The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.9

Buyers have been moving away from traditional family cars, but the Mazda 6 could help stop that. It’s smart to look at, decent to drive and cheap to run, and should ensure that the family car market has a bright future ahead of it.

Reasons to buy

  • Smart styling stands out from rivals’
  • Low running costs for private and business users
  • Spacious cabin
Best on a budget
Mazda 6 2.0 SE
Decent equipment and more than acceptable pace from the cheapest model in the range
Best seller
Mazda 6 2.2D SE-L
The welcome extra economy and pull of a diesel engine with some welcome extra kit
Blow the budget
Mazda 6 2.2D Sport
As fast and as lavishly specified as the 6 gets, but be sure you can live with the ride

How good does it look? 4/5

The Mazda 6 is a very striking piece of design that stands out a mile from more mainstream family cars like the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. Throughout the car, there are plenty of great little details, starting with the silver moulding that runs from underneath the grille up and over the headlights. Then there are the interweaving folds in the metal along the side of the car, all topped off with the chrome trim running between the angled rear lights. Throw in the flowing roofline, and you have one really smart-looking saloon.

What's the interior like? 3/5

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the car is that the design of its cabin is nothing like as dramatic as the body. In fact, the cabin is pretty much a big black hole that even the several pieces of chrome trim can’t liven up. On the other hand, there’s no faulting how solid the construction is, or the way it’s all laid out. With many of the functions controlled by the rotary multimedia controller or standard touch-screen system, the layout of the dash is nice and uncluttered.

How practical is it? 4/5

There’s plenty of room in the front seats, with six-way adjustment (including for lumbar support) on the driver’s seat in every model. The rear legroom is very good, too, and although the rakish roofline does impinge on the available headroom a little, only those over six feet tall will find it at all cramped. Similarly, the boot is a good size and 60/40 split/fold rear seats are standard across the range, but one drawback of the 6 is that it’s a saloon, so the boot opening is not as practical or as versatile as that of hatchback rivals.

What's it like to drive? 3/5

The lightweight materials that are at the heart of Mazda’s Skyactiv technology do much more than make the car more economical. First, they are stiffer and stronger than conventional materials, so the car handles better; and, the relative lack of weight means the car feels really nimble and agile on the road. Some might even call it sporty, which is no bad thing, as that may help to excuse one of the 6’s few weak points: its lack of ride comfort. There’s a decidedly firm edge to the ride on even the smallest wheels and tyres, and for many, it’ll be unacceptable in a family car.

How powerful is it? 4/5

Mazda is very proud of its Skyactiv technology – and rightly so. Thanks to all the weight-saving that has gone into the car, the engines have bulk less to haul around and every one gives strong performance. That said, good as the petrol units are, it’s worth going for one of the diesels, as they pull even more strongly from low revs, they’re quieter and smoother, and they return better fuel economy.

How much will it cost me? 5/5

Again, Mazda’s Skyactiv technology comes into its own. The combination of low weight and fuel-saving measures ensures that the 6 can produce some of the best economy and emissions figures in its class. Every model has CO2 emissions of less than 140g/km, and the lowest of all emits just 108g/km, while averaging more than 67mpg. That means, whether you’re a private motorist looking to keep down your family’s fuel cost or a business user looking to keep down their company car tax bill, the 6 looks very attractive.

How reliable is it? 4/5

Mazda has historically produced some of the most reliable cars in the UK, and the previous version of the 6 was no exception. Although there is plenty of new technology in the 6, we see no reason why it shouldn’t follow in the wheeltracks of its solid predecessors.

How safe is it? 4/5

The 6 scored the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests and every model in the range comes with front, side and curtain airbags. In addition, all but the entry-level SE models also have the City Brake Support system that is designed to help avoid or minimise the effects of collisions at up to 20mph. Beyond that, there’s also a Safety Pack that is optional on the top Sport models. This includes Rear Vehicle Monitoring (which warns of cars in the driver’s blind spot) and a Lane Departure Warning System.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

There are three trim levels in the range, and all look pretty well specified. Even the most basic – SE – comes with alloy wheels, cruise control, air-conditioning, all-round electric windows, Bluetooth connectivity and a touch-screen multimedia system. Step up to SE-L and you upgrade the air-con to dual-zone climate control, as well as adding front and rear parking sensors, tinted rear and side windows, and automatic lights and wipers. At the top of the range, Sport models have larger alloys, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, leather seat trim, a reversing camera and an upgraded audio system. Sat-nav is optional across the range.

Why buy? 4/5

The combination of striking looks and low running costs is one that will appeal equally to private buyers and company car users. However, anyone who is considering the 6 will need to make sure they can live with the firm ride.