We have long been admirers of this sleek family car in both saloon and estate forms, but does the Tourer version have the substance to back up its style – and back up Mazda’s ambition to pitch it as a premium product?
Our Car: Mazda6 Tourer 2.2d 150PS SE-L Lux manual
List price when new: £28,095 OTR
Price as tested: £29,245
Official fuel economy: 62.8mpg (EU Combined)
June 12, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 55.7mpg
One final airport run seems as good a way as any to say goodbye to the Mazda, given how much of its time it’s spent trekking back and forth to Heathrow. It’s heading back after six (and a bit, due to a delay in the arrival of its replacement) generally very contented months during which I have grown rather attached to it.
On such journeys the 6 has always been the perfect companion. Its high-speed stability and adaptive cruise control take the sting out of crowded motorways on the way there and back, while its beautifully appointed interior, complete with beautiful swathes of brightwork and leather, has always been a joy to return to after a long day’s travelling, especially when climbing aboard in a cold, dark car park.
But during its time with us the 6 hasn’t only impressed us on trips to the airport. It’s proven a pretty decent dog wagon; the neat in-built dog guard has almost never been furled. That said, these journeys with the dog in tow have shown up one of the 6’s larger failings: its boot is rather too small for an estate of this size.
There’s more than enough length and breadth in the boot’s shape to allow Luther, our labrador cross, to spread out when laying down, but the minute he decides to sit up again, he has to stoop to avoid clonking his head. The culprit, I suspect, is a high boot floor combined with the sloping roof.
Happily, the 6 did prove capacious enough to carry all our luggage on our ski trip to France in January, and it proved an effortless and deeply enjoyable way to cross an entire country; what was more, its excellent handling meant it was far more fun than I expected on the mountain roads when we got there.
Indeed, the 6’s trump card has proven to be the way it drives, and I’ve been surprised repeatedly by the amount of fun you can have in a reasonably large, diesel-powered estate car. The body resists lean very well, there’s plenty of grip, the nose tucks into corners eagerly and there’s even a decent amount of feel through the steering. The sweet manual gearchange is the icing on the cake.
And what about our initial premise, whether a diesel engine is still worth considering? To my mind it’s still the best way to spec your 6. Yes, there are petrol alternatives in 2.0- and 2.5-litre forms for those deterred by diesel, but the former lacks grunt and the latter is rather thirsty.
In comparison, this 2.2-litre oil-burner always feels gutsy and responsive, and posts fuel economy figures either of the petrol engines could only dream of. Diesel might have a bad rap, but here it’s still the best option.
It hasn’t been all plain sailing, mind you. In addition to that cramped boot, I’ve found the ventilation system to be rather sub-par, both in winter when it takes forever to de-mist, and in summer when you need to fiddle with it to keep the car cool.
I’ve also found the engine can be rather grumbly when it’s cold, especially at town speeds. And while the ride has always proven comfortable enough at high speed, it is a touch on the firm side around town, a trait which becomes particularly noticeable when it joggles you over particularly churned-up patches of tarmac.
The thing is, I’d live with these flaws, particularly when you consider what impressive value this version is. The asking price sounds high, but the SE Lux version gets you all you could possibly want, including heated seats and a heated steering wheel, the adaptive cruise control, leather seats all round and LED headlamps.
And given how upmarket the 6 Tourer feels, it compares well with its premium-badged rivals in that regard. Indeed when we started this test last year, we set out to ask whether the 6 Tourer could cut it against those premium rivals, at which Mazda has pitched it.
Well, an Audi A4 Avant is quieter and smoother; a BMW 3-Series Touring is more entertaining to drive; a Mercedes C-Class is more spacious.
But the 6 Tourer feels as classy as any of these three, while offering more equipment at a lower price. And with that in mind, if you were in the market for a car like this, you’d be mad not to pay your Mazda dealer a visit.
June 7, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 53.2mpg
Now that summer has (sort of) arrived, I no longer have to contend with the Mazda’s achingly slow demisting in the mornings, which is a blessed relief. However, the warmer weather has brought with it another complaint to do with the ventilation system.
