Review: Mazda 6 (2002 – 2007)

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A very enjoyable drive, with excellent handling and some fine engines. Large luggage bay. Brilliant 'Karakuri' rear seat folding of hatch and estate.

Reports of clutch and 5-speed box probs. Early diesels can suffer big end failure. Can rust in rear arches after 4 years. DPF probs.

Mazda 6 (2002 – 2007): At A Glance

Well just look at it, will you? Walk round it and let your eyes linger on its form, and especially on its lights. When did you ever see a more stunningly dramatic car the same size and price as a Ford Mondeo?

In fact, list kicks off at a very fair £14,495 for the 2.0S Estate, against £15,965 for the cheapest 2.0 litre Mondeo estate. And Mazda consistently comes out tops or close to tops in UK and European customer satisfaction surveys.

However, I have to admit that the car I got to drive worked out a little bit dearer. This was the almost top of the range 2.0TS2 136ps diesel Estate, which comes with just about everything you can think of for £18,595.

Mazda 6 Estate and AWD 2002 Road Test

Mazda 6 2005 Facelift Road Test

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What does a Mazda 6 (2002 – 2007) cost?

List Price from £24,725
Buy new from £21,883
Contract hire from £219.14 per month

Mazda 6 (2002 – 2007): What's It Like Inside?

That's: driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags; ABS with EBD; brake assist; traction control; dynamic stability control; climate control; sunroof; alloy wheels. But the bits I really liked are standard in all Mazda 6 estates.

These include a huge, big button radio/CD player that's easy to use; niftily designed cupholders between the front seats; bottle holders in the front door bins; a twin compartment armrest; underfloor load area stowage; lots of load area tie hooks; and the easiest, most convenient seat-folding arrangement I've ever seen in an estate car. Just open the hatch, then pull a lever just inside and the seat flops forward ready to load. Now why didn't anyone think of that before?

Child seats that fit a Mazda 6 (2002 – 2007)

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What's the Mazda 6 (2002 – 2007) like to drive?

Drive it for the first time and it's hard to believe you're in a Japanese car. It steers and handles almost as well as a Mondeo with just a tad too much assistance to the wheel. The seat adjustment is fine. The steering wheel goes in and out as well as up and down. You instantly acclimatise and get to feel the beefy torque of the 310Nm/136ps 16 valve common-rail direct-injected diesel engine. Unfortunately, it is a belt-cam engine. But it's also a belter, turning in a 10.4 second 0-60, topping out at 122mph and cruising at a lazy 30mph per 1,000rpm in 5th. I'm afraid I didn't drive it far enough to check out that 44.1 mpg figure.

So it handles well, goes well, sips fuel, doesn't break down, is full of thoughtful touches and looks a million dollars. The Mondeo estate has a very serious competitor.

Not that Ford is worried, of course. Because Ford now owns 33.4% of Mazda, which is enough to control the company. But if I was a head honcho at Vauxhall/Opel I'd be very scared indeed.

A bit later on I got a chance to drive the 166ps 2.3 litre petrol engined Mazda 6 Sport AWD Activematic estate. And sure enough, Yorkshire threw all it could at the car on a wet and foggy winters day.

So it was the perfect test for a car, which Mazda seems to have pitched directly against the Subaru Legacy and Forester estates, straight at the ponyclub crowd.

I can tell you that on the twistiest, most flooded road test route known to man it didn't miss a beat. Its 5-speed Tiptronic style Activematic autobox works the right way round: forward to change down and back to change up. 2nd is good for 65mph, which is a bit high for pulling Rice trailers or caravans, and 5th gives 30mph per 1,000 rpm so caravanners will need to select 4th or burn out their torque converters. But handling is surefooted and really safe, with very little of the understeer a Legacy can be prone to.

I also got to try the AWD off road, in a field so saturated you suffered rising damp just walking to the car. While it was no Range Rover, or even Audi All Roader, it was good enough not to dig itself in as any normal car surely would have.

