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Mazda Mazda6 2.2D Estate TS2

Click to view picture gallery“Time was, estate cars were the lot
  of hard-up families and
no VAT mate
  handymen. Those days are long
  gone and today estate cars grace the
  drives of even the most expensive
  properties — and on any gated
  driveway Mazda
s revamped Mazda6
  estate looks ‘to the manor born
...”


FETCHINGLY SMART AND STYLISH after a recent makeover, the revamped '6' is unmistakable: a swooping, shark-shaped nose and double grille flanked by pronounced shoulders above the front wheel arches endows Mazda's grown-up estate with conspicuous road presence.

Inside the Mazda6 is welcoming, both in its dimensions as well as by its fitments and fittings. The seats are comfortable and upholstered in a smart fabric that offers the benefit of all-season usability without the summer-burns and winter-shocks of leather.

A perfect driving position can be set in seconds; the leather-rimmed wheel adjusts for both height and reach, the driver's seat for height, and the driver also benefits from manual lumber adjustment. Front chairs are firm and supportive; sitting front or back you'll be hard-pressed to find anything to complain about, plus there's more than enough room to stretch out.

“Three adults can travel
side-by-side without
trading blows and near-
six-footers can travel
easily behind other near-
six-footers
...”
In fact, travelling in the rear is an altogether pleasant experience thanks to the comfortable angle of the rear backrests (one that favours lounging), the large and well-padded centre rear armrest and loads of knee- and legroom. Three adults can travel side-by-side without trading blows, and near-six-footers can travel easily behind other near-six-footers. Plenty of glass makes for an airy cabin.

The fascia and dash are logically arranged and wherever you look it's all easy on the eye. Sitting in the Mazda6 you'd certainly think you were in a more expensive car and it has that 'built to last' feel that bodes well for those expecting to hang on to their new car for longer the more palatable alternative to downsizing. No problems with that scenario either because it's a very easy car to live with, either as a driver or as a family passenger.

Nice touches that make the '6' an easy-going everyday companion include feel-good switchgear, an auto-dim rear-view mirror that you can turn on and off, sliding front centre armrest, a decent amount of cabin storage space, anilluminated ignition switch that's easy to find at night, very efficient dial 'n' forget climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim that's just the right size and is satisfying to grip when driving briskly and equally good to hold when you're just cruisin'.

The mid-range TS2's 'kit list' is pretty good, too cruise control, multifunction steering wheel (audio, cruise and phone), electric windows (all one-shot auto up/down), powerfold heated mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, dual-zone climate control, CD player with 6xCD dash-mounted changer, integrated Bluetooth, MP3 functionality, auto 'lites 'n' wipes', front and rear parking sensors, trip computer with speed alarm, daytime-running lights, Hill Hold Assist, 17-inch alloys and front fog lights are all included in the price.

And, backed by a EuroNCAP five-star safety rating, there are front, front-side and full-length curtain bags, height-adjustable front seatbelts and a dynamic stability control and traction control system.

Power comes from a 2.2-litre turbodiesel that serves up 266lb ft of torque at 1,800rpm and 160bhp. While pokey and responsive when you need it, it's also refined and, even better, genuinely real-world economical. During a full week with MotorBar, our six-speed manual Mazda6 managed an easy 44.5mpg with many of our test miles racked up in town so expect to do better. Good news for motorway drivers is that, going by its official combined cycle figure of 52.3mpg (62.8mpg extra-urban), it's capable of over 700 miles on a single tank of diesel.

“Although the ‘6’ estate
is not a small car,
visibility is good and
placing it easy.
Body movements are well
controlled, particularly
through tight corners
even when you’re
pressing on some,
making it a satisfying car
to drive briskly
...”
On the open road the diesel pulls keenly and enthusiastically whenever it's asked for more. The six-speed manual 'box is no hardship thanks to a polished change action the gates are quite close so you need to be precise but it's never a problem. At motorway speeds it makes for quiet, relaxing cruising.

The electric power steering is accurate; light enough to make town driving tireless but more than able, away from the congestion, for the driver to make good use of the peppy diesel and grippy handling although the '6' estate is not a small car, visibility is good and placing it is easy. Body movements are well controlled, particularly through tight corners even when you're pressing on some, making it a satisfying car to drive briskly.

And it rides well, too, the suspension doing a decent job of smoothing out our imperfect and potholed British blacktop with the restful seats doing their bit to enhance the ride comfort. Brakes are reassuring and, should you need it, there's a confident note to the horn.

Behind the rear passengers is a cavernous, well thought-out boot. On lifting the tailgate (it opens high and is definitely of the head-friendly variety), the first handy feature you'll find is a really useful and easy to use luggage blind: attached to the tailgate, it opens as the tailgate rises so you can load the boot with no extra fiddling. And should you need to remove it for tall loads there's none of the usual head-scratching as to where to put it in the Mazda6 estate it stows sensibly away beneath the floor.

For the record, the maximised load capacity is bigger than that of most of its rivals: with the back seats in use, Mazda's load-lugger has 519 litres of space for luggage; down, there's 1,751 litres of load space and room enough for items as long as 1,926mm.

Another neat touch is that the rear seats can be folded down by pulling on a lever in the boot. As they spring forwards, the seat bases automatically lower to create a completely level loadbay floor. You'll also find a good-sized, multi-section storage compartment beneath the boot floor for any overspill. A low loading lip adds to its fitness of purpose.

For 22K (22,480 to be precise), Mazda's '6' is a lot of smart-looking estate. It's practical, you can pack in a lot and it comes well-packed with kit, particularly safety items such as stability and traction control and airbags. It's also pleasant to drive and provides stylish and practical family transport. That's a whole load of 'plusses' and in all they add up to more than six. — MotorBar

Mazda Mazda6 2.2D Estate TS2 | 22,480
Maximum speed: 131mph | 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 44.5mpg
Power: 160bhp | Torque: 266lb ft | CO2 143g/km