Mazda 6 2008 Model Road Test

Wed, 14 Nov 2007

This is a tale of two cars. On the one hand we have the entry level Mazda 6 1.8S, coming in at a very reasonable £15,100 on the road. On the other, we have the BOSE audio, leather-trimmed 2.5SL at a considerably heavier £20,680.

Actually “heavier” is the wrong word. Because all new bigger, better Mazda 6s weigh in at an average 35 kilos lighter than the old car. As with the new Mazda 2, the company has stopped eating all the pies and is thinking along the same lines as a supermodel.

As well as more car at less weight it’s also more streamlined. Little touches, including a gizmo that looks like a horses hoof in front of each of the front wheels, cut drag down to a very impressive Cd 0.27.

That makes it quieter and more fuel-efficient which in turn means it emits less CO2 so you pay less tax, whether you’re a private motorist or a company driver. One of the factoids Mazda was keen to impress on us was that whereas the previous 1.8i meant you were taxed on a BIK of 24% of the car’s list price, the new 1.8 comes in at 19%. And, though prices are slightly up (balanced by a lot more kit on each model), they reckon the average company driver will pay £20 a month less for more car, whether they go for the 1.8i or the 2.0 litre diesel.

Take a look at the spec of the S model below and you’ll see it has everything most drivers want, including the three A’s (alloys and air and CD audio), not to mention height-adjustable drivers seat with adjustable lumbar support, height and reach adjustable steering, in fact so much adjustment it can accommodate anyone from 4’ 11 to 6’ 11. And, thankfully, Mazda’s standard thumbwheel for the drivers seat and release lever for the passenger, which makes it much easier for the driver to minutely adjust his backrest on the move.

Every all-new Mazda 6 comes all the usual safety and security kit, including: Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control System, all-disc brakes with anti-lock, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Emergency Brake Assist, daytime running lights, driver and passenger front airbags, front side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load-limiters, active front seat head restraints, ISOFIX child seat anchorages, a Thatcham Category 1 anti-theft alarm and even a pre-settable overspeed warning buzzer.

At the presentation, Mazda banged on about ‘Kizuna’, which translates to “an emotional connection between car and driver achieved by a mix of quality and reliability and environment and safety.” They reminded us that in the German 2006 J D Power satisfaction survey the old Mazda 6 came out best of all cars on sale there, including all German cars, and in the Autobild 100,000 kilometre test, involving a full strip-down at the end, the old Mazda 6 emerged completely fault-free.

Compared to the old Mazda 6, the new car has much reduced road noise, actually below the levels generated in the Vectra, Avensis and Passat. And, on the road, both of the cars were tried were very quiet.

The 2.5SL came on 18” alloys with 225/45 tyres, so naturally bump-thumped over sharp ridges and potholes, but the 215/50 R17s on the 1.8TS2 were fine and I guess the 205/60 R16s on the S and TS would be best of the lot.

The 1.8 has quite a useful powerband, giving maximum power of 120PS at 5,500rpm and maximum torque of 165Nm at 4,300rpm. That enabled it to pull out of uphill hairpin bends in 2nd cleanly, rather than having to resort to 1st and meant even tight corners could be flowed together rather than tackled in a series of lurches and jerks. Steering and handling, with the DSC off, were perfectly balanced for a car of this one’s modest aspirations, I’d say better even than the new Mondeo, which is really saying something. Enthusiastic drivers will not be disappointed even by this most basic version. Nor will anyone seeking quietness, refinement and comfort. It’s geared at 25mph per 1,000rom in 5th. And it does the job better than anything else in the same class for the money.

The 2.5SL is less successful because it sets its sights that much higher and finds itself up against opposition like the Audi A4 B6, BMW 318i, Honda Accord and SAAB 9-3. It obviously offers more power and more equipment for the money than the German opposition, and it’s quiet at speed, comfortable and decent to drive. But it doesn’t move the game ahead as far as the 1.8S does for £5,500 less money.

Though we could only drive a 1.8TS2 and a 2.5SL, there will be a sensible range of Mazda 6s. There’ also a 2.0 litre petrol engine available with 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmissions, a 6-speed 140PS diesel (starting at a sensible £15,620). And a super looking estate.

TS2 trim upwards is fitted with steering wheel controls for the radio, air-conditioning, trip computer, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and satnav (if fitted) which, apparently, reduces driver ‘look away time’ enabling his eyes to stay focused on the road.

One criticism that fed through from readers experience of the old car are the headlights. At least the Xenon lights on the 2.5SL, which, by EC law, have to be fitted with self-adjusting dipped beam-height electric motors. If you are driving on dipped bean a twisting undulating road, the motors just don’t work fast enough and you can find yourself alternately blinding oncoming drivers then driving into the dark.

You can’t get all specs with all bodies, so check the price list below carefully for what is and is not available.

But I’d still say that for anyone offered a choice of company car, as well as ‘Which?’ reading private buyers, the new Mazda 6 is a much better car than the old one and beats everything it’s up against.

(Road Test Mazda 6 2008 Wagon at

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