Mazda6. REVIEW. Dubai, UAE. Zoom zoom

The new Mazda6 is here. And it’s really good.

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As a final farewell to my native UK before I moved to Dubai, I went on a road trip across Europe with a friend of mine. Our transport? A second-generation Mazda6. It was an easy choice – it was frugal on fuel while still being peppy to drive, had plenty of space inside and looked good. Aside from a puncture in northern France, it served us very well.

And now, five years later, I’m getting back into the Mazda6. Except this time it’s the all-new third generation car, with a striking new design, new engines and bags of technology. Mazda is taking the battle straight to the door of Toyota, Nissan and Honda, aiming to offer an alternative to the ubiquitous Camrys, Altimas and Accords of the Middle East. With prices starting at $20,420 for the base-spec 2.0-litre S saloon, and rising to $29,950 for the top-spec 2.5 R that we have today, it sits right in the midst of its rivals. In the UAE, Mazda also offers the Wagon version of the 6, but only in base spec with the 2-litre engine.

Looks-wise, the Mazda is an instant winner in the eyes of this reviewer. The rivals look slicker in their current iterations than they ever have done before, but the new 6 is a genuine looker. It takes inspiration from two of Mazda’s recent concept cars – the Shinari and the Takeri – and is full of unusual lines. From the front, a prominent nose sits between two frowning headlights to create a look of menace, while at the back there’s an air of BMW to the 6. Except, it looks better than a BMW. And it’s considerably cheaper. This top-of-the-range model sits on 19-inch alloys and, even before you consider the sub-$30,000 price tag, looks really rather stylish.

Things are more sober inside, and more reminiscent of the previous generation 6, especially in the simplistic design of the steering wheel. But it’s still a tidy and well-built environment, if lacking the flair of the exterior. The seats adjust nice and low and provide a great amount of support. Kit-wise, this top-spec R saloon contains leather upholstery, an 11-speaker Bose sound system and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The infotainment screen is small by today’s standards, but the presence of adaptive cruise control – a technology just a few years ago confined to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class – is a major plus. None of Mazda’s Japanese rivals offer this.

Nor do they offer the driving enjoyment of the Mazda. Under the bonnet is a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine with 182bhp, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. That’s enough to zip along well, with 100kph coming up in around about seven seconds.

I’m the first person to howl with fiery rage when Mazda’s infuriating Zoom-Zoom song comes on the TV, or at press events, but I can’t deny that this overarching desire to make cars fun has had some impact on the 6. Where its rivals are comfortable, they’re not particularly engaging to drive. While the 6 is no sports car, it feels tauter and more eager than any other cars in the segment when you’re on the road. With peak torque not arriving until 3250rpm, and peak power coming in at 5700rpm, the engine rewards working the gearbox through the wheel-mounted paddles. It’s more sedate in auto mode though, without a wave of torque to ride upon, but the gear changes are suitably slick and non-intrusive. It’s also a nice change from the CVTs offered in some of the rivals. They were brought in to improve fuel consumption, but with that not being an issue in the Middle East – financially at least – we’re more than happy to see proper cogs in the Mazda.

The handling and steering are key to the 6’s agility. There’s good feel and heft through the wheel and the front end reacts positively to inputs. Each corner of the 6 resists roll through the bends and the composure of the Mazda when changing direction is admirable considering the segment in which it sits. There’s genuine driving enjoyment to be had here. Can you say that about the other cars we’ve discussed? Certainly not to the same extent.

Mazda has put together a really great car with the 6. It’s as near as makes no difference to its rivals in terms of comfort and practicality, but it noses ahead on the crankandpistometer by feeling like the engineers care about your fun levels. We like it a lot.

Mazda6 2.5 R
Engine: Inline 4-cyl / 2488cc
Location: Front / Transverse
Power: 182bhp @ 5700rpm
Torque: 185lb ft @ 3250rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic / front-wheel drive
Front suspension: MacPherson struts / coil springs / anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: Multi-link / coil springs / anti-roll bar
Brakes: Ventilated discs front, solid discs rear / 297mm front / 277mm rear / ABS / EBD / Brake Assist
Wheels: 19in front and rear
Tyres: 225/55 R19 front and rear
Weight (kerb) 1466kg
Power-to-weight: 124bhp/ton
0-100kph: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Price as tested: $29,950

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