In theory, the climate control should be self-regulating. Set a temperature, hit ‘auto’, and leave it to do its thing – that’s how it works in most cars. However, as the temperatures have warmed, this has proven insufficient in the Mazda, as the interior gradually grows warmer and warmer as the journey progresses.
Eventually, I’ve found myself having to adjust the temperature downwards, turn up the fan manually, or having to rectify the situation some other way, lest I find myself sitting in a pool of sweat.
In the grand scheme of things, of course, this is no great hardship, as one only has to adjust the system to get comfortable again. But the whole point of climate control is that you shouldn’t have to – and given I very rarely find myself having to take such remedial action in other cars so-equipped, it suggests that the climate control in the Mazda isn’t really doing a great job of controlling the climate.
May 17, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 54.7mpg
As you’ll probably have guessed from the paucity of updates in the last few weeks, I haven’t had much chance to get behind the wheel of the 6 Tourer of late. That’s partly because my wife has been driving it far more; whether it’s been to help her sister move house, or to do long motorway runs in greater comfort than her little old Kia Picanto.
Having spent so much time in it recently, I thought I’d ask her thoughts, to give a bit of perspective from someone who isn’t as concerned with motoring journalist-type things like lift-off oversteer and secondary ride comfort.
“Around town it feels quite a large car for me, and a little unwieldy,” she says. “The clutch bite point is softer and trickier to find than I’m used to, and I find that because my driving position is so low I don’t have as good an idea of where the nose ends.
“I also found that there isn’t as much rear visibility as I’d like. Because the rear window is quite slim, it’s quite hard for me to place where the tail end is going when reverse parking.
“I don’t like the way our dog Luther struggles a bit for head room in the boot, which I think is because the roof is quite low, but I must admit that when you fold the seats down there’s loads of space and you can actually fit in much more than you’d expect.”
“Also on the plus side, the Mazda is great on the motorway - it feels very stable and secure, and the seats are comfortable for long journeys. And I found the central screen really easy to use, even on the move.
“I really like how solid and well-built the dashboard feels, too, and it looks good. And I find that the instruments are well-placed, which means I barely need to take my eyes away from the road to check my speed.
“I don’t think it’s the best estate car around,” she concludes, “and I don’t think I’d choose it if I had to drive in town regularly, especially with a manual gearbox. But it is very good to drive, especially on the motorway, and it feels comfortable and quite posh inside.”
More recently, the ‘service soon’ warning appeared recently on the dashboard. It gives you 600 miles to book in a service; plenty of time, or so I thought, until we managed to rack up almost exactly that number in the space of a couple of weeks on various bank holiday trips, airport runs and other errands. Before I knew it, ‘service soon’ had changed to ‘service due’, so I thought I’d better get it booked in pronto.
I phoned Croydon Mazda; nobody on the service desk was available to answer the phone, however, so a salesman took a message and promised someone would call. Normally when this happens, I wait until the next day, the phone conspicuously silent, and then try again. But this time, Kim from the service department phoned me back an hour later. Even more impressive, she told me there was a free slot two days later, and – joy of joys – there was even a courtesy car available.
The handover was swift, and my courtesy car – a fully-loaded 19-plate CX-3 auto with just 160 miles on the clock – was ready and waiting.
I barely needed it, mind you, for within two hours Kim called again to tell me that the 6 had been serviced, there were no problems, and it was ready to collect. By the time I got back to collect it after lunch, it had even been cleaned, inside and out. I pootled home a happy man.
Much is often said about sloppy service from main dealer service departments, but credit must also go to those who get it right. Not only could I not fault the service I had from Croydon Mazda, but they exceeded my expectations wherever it was possible to do so. Bravo!
March 26, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 53.3mpg
Although it’s only been in my possession for a few months, my 6 Tourer is coming up for a year old now, which got me wondering: what would it be like to buy it as a used car?
