You’d be forgiven for thinking that the family saloon shootout is a straight battle between that experienced gunslinger, the Ford Mondeo, and the new kid in town, the impressive Vauxhall Insignia. But waiting in the background is the Mazda 6 – and it’s seriously annoyed about all the attention the other two are getting. And so it should be because, as we are about to find out, even in detuned 123bhp form, its 2.2-litre diesel is a very serious prospect indeed.
So, is the Mazda 6 the tooled-up Samurai to take on the Vauxhall and Ford?
The answer is yes – not least because Mazda’s versatile 2.2-litre diesel engine is a star across all three of its power options. We’ve already highlighted the qualities of the 161bhp and 183bhp specs on launch, and here we get to run the rule over the opposite end of the spectrum. But don’t let 123bhp your judgement – this is an engine that feels like its has far more low down torque and sackloads more power than figures suggest, and it spins up through the revs with alacrity.
We notice the fuel economy figures are a nice little number…
Yep. At 147g/km of CO2, it’s inside the 150g/km CO2 band that triggers a road tax payment of £145 or above. Some technological innovations including a new particulate filter means that this is a significant improvement on the equivalent engine – a 2.0-litre 119bhp diesel – that was in the previous Mazda 6 incarnation. In other words, this engine is cleaner, quicker and cheaper to run than before.
A Mondeo rival, then. Hold on, don’t Ford own Mazda?
Until recently Ford had a controlling stake, but the company announced in late 2008 that it was selling 20%, reducing its overall stake to around 13%. We suspect that means Mazda will no longer be guilty of biting the hand that feeds it, if the 6 sells as many as it should do. They haven’t even had to resort to using the latest incarnation of the Ford-PSA developed common rail diesels, as seen in the Mondeo 2.2 TDCi, Citröen C5 2.2 HDi and Peugeot 407 2.2 HDi. This is an all-new alloy block that’s versatile and quiet.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Mazda 6 2.2D first drive
But can it match the famed Blue Oval ability to create a driver’s car?
It comes very, very close. Steering is precise and light and even in base-engine spec it isn’t found wanting on motorways. A 0-62mph of 10.6 seconds won’t have your eyeballs out on stalks, Roadrunner-style, but with peak torque of 229lb ft @ 1800-2600rpm, there’s plenty of shove.
The Mondeo and, especially, the Insignia have earned plaudits for their elegant design, but the Mazda 6’s sharp, angular, very Japanese creases – rather Honda Accord-like in fact – may jar with some. And even before this new diesel was introduced, the 6 has been proving popular. If you need any further encouragement, car info experts CAP say it should return a residual value of 38% after three years – higher in comparison to D-sector rivals like the Avensis, Accord or even the Insignia.
At a shade under £16,000, the Mazda 6 2.2D has got a lot going for it and plenty to worry the class leader (Ford Mondeo) and the 2008 Car Of The Year (Vauxhall Insignia). The engine is the star, even in this most basic spec, but it’s part of all-round package which you can add striking design and good driveability to. Oh, and a certain high-waisted jean-wearing, bubble-haired BBC car presenter dislikes this car a lot. Which many would see as another reason to highly recommend it.
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