Mazda 6

What is it?

Mazda has been busy refining its family hatch and estate range to come up with the revised 6. There's not much to give the game away from the outside other than new lights and alloy wheels, while inside the changes are restricted to padded material for the dash, some splashes of chrome around the instruments and piano black trim inserts. The big news comes under the bonnet where the petrol and diesel engines have been improved to offer better economy and emissions and, in the case of the entry-point 1.8-litre petrol motor, more power.

The range-topping 2.2-litre turbodiesel takes a small drop in power, falling from 182- to 177bhp, but the gains are more than worth that. Economy is better, emissions are lower and the engine is punchier at every swing of the rev counter.

Is it any good?

Oh yes. If you're in the market for a family hatch or estate, the 6 must be on your shopping list and not just because it's one of the best looking cars in its class. Underneath the sleek looks lies one of the best cars in this sector to drive. Mazda has improved the steering and suspension to make it sharper on country roads thanks to better reactions to the driver's inputs, yet it's also more supple and comfortable on the motorway and around town. Sleeker styling also helps the 6 cut through the air more efficiently, which helps lower carbon dioxide emissions, but also brings some more hush to the 6's cabin.

The 1.8-litre petrol engine has just enough oomph for most duties, but the larger 2.0-litre petrol is a better bet. Go for the 2.5 petrol engine and there's plenty of power and acceptable economy, but not enough extra punch to tempt us away from the superbly refined 2.0-litre unit. However, the diesels are the best of the Mazda6 bunch. Starting with the entry-point 2.2-litre turbodiesel, it now has 127bhp for some added zest, while the 161bhp unit remains unchanged for power but has improved economy and emissions of 52.3mpg and 142g/km. These two figures are shared with the top spec 177bhp 2.2 turbodiesel, though this engine is only offered in the priciest Sport models of hatch and estate.

As with its predecessor, the Mazda6 has a spacious, comfortable and brilliantly well put together cabin. It's solid and yet stylish, keeping the Mazda6 right at the head of the family car pack for comfort and practicality. The hatch's large boot will satisfy most needs, while the estate's hangar-sized boot will cope with anything you try to stuff in there and, if not, the rear seats split and tip forward at the tug of a lever mounted in the side of the boot walls for maximum ease of use.

Should I call the bank manager?

Get on the phone. The Mazda6 is simply a great family car that offers handsome looks, superb practicality, sturdy build and now emissions and economy to rival the best in class. With all three petrol engines offering more than 50mpg and even the two more potent units scoring 142g/km carbon dioxide emissions, this is a car that has broad appeal to company and private buyers alike. Mazda has priced the 6 keenly and added more equipment as part of this mid-life round of revisions. All models now come with emergency stop signals to warn drivers behind if the car is slowing rapidly. There are also smart turn indicators to flash the indicators if the driver forgets. All models come with ESP, six airbags, Isofix child seat mounts, air conditioning, electric windows, CD stereo and alloy wheels, while the TS adds a rear spoiler. The TS2 versions now have hill hold assist and front and rear parking sensors, and the top Sport models now come with bi-Xenon headlights that help illuminate further round corners.

Summary

It's hard to see how a family car could offer any more than the Mazda6. It's great to drive, refined and well kitted out. There's also superb economy and low emissions from every engine in the range for it to be a sound choice for company and private buyers. Recommended? You bet.

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