A quick scan through the classifieds suggests that a car of its specification and mileage (coming up on 6,000 now) would set you back £21,000 or so.
At first glance, that looks a little pricey given that you can buy a BMW 318d Sport Touring for less. However, while the BMW has an identical power output and is a little more involving to drive, it can’t match the Mazda’s specification, coming with cloth seats for that price and lacking the Japanese car’s heated seats and steering wheel.
Pricier used rivals, meanwhile, include the Audi A4 2.0 TDI Sport Avant and Mercedes C220d Sport estate; again, neither comes as well-equipped as standard as the Mazda.
Given its excellent interior quality, then, the 6 looks like a tempting used alternative to the premium models – if you can live with the fact that its badge still doesn’t quite hold as much cachet. And next to these models, its small boot doesn’t pose quite as much of a problem, given they too share similarly sloping hindquarters.
But what about the more mainstream models, with their upright tails and, consequently, more practical boots?
Well, there’s the Ford Mondeo, which is both cheaper and more fun to drive, too, but it’s also lumbered with a Fisher Price interior that can’t cut it next to the Mazda’s. The Skoda Superb is classier, and comes with a simply enormous boot, but it’s achingly bland and doesn’t come as well-equipped as the Mazda for the same cash.
Arguably the most tempting used alternative to the 6 for many buyers, then, will be the Volkswagen Passat Estate. You can now get a 2.0 TDI GT with the same power output as the Mazda for the same price. Not only is the Passat more comfortable and quieter, but its boot is much larger, too, making it more practical – and in this spec you get almost as many toys, too.
Of course, the downside with the Passat is that it’s rather more bland – both to look at and to drive. So which would I choose?
Well, I think it would come down to my needs. If my estate was to be a full-time family hauler, I’d go for the Passat. However, if all I was after was a little extra space now and again, the extra character and higher specification of the Mazda would swing it for me.
March 12, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 54.2mpg
Light use for the Mazda recently came to an end with another trip around the M25 to Heathrow, this time to head off to the Geneva motor show press day.
The mid-morning start meant none of the demisting shenanigans of last time – though I’m more inclined to believe that the warmer temperatures have made it less of an issue than that the problem has rectified itself completely.
Having been in and out of several other cars recently it was surprisingly pleasant to jump back into the 6. True, I found I noticed the clatter of its diesel engine rather more than normal – proving for once and for all in my mind that it’s noisier than it really needs to be.
But other than that, the Mazda did its usual excellent job of smearing away yet another motorway journey, this time in congested, fast-moving traffic, with comfort and ease. And upon my return to England’s cold, drizzly embrace, I actually found myself climbing aboard, firing up the heated seat and steering wheel, sticking some relaxing music on and relishing the schmooze back home.
That was the plan, anyway – sadly, on the southern stretch of the M25 I had a rude awakening from a stone hitting the screen right in my eye-line. Even more irritatingly, it left a chip that’s going to need repairing. Fiddlesticks, and so forth.
February 7, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 46.6mpg
1,392 miles. That’s how many I’ve added to the Mazda’s odometer since last we spoke – most of which spent dashing from Surrey to Briancon and back again. So just how did the Mazda fare as a cross-continental cruiser?
Well, first things first; despite the fact it was only my old friend George and I travelling, the Mazda’s relatively tiddly boot meant what with the skis, ski boots and snacks we were carrying, we had to stow one of our two larger bags on the rear seats. Even without the skis, I’m not sure how we’d have managed had we been four-up; chances are we’d have been crying out for a roof box.
We’d decided to hop across on a Friday evening and stop overnight in Calais, ready to do the rest of the trip on the Saturday. That being the case, we opted to take the Eurotunnel, bearing in mind it would take only a half-hour chunk out of our evening rather than an hour and a half. As a result, we were at the Ibis in Calais in time for a swift couple of celebratory beers in the hotel bar before bed.
