Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Extremely smooth, punchy diesels impress
  • Diesels offer very broad spread of power
  • Non-turbo petrols must be worked harder

Three petrol engines and two diesels are on offer in the Mazda 6 saloon – including a 2.5-litre petrol and an updated 2.2-litre diesel with power ramped up from 175hp to 184hp.

Petrol power comes in the form of 145hp and 165hp 2.0-litre units, the first of which is also available with an automatic gearbox. Both produce 213Nm of pulling power. The newer 2.5-litre unit, meanwhile, produces 194hp and 258Nm of torque and comes solely with a six-speed automatic.

Two 2.2-litre diesels are available – with 150hp and 380Nm or 184hp and 445Nm for the higher-powered version – both of which can be specified with six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

Slowest of the petrols is the 145hp version, which takes 9.9 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph, rising to 10.9 seconds in automatic form. Its top speed stands a 129mph – 128mph with the automatic.

Next in line is the manual-only 165hp petrol, which requires 9.4 seconds for the benchmark sprint. Meanwhile, the 194hp automatic-only 2.5-litre petrol is the fastest 6, taking 8.1 seconds to hit 62mph and reaches 138mph.

We’ve driven the 165hp manual petrol and the 194hp automatic petrol. The former pulls smoothly from low engine speeds, though you have to work the engine reasonably hard for brisk acceleration.

This is no hardship as the gearbox is slick and satisfying to use, but if you’re used to diesel models or turbocharged petrols that offer a glut of power at low engine speeds it can initially feel underpowered until you adjust your driving style.

Drivers who like an engaging car, however, are likely to value the sharp response to the throttle and the fact that, unlike many large petrols, you can actually hear this motor when worked hard. Performance should be adequate for most owners, but those who want the greatest performance would be better served with one of the responsive diesels.

The 194hp 2.5-litre feels notably faster, however this sensation is dulled by the standard-fit automatic gearbox. Unlike most modern petrol cars of this size – which use turbochargers for extra low-engine-speed punch – you have to work the engine quite hard to extract its power. Be firmer with the throttle, however, to encourage it to change down a gear or two and performance is more than brisk enough for most drivers.

The less powerful diesel takes 10.0 seconds to get from 0-62mph, with top speed standing at 131mph.

Go for the 184hp diesel, however, and those times tumble to 8.5 seconds for the manual and 9.0 seconds for the automatic, with the manual topping out at 141mph and the automatic 137mph.

On the other hand, the Mazda 6’s diesel engines are particularly impressive. Whether you go for the 150hp version or the 184hp option, both offer an extremely broad spread of power, making them feel more muscular than you’d expect.

Smoothness and refinement is also top notch, making them feel more like petrols. Combine their strength and quietness and the diesels feel like a particularly good fit for the 6.

Updates to help these engines meet the latest European emission limits have seen performance levels drop from before the car was facelifted, but diesel power still seems like the natural choice for this car.

Handling

  • Feels sharp for this class of car
  • Comfort levels remain high
  • 2.5 petrol has heavier steering

This generation of Mazda 6 has always been agile around corners and enjoyable to drive, but Mazda sharpened it up further in 2018 – claiming to have improved its handling while boosting comfort.

Typically, the sharper a car is around corners, the less comfortable it is, but Mazda has successfully created a comfy but fun-to-drive saloon in the 6.

Precise steering gives a good idea of how much grip the front tyres have, while the suspension is well judged for absorbing most bumps quickly and without fuss, as it keeps the body in check around corners. The 2.5-litre model offers weightier steering, which provides an extra degree of confidence when taking corners at speed.

The Mazda 6 saloon is extremely competent and easily gives rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat a run for their money, offering a more engaging drive. It’s got plenty of grip and you have to be pushing extremely hard for the car to get out of shape or lean notably.

Throw in dependable brakes and a very slick and satisfying manual gearchange and the 6 saloon is a pleasure to drive, with no handling vices to report. Mazda markets its cars with the phrase ‘car and driver in perfect harmony’ and this sense sums up how the 6 drives well.

All of the controls feel consistently weighted and responsive, with the whole car feeling as one around corners. There’s a balanced feel to the steering, gearchange, suspension and brakes too. The real positive to this, is that it helps the 6 to appeal equally to keen drivers and those who find driving a chore alike.