After two years leading popularity stakes, the 2005 Mazda 6 is getting a well-earned, rather than much-needed facelift
It'll take a keen eye to spot the differences between the outgoing model and the new version, but look for the sleeker headlamps with new chrome bezels, a flatter and more recessed grill and a modified rear bumper to accommodate attractive twin exhausts on all models.
Chrome tail lamp bodies have also given way to darker tinted chrome.
Changes to the interior have modernized the cabin with refreshing metallic treatments. Mazda also make a visual feature of the audio system, which is finished in 'Piano Black'. All controls fell to hand easily and were child's play to use. Disappointingly Mazda has not yet adopted split-level climate control; however that was the only gripe with the specification of the otherwise very stylish and practical interior.
On long drives the seating offers good thigh and lateral support. The driver's seat is height adjustable providing easier entry and egress for the less nimble among us.
The rear seating provided liberal space for three adults and features a brilliant 'one touch' fold down design in the hatch and wagon versions.
By simply activating the lever in the luggage area the seat backs fold forward and at the same time the squab base moves forward and down into the foot well to provide a flat load floor from behind the back of the front seats.
The original 2.0 litre and 2.3 litre engine options remain, the 2.0 litre now adopting the variable intake system we saw previously only on the 2.3 which has resulted in a flatter, more consistent torque curve for the smaller choice of engine. There has also been a 4kW gain in power for the 2.0 litre now generating 108kW @ 6500rpm, No increase for the 2.3 litre however which retains122kW @ 6500rpm.
The 2.3 litre we tested provided more spirited performance on the open road than the urban arena, accelerating well in the 70-100km zone and producing a throaty exhaust note.
Balance shafts have also been added to the 2.3 litre engine to further reduce engine vibration; balance shafts are not required for the 2.0 litre as it has a shorter stroke. Mazda have incorporated a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmissions. On the 6-speed, top gear retains the same ratio as the original 5-speed box.
Refinements to both chassis rigidity and suspension have paid off with noticeable increases in stability and precision.
Handling is like a more expensive European vehicle maintaining composure through bends with sporty enthusiasm. Bumps and potholes are relatively unnoticed, thanks to new bushing and the utilisation of Multi-link double wishbone suspension.
Chassis and Passenger cell rigidity aside, there have been no enhancements to safety and we find it disappointing the new Mazda 6 is not available with an Electronic Stability Program, which would only strengthen the vehicle's safety.
Mazda has made numerous improvements to what was an already praiseworthy car, seemingly to continue the ongoing battle with Honda's Accord Euro in the private, mid size car market.