TEST DRIVE: The 2013 Mazda 6

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The 2013 Mazda 6 is a fine new contender for fleets and family car buyers - with one major drawback. LES OLIVER finds out.

NOW on sale, the third generation Mazda 6 is a stylish new-from-the-ground-up rival to the Ford Mondeo, which is also due to be replaced in 2014.

It costs from £19,595, is sleek, economical and very accomplished, but has one major drawback - unlike its predecessor and rivals, it is not a available as a hatchback!

You can buy only a saloon or estate.

The two bodyshapes come with a choice of petrol or diesel engines and six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

Two 2.0-litre petrol engines are available with either 143bhp or 163bhp. and two twin-turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel with either 148bhp or 173bhp.

Like the CX-5 stablemate, this third-generation model is built to what they call the “Skyactiv” formula,

This means reducing weight, improving aerodynamics and maximising the efficiency of thre conventional combustion engine, rather than resorting to electric or hybrid power.

Mazda have also incorporated clever new technology that recycles energy from the engine under braking, using it to power the air conditioning and audio systems.

The company say this can boost fuel economy by as much as 10 per cent.

The best value-for-money model of the range is the 150bhp, 2.2-litre diesel, with its class-leading emissions of 108g/km and official economy figure of almost 70mpg.

This model costs £21,795 but with such low CO2, road tax and company car tax bills will be low too.
With 150bhp there’s enough power and torque to give you respectable acceleration and the short-throw six-speed manual gearbox had a nice feel to it.

Despite the good economy, it can do 0-60mph in nine seconds and has a top speed of 135mph.

The new 6 is well balanced is nimble to handle and drives with plenty of feel and precision.

It is quiet, comfortable and the controls are well laid-out.

The previous model had a EuroNCAP maximum five-stars rating and this version, packed with safety features, is expected to achieve the same.

The dashboard is reasonably uncluttered and looks smart enough, while the seats are comfortable and supportive.

The boot is 489 litres, which is less than its predecessor’s and the saloon body hampers versatility; the opening is small compared with hatchback rivals’, including the Mondeo.

The “basic” Mazda6 is well-equipped, but if you want one with built-in satnav it will costs you an extra £600.

Should you buy a new Mazda6? It’s got a lot going for it with impressive performance and fuel economy, good looks and a smart interior.

But if you like a hatchback’s versatility, you will miss it wit this car.

I think the Mazda6 chief designer Akira Tamatani is wrong when he says British drivers rarely use their hatchbacks’ versatility and fold-down seats.

The UK is the biggest hatchback market in Europe.

Jeremy Thomson, Mazda UK’s managing director, responds: “Those who want the cargo space associated with a hatchback can buy the Tourer (estate) version.” (It’s an extra £870).

“For those who want the full versatility of a hatchback, we have the CX-5 SUV with the same engines, SKYACTIV technology and similar pricing.”