The 6 is Mazda's fastest selling car worldwide in the company's history. As a replacement for the boring, utterly forgettable 626 it didn't have to do much to improve upon its predecessor's record, however complacency did not set in. Jazzy advertising promising MX-5 levels of satisfaction for once spoke true, because for driving pleasure the 6 beats the pants off its class rivals.
Much of Mazda's current line-up has its roots in Ford and the approved used Mazda 6 is no different, with Mondeo underpinnings. Its 2002 launch was greeted with applause and awards. A trio of petrol engines (1.8, 2.0 and 2.3 litres) were swiftly followed by a pair of 2.0 litre diesels, then an estate version, including a Sport4 all-wheel drive variant early in 2003.
The second hand Mazda 6 got a makeover in 2005 to the tune of a revamped front end, firmer bodyshell, lower emissions, more powerful engines and smarter interior trim. A 256bhp MPS edition was released in 2006, before a major overhaul in 2007. 1.8, 2.0 and 2.5 litre petrol engines and a 2.0 litre diesel came with trim levels S, TS, TS2 and Sport, the same as the first 6, with a choice of saloon, hatchback and estate body shapes. All pretty standard stuff, but in a great looking and dynamic package. 2009 saw Mazda say goodbye to the 2.0 litre diesel unit and replace it with three new 2.2 litre options at 123, 161 and 183bhp and a new, plush Sports Luxury trim level.
2010 brought some small improvements to styling and performance and engine tweaks to increase fuel economy, plus an updated 2.0 litre petrol engine.
Bang for your buck
Ford have splattered the Mondeo's DNA over the Mazda 6 for sale, all to the good, but the used Mazda 6 stands on its own two feet quite nicely. A sleek, modern and nicely roomy cabin boasts some individual touches, such as the three-spoke steering wheel, but the whole thing has an unmistakable, Japanese neatness.
The same applies to the exterior, a subtle melding of slick design and Eastern efficiency making a very attractive car indeed. The Sport version's 17 inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, Xenon headlights and metallic paint give it some extra masculinity but specs are pretty generous across the board. The entry-level S comes with a generous complement of twin front, side and roof airbags, anti-locking brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, air conditioning, electric heated door mirrors, a Thatcham category 1 alarm and 16-inch alloy wheels. Step up to the TS for a CD player with steering wheel controls, trip computer, climate and cruise controls and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Next is the TS2 with stability and traction control programmes, emergency brake assist, a quality BOSE stereo system with six-disc CD changer, sunroof and optional leather seats and satellite navigation.
What you'll pay
The used Mazda 6 for sale was tightly priced when new, reflected in some bargain used models. You can get an early entry level, 1.8 litre S for £3,000, with premiums of a few hundred per extra trim level. A 2.0 litre TS is closer to £4,000 and the funky, 2.3 litre Sport variant closer to £5,000. Second generation models start at about £9,000 for a 1.8 litre S with, again, a few hundred more for the TS. A posher TS2 2.0 litre pushes £11,000 and about the same for a TS estate. A 2.5 litre Sport is closer to £12,000 and the more desirable diesels are a bit more expensive across the board.
What to check
The famed Mazda reliability is in play here but the 6 does have a couple of weak spots. Early clutch wear has been noted, as has unreliable air conditioning. Test drive thoroughly and make sure you're getting an Arctic blast within about 30 seconds, that the mats are dry and interior trim isn't damaged. If you're looking at a 2.0 litre diesel being sold in an urban area, expect issues with the DPF particulate filter.
Here the used Mazda 6 deviates from its Ford stable mates, with a clutch assembly kit around £150, a radiator about £130, an alternator £250 and a starter motor pushing £200.
How it drives
On the road the 6 does the Mazda and Ford development teams proud. It's built to be driven well and thoroughly, with sharp steering, a stable chassis and a satisfyingly smooth gearbox. The smaller engines are perky and the larger ones punchy. A used Mazda 6 is a realistic contender for the best car in its class, certainly at this price range. You will struggle to find a smarter, better performing, more dynamic rival for the same money.