Mazda makes more of

petrol power

Mazda6, front static 2
Mazda6, front static
Mazda6, dashboard
Mazda6, front action
Mazda6, front action 2
Mazda6, side action
Mazda6, rear action
Mazda6, rear seats
Mazda6, front seats
Mazda6, dash detail
Mazda6, dash detail 2
Mazda6, boot

AS the car world moves swiftly towards SUVs and away from diesels Mazda has updated its large saloon and estate range - and swears there's a future for diesels.

And you can see why. Until the arrival of Mazda's very own SUVs a year or two back the Mazda6 saloon and estates were the company's strongest sellers in the UK.

As for diesel, sales of new diesel cars in general may be down a worrying 25 per cent this year but Mazda still reckons more than half the buyers of this latest range will head for the smelly pumps at refuelling time.

So this new refreshed 6 has a mildly revamped pair of 2.2-litre diesels on offer, one with a bit more power than previously, and a 2.5-litre petrol engine joins the line up for the first time, alongside the existing pair of 2.0-litre petrol units.

All of them now power a car that looks a little sharper inside and out than before, starting with a bolder radiator grille making an already handsome car look mildly more menacing in the rear view mirror of the car ahead.

Mazda was early with the special vibrant red paint finish that's taking over the automotive colour palette from grey and silver and in a new £800 optional take on the theme - called Soul Red Crystal this time - the 6 looks a stunner.

Prices now start at £23,195 for a petrol 2.0-litre SE-L Nav+ in saloon form or another £800 for the roomy Tourer estate. It's a £3,200 price hike over the previous entry level Mazda6 but reflects more standard kit than before to soften the blow.

For instance, every new Mazda6 has a head up display projecting speed, speed limit and sat nav turn instructions on the windscreen and there's a forward facing camera to detect pedestrians ahead and put the brakes on if you don't. There's also intelligent cruise control on every one of the newcomers, keeping you a safe distance from the car in front.

Under the bonnet the larger of the two diesel engines has power increased from 172bhp to 181bhp while both it and the carried over (and more popular) 148bhp diesel both have exhaust fluid injection to cut emissions.

Subtle but thorough changes to the suspension are aimed at making the ride more comfortable and the handling a little sharper, while there's more sound insulation throughout the car to quieten the interior.

Once inside this refreshed model you'll notice front seats made more comfortable by reshaping them and changing the padding and a dashboard made to look more upmarket with a larger (eight inch) centre display screen and there's new wood to finish the instrument panel and door trim.

No change to the size of boot, which remains a useful 480 litres for the saloon and 522 on the estate, with a generous 1,664 if you fold down the rear seats.

Sadly, there weren't any diesels to drive on the launch of these latest cars so it was a petrol only exercise, starting with the new 2.5 litre model. It uses an engine already familiar to Mazda drivers in the States, but new to our shores and added to the range to swell the non-diesel choice.

Mated as standard to an automatic gearbox, it cost £30,795 as the saloon or £31,695 as an estate and is dripping with kit, from a 360 degree camera view on its dash screen, adaptive LED headlights, 19ins alloys and seats heated front and rear and cooled in the front.

Over a mixed route of Cotswolds' roads the 2.5-litre car returned 39.6mpg (42.6mpg in the new official test) thanks in part to the way it cuts out two of the engine's four cylinders under light load at moderate speed.

It never felt especially brisk, with a 138mph top speed and 8.1 second time to 62mph. It's more of a cruiser, especially as the engine turns a little rowdy when pushed.

Better to drive was the less powerful 2.0-litre 163bhp petrol engined version with a lovely six-speed manual gearbox. It was quieter than its more powerful sibling and, mysteriously, also rode the bumps better despite rolling on the same-sized wheels.

Better still was the 51.2mpg shown after a longish drive, mostly behind other vehicles obviously in no hurry at all. Frustrating, but very good for the pocket - and a generous improvement on the official 44.1mpg.

Even so, previous experience of this Mazda's diesel engines means they are almost certainly the pick of the bunch.

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