THE inexorable rise of the SUV has not come without consequence for the UK’s new car scene.
It’s something that Japanese manufacturer Mazda appreciates better than most.
Between 2006 and 2010 the stylish, spacious Mazda6 family car was the company’s top selling model.
That’s not the case in 2018 and Mazda has taken steps to ensure that the admirable ‘Six’ isn’t written off as a relic of the past.
In fact it’s anything but a has-been – upgraded, given more punch, some added style and a flashy new overcoat to make it look more stylish than ever.
Car makers can’t seem to agree over which power source in which to direct their resources at the moment – some favour hybrid, others EV, some petrol.
One thing’s certain with Mazda, the brand is fully committed to the internal combustion engine.
And while sales of diesel engines are down by fully a quarter so far this year, Mazda remains convinced that their oil burners are, and will continue, to be clean and lean.
So the latest Mazda6 line-up includes a pair of reworked 2.2-litre diesels with output boosted from 175 to 184PS along with the current 2.0-litre petrol engines.
Making its debut for Mazda in the UK though is the company’s SKYACTIV-G 2.5-litre petrol engine featuring cylinder deactivation, whereby two of the four cylinders shut down at moderate speeds to improve fuel economy.
Priced from £23,195 to £33,585 the combined Saloon and Tourer range features 25 models across four trim levels: SE-L Nav+, SE-L LUX Nav+, Sport Nav+ and GT Sport Nav+.
Design changes see the newcomer adopt a new-look front end focused around a new grille, which has the mesh positioned deeper within the surround to create a more muscular face. It works really well too, giving the car a more distinguished appeal.
The car’s LED headlamps have been revised and the lower bumper features a sleeker profile, while both body styles get a cleaner rear bumper design with more body coloured areas.
That’s in addition to new-look alloy wheels and the arrival of Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, which thanks to Mazda’s three-layer Takuminuri painting technology increases brightness by around 20 per cent and depth by 50 per cent.
It looks stunning but will set you back an extra £800 for the privilege.
Inside there’s a larger eight-inch centre display screen plus a colour windscreen projected Active Driving Display and both the dash and door trim designs have been restyled.
With an increase in safety equipment across the range, all models now feature advanced i-Activesense technology including Blind Spot Monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and Advanced Smart City Brake Support.
Mazda’s driving exercise from the Cotswolds into South Wales and back via the Severn Bridge took in some spectacular scenery and roads to really challenge both car and driver.
The new 2.5-litre petrol engine is paired exclusively with a six-speed automatic gearbox and works well in both Saloon and Tourer, though our average return in the former was just over 25 miles per gallon compared to the official Combined figure of 42.2mpg.
In range-topping GT Sport Nav+ trim and in the new Soul Red Crystal paint, it was comfortable, beautifully appointed, strong – 0-62 in 8.1 seconds – and a refined car to drive.
The outward journey was in a top spec Tourer model with the 2.0-litre 165PS petrol unit, an engine that performed smoothly on faster roads and the motorway.
Parts of the test drive though featured quite steep uphill sections and on these the Six felt a bit breathless at times, raising concern as to how it would cope in similar conditions with five people and boot full of luggage aboard.
It led us to feel that in this model at least, diesel may well be the answer.