by Jeff Mullins 26/11/12
Mazda are one of those Japanese manufacturers that are often overlooked. For me with Mazda you get the same great reliability but with perhaps a little more dynamism and flair than other brands noted for the same. In many ways you are having your cake and eating it, owning a stylish car that is also ultra reliable and fun to drive.
Aside from the RX-7 and MX-5, experiencing a Mazda was not always the inspiration that it proves today. The final ‘GF’ model 626 was quite an uninteresting vehicle that did its job competently but offered little more than dependable family transport. That was all to change with the arrival of its replacement; the Mazda 6, in 2002. Until that time, the company had been in deep financial difficulty and was ripe for a turnaround and totally new strategy. Ford, who were still a major shareholder during that time, installed one of their head honchos at the helm in the late 1990’s. At the turn of the 21st century, there were several new products in the pipeline as a result and the Mazda 6 was one of them. It was to be a youthful and dynamic family car with an emphasis on ‘zoom zoom’.
At launch, the Mazda 6 range was available in saloon, hatchback and estate bodystyles. Trims consisted of Comfort (15” steel wheels, electric windows x4, six airbags, heated mirrors, CD player, air conditioning), Touring (Comfort specification + Electronic Climate Control, front and rear centre armrests, multi-function leather steering wheel as well as leather gearknob and handbrake pull) and Sport Touring (all of the specifications of Comfort and Touring + 16” alloys, lowered sport suspension, velour seat trim, electric sunroof and traction control). Engine choices were 1.8, 2.0 and 2.3 litre MZR petrol units and a 2.0 litre turbo diesel. The most common engine you are likely to find in this country is the 1.8 litre with 118bhp, 0-60 delivered in 10.6 seconds and a top speed of 121mph. The 2.0 litre (139bhp, 0-60 under 10 seconds and 128mph) is rarer and was the engine you needed if you desired to specify the four speed automatic transmission. The 2.3 litre would be the scarcest and with 163bhp, 0-60 covered in 8.7 seconds and a top speed of 131mph, it was the fastest Mazda 6 model you could buy until the arrival of the MPS in 2005.
The Mazda 6 range received a facelift in 2005 with the most noticeable changes being at the front end. Headlamp clusters were now dark and the front bumper was totally new. Inside, a previous Achilles heel of the car was addressed in the form of an interior that was improved to some extent, yet still had some way to go to match the perceived quality and tactility of the Germans despite the fact the ‘6 was a better engineered car mechanically. This facelift also saw the arrival of the highly impressive MPS version with 256bhp. It delivered a top speed of 149 mph combined with a sprightly acceleration time of 6.4 seconds to 60 mph. It was available exclusively in the four saloon bodystyle.
The first generation Mazda 6 had a typically short Japanese production run of five years and was replaced for 2008 by a new model based on the same CD2 platform. It built on the strengths of the original with a new look and improved engines.
Issues to be weary of on the Mazda 6 Mk1 are not many once you stick to the petrol models. The diesel engine is best avoided as it is known to suffer from catastrophic failure in this generation. Rust is also an issue on some early models but nothing that has been known to be terminal.
If you are looking for a family car on a budget of less than 7-8k, the Mazda 6 Mk1 is probably one of the best around and offers fantastic value at present due to them all falling outside the Co2 based emissions system which came in on 2008 cars. It is a thoroughly dependable car that can be purchased with both logic and enthusiasm in equal measure. That is ‘zoom zoom’ indeed!