So it is a good car. It should be quite a good tow car (towing limit a useful 1,600kg). And it's a nicer drive than a Legacy. But it won't tow a pony trailer out of a boggy field. And it is up against the new Forester as well as the Legacy.

Update: 2005 facelift

There are 785 engineering changes to the facelifted Mazda 6. But most of them are hidden from sight. Thankfully Mazda hasn't messed around with its dramatic looks. Just a few small improvements there. Instead, Seichi Omoto's team has concentrated on the really important bits.

So we get more powerful, more refined diesel engines, now EU4 with maintenance-free particulate filters. More powerful, more economical petrol engines. A new six-speed manual transmission. A new five-speed automatic. Under the car's skin is a stiffer, stronger structure. Outside, the changes are so subtle they're hard to spot. Dark grey bezels around the headlights, slightly darkened rear light covers, minor changes to the grilles, two new body colours: Phantom Blue mica and Brilliant Carbon Grey mica. Inside, the seat fabrics look better and ‘breathe' better, the radio CD multiplayer is now piano black, the instrument dials have chrome surrounds, and there's now a keyless entry and immobiliser system that allows you to open the doors at the touch of a button and start the engine, just as long as you have the keycard in your pocket. Subtle improvements wherever you look.

We tested the new 145PS 6-speed diesel estate. Fair enough because my original test was of the 136PS 5-speed diesel estate. So how is the new car improved?

One of the few criticisms of the original Mazda 6 was lack of refinement. It always handled well, but more road shocks and especially road surfaces fed through to the cabin than from the wheels of a Mondeo. So I'm pleased to report Seichi's team has sorted that, and more pleased to tell you they've made the car handle even better.

The test car was left-hand drive, and the route was fairly narrow, undulating, very twisty two lane roads with a lot of blind corners. In those conditions, you can't straight-line the bends. You have to say your side of the road throughout. The last thing you want is an understeerer that ploughs itself over the white line on the exits because you never know what's coming. So you take it easy at first, not pushing the car too much, gradually finding the point where washout inevitably starts to occur. Then you back off, use the gearbox and the engine's torque, and try to keep everything neat and tidy and on your side of the road. I'm pleased to say the Mazda 6 diesel behaved like a true thoroughbred. The gearing, especially 3rd, and the very strong torque of the engine from 1,750rpm pulled it out of the bends with no drama at all. In the 40 degree temperatures of the test day, it wouldn't have been too pleasant to break out into a sweat just from driving the car. At the end, both of us emerged bone-dry, and, please believe me, that isn't normally the case when your task is to find a car's limits.

Many other features of the car, especially it's brilliant ‘Karakuri' rear seal folding system the plops either side down at the pull of a handle, are described in the original Mazda test

Since the Mazda 6 was originally launched, opposition has grown. The Vectra is now a lot better than it ever was before. The new Toyota Avensis arrived. The Honda Accord. The Volvo S40 and V50. And the latest VW Passat. Not to mention the impressive Mondeo which seems to get better and better as it matures. But if you like the looks (which most people do) and appreciate a comfortable, sharp-handling car that can give a keen driver some genuine pleasure, then it's definitely still leader of the pack.

You may not be able to do quite the deal on one as you can on a Mondeo, but you get more at the back-end because a Mazda 6 holds its money much better. I've yet to see a really cheap one at auction, even with 70,000 miles under its wheels. So a definite thumbs up for the Mazda 6.

What have we been asked about the Mazda 6 (2002 – 2007)?

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Spare key fob not working - do I have to go to a dealer for a replacement?

I've got a Mazda 6 hatch (2005 model) as my commuter car. Initially it only had one key - with a separate fob to lock/unlock the doors - but I have now been given the spare, with an additional fob. The spare key starts the car - but the fob is dead and won't lock/unlock the doors. Is it simply a case of replacing the battery in the fob? Or does it have to be reprogrammed? Do I have to go to the dealer for this or can, say, Timpsons fix it?
Local branch of Timpsons, or under Keys and Keyfobs in this directory:
Answered by Honest John
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