In a break from our regular road test format, the Motors.co.uk video team has been out at the Frankfurt motor show, and went there in the new Mazda 6. Here Jon Reay details his journey and his impressions of this new saloon, which is taking the fight to the once dominant Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat.
As any journalist who’s ever tried will attest, getting to any of Western Europe’s annual motor shows is often beyond a nightmare. Hotel rooms are booked up months in advance, flights are packed and ticket price tags so large that even multi-million pound car manufacturers start thinking twice about the trip.
With the Frankfurt ‘show looming and no help in sight, Mazda came to the rescue of the Motors team this year – handing us the keys to a shiny new 6 saloon, and telling us to get a move on before they changed their minds. 1,000 miles later, here’s what we have to report on the new Mazda.
I’ll be honest, the thought of 500 miles of driving in one day wasn’t a happy one. Planning out our route (read: sticking ‘Frankfurt’ in the sat nav and hoping for the best), head of video Nige and I could see nine hours of back-ache and traffic hell on the horizon. A few hours into our trip, though, things weren’t looking quite so bad.
For starters, loading up the 6 was a doddle. Even with two suitcases, three cameras, two tripods, countless lenses and other bits and pieces, everything slotted into the hugely spacious boot with ease. Practicality: check.
With the contents of an entire branch of Jessops loaded up, it wasn’t long before we made it to our first stop: not-so-sunny Folkestone for Channel Tunnel boarding.
The 35-minute crossing gave us time to have a play with the Mazda's kit, and on our top of the range ‘Sport’ model you’re certainly not left wanting.
There’s an integrated TomTom sat nav with (thankfully) European mapping, a Bose stereo with Bluetooth iPod integration, along with a handy reversing camera and parking sensors that made driving onto the deceptively narrow train a doddle.
Hitting a decidedly dreary northern France, the auto wipers and lights kicked in, and the standard-fit cruise control soon became useful on the ruler-straight roads.
It was here that the 6’s cruising ability really became apparent. Our car was the 170bhp 2.2 diesel, fitted with a smooth and silky automatic gearbox – and even at around 80mph (French autoroute speeds, your honour) it’s almost silent. Refinement: check.
Many, many hours and hundreds of French, Belgian and German miles later and we finally arrived in Frankfurt. After a few arguments with the sat nav for being a little slow to react, we’d managed to find our hotel on the inbuilt points of interest, and before we knew it we were parked up and ready for the bar. More importantly though, we’d been in the 6 for nearly ten hours and hadn’t an ache or pain to show for it. Comfort: check.
After two days of carting camera gear on our backs around what seemed like 300 miles of exhibitions, the Mazda’s seats were nothing short of heaven for our return trip. That is, once we’d actually found them.
As it turns out, our parking for the second day of the show wasn’t in a multi-storey, but in an M.C Escher drawing. The third floor was also the first, the ground floor wasn’t actually on the ground, up was down and black was white.
Half an hour of searching later – joined by at least 20 other lost journalists from countries far and wide – Nige eventually located the mighty Mazda and we were on our way, now running painfully late.
Happily, that meant we had an excuse to get our foot down, and the 6 didn’t disappoint. We cracked nearly 130mph on an empty stretch of autobahn and, a considerable amount of wind noise aside, the car felt perfectly happy. Performance: check.
A late-night channel crossing beckoned, and after a quick fill-up we worked out that the 6 had burned through the diesel at a rate of 45mpg – not bad at all, given the speeds we blasted through Germany at. Economy: check.
Piling onto the train, and heading for Blighty, we had a little reflect on how the 6 had coped. Plastered in dirt on the outside, and peppered with Haribo and German pretzel crumbs within, we hadn’t been the kindest curators to the now rather unloved-looking saloon.
Still, with just shy of 1,000 miles on the clock it more than proved its worth. Would we choose it again over a flight? Undoubtedly.
Mazda 6 Saloon 2.2D 175PS Sport Automatic
Engine: 2.2-litre, turbocharged diesel
Top speed: 134mph
0-60: 8.4 seconds
Fuel economy: 47.1mpg (urban), 67.3mpg (extra urban), 58.9mpg (combined)
Euro NCAP rating: Five stars
Check out our video of the all new Mazda 3 hatchback, unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show, below.