The Mazda6 might not be an obvious choice amidst a sea of SUVs, but it is a handsome and entertaining to drive alternative.
Mazda6 Starting Price: €34,170
Price as tested: €47,695
- Handsome looks, great interior, entertaining handling
- Expensive at the higher end
WHAT IS IT?
The Mazda6 has been around for almost 20 years now, following on from the hugely successful Mazda 626, a car that was a staple of the Irish car diet in the 1980s and 1990s in particular. The Mazda6 has provided flashes of this success on and off over the past 19 years. It has always been handsome and well-appointed but at times has suffered from poor pricing due to currency fluctuations and more recently it has suffered due to the move to SUVs which has seen this and its alma mater pretty much abandoned.
Just like Volkswagen with their Passat and Toyota with their Avensis, the 3-box family saloon isn’t what buyers want in large numbers anymore. We all, it seems, want SUVs, or at least high-riding cars that look like them. The Mazda6 is neither but is a pretty saloon or estate that soldiers on for now, but for how much longer? Here, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Mazda brand, we have a special edition - the 100th Anniversary Edition and this version is quite special. While most Mazda6 sold in Europe make do with the 145PS or 165PS SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre petrol engine, this model gets the 194PS 2.5-litre with cylinder deactivation.
HOW ABOUT THE LOOKS?
Well it isn’t an SUV, and unfortunately for many, that is going to rule the car out and that really is a shame because this is a properly handsome car, especially as it sits here in this specification. The 2021 model in general has seen a raft of improvements. These include a new front grille design with a low bottom edge and signature wing tips underscoring the headlamps.
The grille has a 3D appearance to it and there are LED indicators over the front lamps. The 100th Anniversary limited edition Mazda6 features Snowflake White pearlescent exterior paint contrasted with Burgundy interior carpet and Burgundy leather seats. This colour scheme is inspired by Mazda’s first passenger car - the R360 Coupe. You also get wireless Apple CarPlay, and the front bumpers, hubcaps, headrests and key fob are all embossed with Mazda’s 100th-anniversary logo.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Excellent. Mazda makes the MX-5, which is, without doubt, one of the most entertaining and intuitive cars to drive ever made, so when that essence filters over to their more mainstream models then the result is very good. Despite being quite a substantial car, the Mazad6 feels delicate in terms of handling and begs to be driven on a back road. Sure, it will do the motorway miles with ease and at the job of being a company car and motorway muncher it excels, but where it really surprises it in its ability on the twisty stuff.
More power from this growly 2.5 makes for more fun and there is much more steering feel and feedback than you would get in the aforementioned Audi A4. Sure, Audi has the badge, but Mazda has the fun. We’d prefer it with a manual transmission but the six-speed auto fitted to this car, which is not as good as Volkswagen Group’s DSG, but is decent.
WHAT IS THE INSIDE LIKE?
The interior quality is remarkably good. Mazda, it would appear, spent a lot of time on the visual and tactile elements of the car. There is an enhanced level of comfort and there is a consistency to the quality of the materials throughout which means you aren’t enjoying Harrod’s quality up top and Eurosaver plastics further down. There is an almost boudoir feel to the inside, thanks in no small part to the burgundy leather. It feels opulent. But then it would want to, as this version costs €47,695 and that is straying well into Audi territory at that stage. An Audi A4 35 SE with less power, but similar performance figures will cost you €44,500 with some Metallic Paint added. Audi has sold 13 times the amount of A4s than Mazda have sold Mazda6 this year so you can see the challenge they face.
I really like this car though, just because it is that little bit different. If you didn’t want to obvious SUV or German exec then this would be a great, if slightly left-field choice.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?
If it were us, we would go for the Mazda6 Homura grade, with the 165PS 2.0-litre petrol engine, 6-speed manual gearbox, Soul Red and added Apple CarPlay which would come in at €41,160 and that’s a seriously handsome car (we went for the black 19” wheels for our configuration). Sadly there isn’t as much choice in the estate version which only comes in one grade, the GS-L and one engine, the 145PS 2.0-litre petrol.
IS IT SAFE?
This Mazda6 comes with Advanced Smart City Brake Support (front) with pedestrian recognition, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Head-Up Display (which keeps your eyes on the road) and traffic sign recognition. Euro NCAP hasn’t tested a Mazda6 since 2018, but back then it racked up the full five stars, including 95 per cent in occupancy safety, although the test has become tougher since then.
VERDICT: Not an obvious choice, for those who don’t want an obvious choice.
This is a really good car. The fact that this segment isn’t so popular anymore shouldn’t really bother you. This Mazda6 will drive better than any SUV twice its price and it looks beautiful, but yes there are other cars for similar money with posher badges.
Mazda6 100th Anniversary Edition
Engine: 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G
Power: 194PS @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 258Nm @ 4,000rpm
0-100km/h: 8.1 seconds
Fuel Economy: 7.4 l/100km
Top Speed: 204 km/h
Co2: 167 g/km
Annual Motor Tax: €420
Price as tested: €47,695