The Mazda 6 “size matters” says Phil Hedderman

By Philip Hedderman
There was a time when size mattered.
Yep, I’m afraid men of a certain age gathered in smokey pubs bragging about how big theirs were while secretly wishing it was half the size.
Tragic, I know, but like many manly pursuits 90 percent of us admit it while the other 10 percent just lie.
Back in the day your peers judged you by the cubic centimetre and anything over 1800 was deemed impressive, a 2.0 litre was savage and anything over was positively beastly.
But vanity came at a price and your ego was forced to shell out by the 300cc – with charges ranging from €172 to an astronomical €1,566 a year on road tax alone.
On the upper scale it means that over a car’s 10-year life span you’d have to shell out a whopping €15,000 for the beer mat in the window.
Thankfully the Dick Turpin way of car taxation is now consigned to history – thanks to level-headed Eurocrats and not the incompetent Greens who would like to take the credit.
It has thrown open the doors to finally owning a car with a level of luxury and above all, safety one could only previously have dreamt of.
A prime example of that dream is the Mazda6 – a large family saloon with a powerful 2.2 litre engine that is cheaper to run than many 1.0 litre city cars.
First a little history lesson.
The original model was launched in 2002, and since over half a million have been sold in Europe.
In early 2008 it got a major overhaul and she was refitted from the floor up.
Japanese engineers listened to their customers intently and the prime objective was to retain the sporty feel, drive and dynamic.
Top of the wish list was a more luxurious, premium inside – the little subtle touches which signify the fact you were driving the fleet leader.
New owners wanted to be spoiled, made a little fuss of …. or if you wanted to be blatant about it wanted the Lexus treatment.
And boy they weren’t disappointed.
Since then Mazda have even tweaked a further 400 things to bring us this super slick saloon.
The front and rear have been re-styled to give a more luxurious and sportier look which is complimented by 18 inch alloys and boot spoiler.
Climbing into the space age cabin, the dash is simple but stylish.
The on-board computer which is so easy to operate you don’t need half of IBM in the back to reset the trip and even goes to the trouble of biding you a good day or evening on entry.
The sunken clocks and leather-trimmed three spoke steering give it that added oomph as does the higher than usual central console.
But it is under the bonnet where major changes are converted into cash savings.
Subtle technical tinkering – like the use of smaller turbo chargers that reduce lag while boosting torque – sees the emissions plummet to 138g/km.
In Layman’s terms it means that this 2.2litre 129bhp falls into tax band B and €156 per year road tax while returning nearly 50mpg
Safety also gets the red carpet treatment with standard equipment on all models including Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, ABS, EBD, front, side and curtain airbags and Emergency Stop Signal (which warns cars behind of sudden braking by automatically flashing the hazard lights).
A major revamp of the suspension gives greater handling stability, better steering and less vibration.
Drive-wise the whole experience didn’t disappoint and it gobbled up mile after mile on the motorway where she’ll mainly earn her keep.
But the 6 really came into its own on more winding, testing roads.
The Mazda MX5 DNA shone through and the big saloon handled like a roadster adding the fun factor which is often missing in big buses.
A very pleasant surprise indeed considering the out and out appeal of its smaller brother, the Mazda3 – my top car of last year.
It is as an older sibling should be – bigger, quicker and a little more confident and my initial fear was that it wouldn’t be enough to justify the extra couple of thousand euros.
Not so.
The Mazda6 is worth every single cent and unlike other Japanese saloons, doesn’t spoil with age.
Bluetooth is now standard on all Executive, Executive SE, Sport and Z-Sport models.
Prices begin at €25,485 see for scrappage deals and offers.

* Price: €25,995
* Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 129hp
* 0-60mph: 10 seconds
* Economy: 45.5mpg
* Claimed CO2: 125g/km

* Road Tax €156
Video to follow this week