The next morning dawned bright but blistering cold, and we were away promptly with a minimum of fuss, the Mazda’s demisting issue happily not proving too much of a concern. Its heated seats and steering wheel, however, we were extremely grateful for. Our navigation was provided by Google Maps and our music by Spotify via Apple CarPlay; so it remained, in fact, for the majority of the trip, and we barely used Mazda’s infotainment system.
As the day wore on and the miles rolled by, the Mazda proved once again what a terrific cruiser it is. Quiet, comfortable and reassuringly stable, it blended into the background like all good mile-munchers should. Granted, hard acceleration down a slip road gets the engine a little raucous, and it isn’t perhaps as responsive as some of its more modern rivals – but still, you never find yourself actually wanting for grunt. And the adaptive cruise control made dealing with slower traffic or congestion a doddle. Happily, too, I didn’t find myself with any lower back pain problems as I had before; yes, I could still do with a little more lumbar, but I could live with the 6 as-is – indeed, I did so for several two-plus-hour stints.
“So how much does it cost?” asked George, sufficiently impressed by the Mazda’s general aura of quality and composure. I told him – and then explained that all the toys, bar the Apple CarPlay and metallic paint had come fitted as standard. He was quite surprised, reinforcing my opinion that the 6 looks, feels and is equipped as though it should have cost at least £30,000.
Later, as we approached our destination, we turned off the motorway and crossed the Col de Lautaret. Almost 7,000 feet up in the air, the Mazda barely felt any the worse for the lack of oxygen, still pulling strongly up the hills – but the best was yet to come. On the run down into Serre Chevalier, we had an unexpected bonus: a clear stretch of dry road ahead. I pushed on somewhat, and even fully loaded and two-up, it managed to put a smile on my face, its crisp steering, marvellous body control and slick gearshift suddenly making it feel every bit like a car from the same stable as the brilliant MX-5.
Having arrived safely and parked the Mazda in a little car park just across from our apartment, we then didn’t touch it until it was time to leave. When the time came to start it up almost a week later, the demisting issue again failed to raise its head, but the 6 still wasn’t entirely happy.
The glow plugs took a while to do their thing and there were some odd reverberations from the engine. I let the car warm through a bit and opened the bonnet to see if I could trace the sound – but by the time I’d done so, it had stopped. I chalked it up to the old girl being a little grouchy after her week-long slumber in -13C temperatures; understandable, really, as I’d have felt the same. Who says modern cars can’t have character?
On the return leg, the Mazda proved just as effortless. Throughout the whole trip, in fact, it was a class act – a paragon of reassuring comfort and solidity. Fuel economy, too; I don’t think the figure above was too bad given the full loads, French motorway speeds, steep hills and spirited driving involved.
Indeed, if a part of me had worried this trip could take the shine off the 6 thanks to the issues I’d previously had with it, that didn’t happen. If anything, by the time we got back to the Eurotunnel for our train home, I was even more enamoured with it than ever.
January 15, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 54.1mpg
A recent early-morning start for a drive to Heathrow was frustrated somewhat by a trait the 6 seems to have that’s become prevalent in the recent cold weather: namely, it takes an age to demist.
Actually, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story, because on some occasions the 6 even manages to remist itself.
There are times you know you’re going to be in for a long wait, because you’ll emerge from the house to find the windscreen already opaque. However, other times you’ll climb aboard when it’s clear, only to find to your dismay that by the time you’ve buckled your belt and started the engine, it’s already misting up.
Strangely, if you punch the demist switch, the blower motors don’t spool up to their full speed, which seems odd given its main objective is to clear the screen as quickly as possible. So I’ve learned to whack the fan up further still, while checking the air-con is on and the recirculate function isn’t active.
Nevertheless, the screen takes an age to clear – so much so that on this particular morning, with only a vestigial gap in the murk starting to appear after several minutes and with a flight to catch, I actually resorted to going back into the house, grabbing a cloth and wiping the screen clear.
