The mid-size family car sector is pretty oversubscribed. Mainly because there are lots of us who fit the ‘2.4 children’ family stereotype. That said, the motoring world is keen to push us all into SUVs or cars of that ilk. We say no to that, because we like our cars to be, well, cars. Not pseudo 4x4s. And with that in mind, we would highly recommend the rather brilliant Mazda 6.
We fell in love with the Mazda 6 a couple of years ago when, as part of our full-time motoring journalist duties, we borrowed a brand-new, third-generation model. It. Was. Astounding. Full of leather, full of tech, great to drive, more frugal than a student who’s been forced to pay full price for a pint, and handsome to boot. Why, we thought, would you go out and buy a Mondeo when cars like the Mazda 6 exist?
As you can probably guess, the third-generation Mazda 6 is waaaay out of this website’s meagre price range. Though the very second it drops down into our depths, you can bet we’ll be letting you know. Until then, we can enjoy the second-generation car. Available as a saloon, a hatch or estate, it is all things to all families.
You may remember us harking on about the Mazda 6 MPS, the 256bhp all-wheel drive, bat-shit mental version. Well, that was based on the first-generation. But again, it was a blinder. So, by using SCIENCE and car logic, we can safely assume then, that the model sandwiched betwixt the MPS and the new one we drove is going to be good.
So let’s get into this. What exactly makes the second-gen Mazda 6 so good? Well, for starters there’s the big thing that always factors in when buying a cheap car – reliability. The Mazda 6 wiped the board with its rival cars in the reliability stakes in its first-gen guise. It’s no surprise then, that this version is just as reliable. Buy one with decent service history, and you can drive away safe in the knowledge it will never let you down. And that’s important, because there is a caveat when buying a sub £2k example – you’re going to be looking at cars with north of 110-120k on the clock. But honestly, don’t worry about it, as long as you get the history.
Also, don’t think you’re getting a worn out heap of metal. the Mazda 6 is built well, meaning even the most lunar-mileaged of cars still look great. There has always been a wonderful, head-wearing quality to Mazdas, and the 6 is no exception to that.
Regrettably there’s no turbo-nutter-bastard version of this generation Mazda 6 the likes of the old MPS, but don’t fret. The engines available, both petrol and diesel, will hustle the Mazda 6 along without any fuss. The standout powerplant is the 2.2 diesel, fitted to cars 2009 onward, though the 2.0 before it is perfectly acceptable. Both will put you in the 50mpg range on a run. You can find both with varying power outputs, from low 100s to 185bhp. If you prefer your fuel to be ignited by spark rather than compression, you can go for the 1.8, 2.0 or mighty 2.5 petrol. Though be warned, the latter is a thirsty beast. Don’t expect much more than 35mpg.
If you want an automatic transmission, there’s a five speed option on some models. In reality though, you really want a manual. If ever there was a car that could excite on gear-change alone, the Mazda 6 is it when compared to its peers. It’s slick, direct and just feels good. In a non sexy way. Unless you’re on your own, in which case be as turned on as you like. The 1.8 gets five cogs to choose from, while most other models give you six. Sexy, sexy, six. We’ll stop now.
Then of course, there’s the way the Mazda 6 drives. It’s so very, very good. You’ve got that gear-change for starters, but then you have the steering, too. Taken from the brilliant RX8, it’s sharp, direct and involving. It’s almost as if nobody has told the Mazda 6 it’s a family-lugger, not a B-road warrior. Not that we’re complaining.
As for the braking, it’s solid yet progressive. You soon build up your confidence driving one of these, you needn’t brake and hope for the best. This is the company that gave us the MX-5. It knows how to make all the pedals fun to use.
The ride is good too, if you’re a ‘driver’. It’s firmer than most cars in this class, and as such, it rewards you if you push on a bit through the bends. Cars in Sport trim build on that even further. Don’t think it’s going rattle your teeth out of their gums on your commute though, the Mazda 6 can be quiet compliant on normal roads. It’s a nice mix of both practical and sporty. Like a nice pair of Oxford Brogues fitted with those ‘heely’ wheels. Maybe.
In terms of spec, you get plenty even in the bargain basement cars. However, the TS2 or Sport models are what you want to be looking for. In the case of the latter, you’ll probably have to take a higher mileage on the chin to get it within our budget, but you’ll be glad of it. Big alloys, cruise, part-leather, heated mirrors and more await.
In basic guise though, all Mazda 6 models have a CD player, electric mirrors, electric front windows, height adjustable driver’s seat, remote locking and traction control.
Fancy driving it into a wall? Go for it. The second-generation Mazda 6 was tested my professional Mazda-manglers, EuroNCAP, just when they moved the safety goalposts. For many, that would be a worry. With Isofix mounting points, front driver, passenger, side curtain and side airbags along with ABS, the Mazda 6 laughed through its broken, crash-tested face and limped away with the full five stars. Nice.