If you’re feeling a little confused, don’t worry. Only last year the Mazda 6 received some styling and chassis changes to bring it up to date, but now, for 2016 (or the 2017 model year), there are yet more revisions to keep it relevant. The changes apply to both the saloon and the Tourer we’re driving here, although, visually, from the outside, there have been no changes at all. Inside, the dimensions of both models remain exactly the same as before, too, but there have been material upgrades and a more generous level of standard equipment has been applied to the higher SE-L Navand Sport Nav trims. The city braking technology now recognises pedestrians, too.
All 6s now come with something called G-Vectoring Control, or GVC. Not to be confused with torque vectoring, GVC doesn’t brake the wheels. Instead, the engine senses steering inputs when turning in to corners and very slightly reduces its torque output, which in turn shifts the weight forward slightly and aids front tyre effectiveness. However, its benefits extend beyond that, also providing greater high-speed stability and increasing driver and passenger comfort. GVC has been designed to be imperceptible, which is lucky, because we couldn’t detect a thing. Apparently, we’re talking about differences of 0.01-0.05g when entering corners. It isn’t intended to make the car handle better on the limit, just to make the process of cornering easier and more stable.
Either way, the 6 remains one of the better-handling cars in the class, benefiting from quite light but linear, precise steering and an eagerness to turn that’s not always demonstrated by its rivals. It also takes a lot for the front wheels to begin to protest and give up grip and, for what is quite a large car, its body stays propped up nicely. Ultimately, a Ford Mondeo Estate is more rounded, but the 6 isn’t far behind. The lesser 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel seems to make the most sense.
Work has been done to reduce lag and improve torque delivery, and it’s happy to pull from 1800rpm and doesn’t suffer from an overly narrow powerband. In an effort to improve refinement, the pistons have been revised and the injector timing has been fiddled with. There are also upgraded door seals and sound-deadening materials throughout, and the results are obvious: the engine is smoother and quieter under load than before, although it’s still not class-leading in this respect, even if the fluid feel of its manual gearbox just might be.
The ride is commendable, too. Our test car had 17in alloy wheels, which picked up on some of the sharper ruts of our Spanish test route but got better with speed. We also tried 19in wheels, which add more fidget without much dynamic gain, so we’d say the 17s are the way to go. With no dimension changes of which to speak, interior space remains very good in the front, with the driver benefiting from the same good seat and wheel adjustment. Two adults can sit comfortably in the rear, although a Skoda Superb Estate does a better job of that, and the Tourer’s 522-litre boot has the low loading lip, flat floor and levers to fold the rear seatbacks that you’d expect but not the Skoda’s outright space.
All 6s now come with upgraded interior trims. Together with Mazda’s continued competence at creating slick, substantial switchgear and one of the class’s best infotainment systems for ease of use, this makes the 6’s cabin an even nicer place in which to spend time than it was before. The facelift is a light one, and although much has been made about the new GVC technology, there’s very little difference between this and the previous car. The diesels are certainly more refined and the cabin is also now slightly more upmarket, while Mazda isn’t charging a penny more than it did for the old car. It’s a better car than before, then, and offers a more stylish approach than many of its estate rivals. The fact remains, though, that it still isn’t the best. A Mondeo Estate is even better to drive and a Superb Estate manages to be classier, more spacious, more practical, similarly refined and good to drive for less money.