I’m trying to decide at the moment whether this is actually a fault with the car, or just a ‘they all do that, sir’ foible. Gut instinct tells me the latter, but I have heard other 6 owners (not to mention colleagues on other titles who are running 6s as long-termers) suffering with the same issue, so the former could equally be true. Still, I’m tempted to book it in at a local dealer, just to check there isn’t something more serious occurring.
It’ll have to wait a couple of weeks, however, because next week a good friend and I are off to the French Alps in the 6. No winter tyres this year, against my better judgement – they aren’t a legal requirement in France, but while I’m a firm believer in such things, it’s a big expense for a car I’m giving back in a few months, and one I just can’t justify at the moment.
I have, however, bought a set of snow chains (practice fitting pictured – and needed, as you can see) as a backstop – fingers crossed I won’t need them.
My supply of demisting cloths, on the other hand, might prove to be a necessity. I’ll fill you in on the trip once we’re back.
January 8, 2019
Fuel economy this week: 53.4mpg
“You have checked it will fit in the car, haven’t you?” said Mrs R, as we emerged from the local garden centre, one six-foot Nordman Fir rolling around in our cart. Fact is, I hadn’t – but, frankly, I didn’t see the need, as the Mazda’s boot was bound to be more than capable of swallowing it.
That said, the 6’s boot isn’t quite as big as you’d think. Mazda will tell you the Tourer is a lifestyle estate, along the lines of a BMW 3-series, rather than an out-and-out load lugger like the Skoda Superb, which is a rather brittle excuse for a distinctly average 522-litre load bay. A Superb’s, for comparison purposes, is 660 litres – or almost four airline cabin bags’ worth more.
Still, what space there is is practical, with the low load lip and square shape meaning you can use every last jot of it. And with the seats folded down – the work of a flip of a lever on each side of the boot – the flat floor made it easy to slide the tree in. And yes, it did fit.
As indeed, despite the rather dinky proportions, does our labrador cross, Luther. There’s plenty of room for him to stretch out, though, it has to be said, he does have to bow his head in order for us to shut the sloping boot lid; the low roof doesn’t give him a lot of head room when it’s shut, either. Happily, he spends most journeys lying down, so it isn’t too much of an issue
Curiously, he also finds the carpet rather hard to grip on to – the minute we go round a corner, he’s scrabbling around and sliding across the boot from one side to the other – a problem we solve by putting towels or blankets down for him to improve his grip.
One great feature of the 6’s load bay I must point out, though, is the standard dog guard, which unfurls from a canister just ahead of the retractable load cover, and latches into the roof. We unrolled it the minute we got the car, and haven’t had cause to remove it since; however, if we wanted to fold the seats down again to fit larger items in the boot, it’s entirely removable in a matter of minutes.
December 17, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 56.1mpg
A series of meetings meant a busy day’s driving, taking me from south London to Stratford-upon-Avon, then back down to Goodwood in West Sussex before returning home again. It was a good chance to see how the Mazda would cope with long-distance motorway travel – a crucial part of the repertoire of a car like this.
I made use of the adaptive cruise control through the foggy rush-hour traffic on the M25. It’s a good system that accelerates and brakes for you smoothly and in good time. My car being a manual 6, you have to change gear for it yourself, but the system takes account of that and doesn’t shut off when you dip the clutch to change up or down, unlike some.
Of course, if I had an automatic, the cruise control would be able to maintain the car’s acceleration and braking in stop-start traffic; in the manual car, this isn’t possible, so it shuts off at around 15mph and allows you to retake control. Nevertheless, given that most of my driving at this point was above this speed, the adaptive cruise did most of the work, and that meant I found myself relaxed and refreshed by the time I arrived in Stratford.
For the next slog, back down the A34, M3 and M27, I plugged in my phone and made use of Apple CarPlay. Smartphone mirroring doesn’t come as standard on the 6 – it’s a £350 option – but it’s worth every penny. It can get a little confused when you plug your phone back in after a short break, but otherwise it works well, and the ability to stream music through Spotify using the car’s native controls is welcome.
