gear engagement).
   Passengers are well treated, although the seat cushions are lower than some, nowadays; this is an estate car that imposes no compromise to comfort or space behind - indeed, headroom is better. Legroom behind the driver is compromised by this version's Bose radio amplifier, sited under the seat.
   Back-seat folding couldn't be simpler, although the arrangement does prevent stowing a baby buggy or a disabled person's wheelchair across the rear foot area; also, there's need to carefully secure weightier cargo with the chest anchorage points and net provided, as the back seat cushion isn't there to act as a protective dam.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Security, theft of
theft from
  • illuminated ignition keyhole and 'puddle lamps'
  • useful storage compartments below and around load deck
  • driver's elbow clears centre armrest/stowage box
  • ideally placed footrests for both feet
  • easy rear seat folding with headrests in situ
  • poor volume/direction control of heating/ventilation
  • some wind rustle at 70mph
  • our trip computer and tacho wildly inaccurate
  • no nudge strips on bumpers
  • alloy wheels standard on all - but 'space-saver' spare
We've driven all the various engine, trim and bodystyle options of the Mazda 6 since its launch a year ago. All are worthy and reasonably competitive against the opposition, and all promise superior dependability than European rivals, that may have the edge in fuel economy, driver-appeal and passenger comfort. However, two versions of this Mazda emerge as good enough to prefer over market rivals. This diesel in S guise is one of them- its power unit raises the stakes, form 'competent' to 'enjoyable'. The other is the fine, top-of-the-range 2.3 (petrol) four-wheel drive estate car. So, when it comes to choosing the best Mazda 6, we would opt for one of the cheapest or the most expensive.

engine 1998cc, 4-cylinder, turbo-diesel; 136bhp at 3500rpm, 229lb ft at 2000rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 30.4mph/1000rpm in 5th, 22.2 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs
rear: independent multi-link, coil springs
  steering electro-hydraulic power assistance; 2.7 turns lock-to-lock; 11.45m diameter turning circle between kerbs (15.75m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard anti-lock/brake-assist controls on TS2 (lower trim versions have ABS only)   wheels/tyres 7in alloy with 205/55R16V tyres (temporary use spare)

size and type upper-medium (mid-priced) saloon, hatchback and estate car   trim levels S, TS, TS2, Sport
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.8 litre/120bhp, 4/2.0/141, 4/2.3/166 (auto 162)
diesel: 4/2.0/121 or 136
  drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (4-speed stepped automatic option on 2.0 petrol). 5-speed stepped automatic and four-wheel drive on Sport4 AWD

HOW THE 6 DIESEL ESTATE COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Mazda 6 TS2 2.0 4/1998/136 2300 9.8 13.0/24.4 45/176 17/25.5 111 101#/74 2.7/11.45 470
Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 4/1998/130 1960 9.9 12.1/19.8* 43/154 19/25 111 108/84 2.8/11.3 473
Citroen C5 2.2 HDi 4/2179/136 2270 10.2 14.1/22.8 44/170 22/26.5 109 99/76 3.2/10.65 476
Rover 75 2.0 CDT 4/1951/116+ 2450 12.8 16.0/25.3 45/163 22/27 114 105/80 3.2/11.35 479
Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDI 4/1896/110 2540 10.7 15.5/21.3 54/135 27/24 112 97/72 3.1/10.5 451
  # 103 on other versions  * 36.5 in 6th  + 129bhp version also available

Clear, comprehensive dials, but some readouts very inaccurate. Pleasant gears/clutch, but passengers' heads nod at first. Just enough lumbar support, but cheaper versions lack the adjuster. Bose radio upgrade impressive - if you like Bass.
A much more gratifying drive than its predecessor (or the 323), but not as alert/precise in its steering responses as a Mondeo. Unimpressive turning circles, but estate car's rear end makes reversing easier - no parking sensors, however.
Reasonable absorbent but hard-edged reaction to broken surfaces and under-damped rocking at times. Commendably quiet and tremor free (cheaper diesel version even better), but climate control's output not always ideal. Good back seat support, with lots of oddments stowage and courtesy lamps.

Exciting surge of acceleration from 1700mph up to (a true) 4400rpm - despite lower power peak on paper; in reality, most overtaking can be accomplished best in third gear. Engine is happy to amble from 1000rpm without complaining - that's the lower 20s in fourth.
  acceleration in seconds through gears 3rd gear 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 3.4 5.2 10.2 No
  30-50mph 4.0 4.1 6.7 15.3
  40-60mph 5.0 4.5 5.8 10.6
  50-70mph 5.8 5.8 6.3 9.1
  30-70mph 9.8 9.9 13.0 24.4
  max speed in each gear (a using 4400rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1sta      2nda      3rda      4tha      5th
     speed (mph)      26      45.5      70      98      122 (4000rpm)

About average for this size and class, although 'old' VW unit in Skoda is significantly better. Ample range and then some; a particularly easy car to fill, as well, with an interior release.
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 28.5
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 38
    motorway (70mph cruising) 43.5
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 45.5
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 53
    overall mpg 45
    realistic tank capacity/range 58/575
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 34.5/52.3/44.1
    CO2 emissions 176g/km
    car tax band D

Excellent injury prevention inventory of airbags, belts etc and TS2 strong on accident-avoidance features, too - lower range lacks its brake-assist and stability controls. However, we found check-braking pedal response too intrusive and a panic stop deteriorated if we pressed too hard - see table.
  from 50mph (with ABS/brake assist)
This model has not yet been
tested by EURO NCAP
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     28m
sudden 17kg     25.5m best stop
+ 4kg ie 21kg     27.5m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

Not a massively spacious back seat, but it scores over rivals for load height and the thought and ease that go into seat folding and load security - even a dog guard is integral with the load cover. Lots of drinks holders, cubbies and armrests.
  in centimetres (5-door estate car)
  length 470
  width - including mirrors 196
    - mirrors folded 179
  height (with roof bars) 148
  load sill height (inside/outside) 0/57
  turns lock-to-lock 2.7
  turning circle (metres) 11.45
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 87-111
    - headroom 89-97§
  rear - typical legroom 101~
    - typical kneeroom 74
    - headroom 96
    - hiproom 134
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 96-178»
  load length to facia 280
  load width 107-137
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 47/74
~ or 103 - see text  » rear seat folded  § with sunroof (94-101 without)

Scores highly in theif proofing, thanks to deadlocks and a (convenient) alarm fitted as standard on all versions. Some minor inconveniences, such as no window closure by key, for auto locking on drive-off.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
self-locking (static)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of"
NCSR - "theft from"
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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