What was more, I found myself using the Waze app for navigation, rather than the car’s standard sat-nav, which proved a godsend when it informed me there was an accident and a traffic jam ahead, and routed me around the worst of the traffic.
By the time I arrived at Goodwood, though, I had found a problem. I was developing a dull but irritating ache in my lower back. I drive with the lumbar support out to its fullest, but even with it set that way my back feels concave and slouched. It simply doesn’t extend out far enough to provide decent lower back support – and while that isn’t a problem if you’re only in the car for an hour or less, on longer drives it starts to become noticeable.
Despite this, on the journey back from Goodwood, the Mazda won me back. By now I was tired, it was dark and the roads were busy. Yet with the heated seat and steering wheel turned on, the Mazda was cosy and cosseting. What could have been an irksome and arduous drive went by quickly, and the last motorway leg with the cruise control doing its thing and the whole car feeling stable, settled and secure was as easy as could be.
In all, then, it’s proved its mettle as a capable motorway cruiser – I just wish it had a bit more lower back support to make it perfect.
November 27, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 55.3mpg
It’s a rare thing that someone asks a motoring writer for their advice on which car to buy, then actually buys the car they suggest. In asking, more often than not, people really want confirmation or validation of a choice they’ve already made. But every now and then, someone does actually go out and spend their hard-earned on a car you’ve recommended. At which point your satisfaction at having helped a friend or family member to arrive at a good decision quickly segues into nerves; ‘Good grief,’ you think. ‘I hope they like it. And I hope it doesn’t break down on them.’
On one of these occasions, the car in question was a Mazda6 Tourer. I needn’t have fretted, because it gave its owner faithful service, hauling him and his family around comfortably and efficiently and remaining rock-solid and terrific to drive for every minute of his three-year custodianship.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the 6. Fun to drive, yet also comfortable; efficient, yet also punchy; handsome, too, in a way you only notice when you stop to admire it. This latest facelift only improves matters, if our recent drive in the saloon is anything to go by, thanks to its terrifically executed interior – one which suggests Mazda’s aspiration to lift the 6 into the ranks of its more premium rivals is more than just marketing bunk.
It’s a big ask, mind you, especially from a car that is now just over five years old beneath the recent nip-and-tuck. Can it make good on those upscale aspirations? And if not, does it still stack up as a mainstream choice?
I’ve got six months to find out. So, without further ado, time to introduce you to ‘our’ 6 Tourer. First things first: we’ve gone for a diesel. Yes, yes, diesel is supposedly the devil’s fuel now, and diesel sales are consequently taking a nosedive, which is why Mazda will now sell you a 2.5-litre petrol alongside the 2.0-litre petrol option that’s always been available. Nevertheless, in cars of this sort of size and above, petrol alternatives are still just a little too thirsty for many to make the switch, so more buyers than you might think are sticking by their diesels.
That’s why we, too, have gone for an oil-burner; the 148bhp version of the 2.2-litre engine, to be precise, whose quieter running and good spread of power make it nicer to drive and live with than the more potent 181bhp option. We’ve also gone for the SE Lux model, one up from base, which benefits nevertheless from a pretty extensive kit list including leather seats, heated up front and matched to a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and even adaptive cruise control.
The only extra available, in fact, is smartphone mirroring (£350), which we’ve added – we’ll report back on whether it’s worth having before too long. And of course, we’ve opted for metallic paint at £800, too, the Soul Crystal Red paintwork adding an extra lustre to those Voisin-esque – as my colleague Mr English once put it – front wings.
The next six months, then, will give us a chance to work out whether the 6 Tourer’s beauty is more than skin deep. It’ll be pressed into service hauling people, dogs, luggage, garden waste and probably more besides. We’ll also try to work out whether diesel still is worth considering, or whether its time has now passed. But along the way, I also hope to find out whether this is still a car I’d recommend to a friend, five years on.
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*Lease price from list price shown in the article is correct as of 04/12/2018 and are based on 9months initial payment upfront. Prices exclude VAT and are subject to change. Ts and Cs and Arrangement Fees apply.