David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Updated, petrol powered and with good looks, find out what tow car ability the Mazda 6 has as our towing expert puts it through its paces on road and track

Overview

Mazda has given the 6 family car a facelift. On the outside, only high-spec SportNav models look different, but inside there are advances to fit, finish and kit levels. The petrol models undercut the equivalent diesels and this 165PS (163bhp) version is the more powerful of the two.

Of course, we are keen to see what tow car ability the 6 petrol has. Is it strong enough for towing duties, with fuel economy to make buyers think twice before opting for diesel power?

Towing

Many manufacturers are pushing the benefits of small-capacity engines with turbocharging to make petrol power more efficient. Mazda takes a different approach, sticking with a relatively large capacity with no turbo.

It makes for an engine with good top-end power, but modest torque. Whereas the 1.5 turbo petrol in the new Ford Mondeo has 177lb ft of torque from just 1500rpm, the Mazda has 155lb ft from 4000rpm.

Make use of the Mazda’s top-end power, though, and it pulls a van along at a fair old lick. The 6 towed a 2015 Sterling Eccles Sport 514 with a Mass in Runing Order of 1236kg from 30-60mph in 13.5 seconds. However, stay in a high gear and expect torque to do the work and the Mazda struggles. It took 23 seconds to go from 50-60mph in fifth gear.

You can work around this by using the gearbox often, keeping the revs high and making good use of the engine’s strong top-end. Over a long journey, though, it’s a more tiring way to drive.

The Mazda’s kerbweight of 1470kg gives an 85% match figure of 1250kg. The legal towing limit is 1500kg, although we wouldn’t recommend towing more than 100% of the kerbweight, even if you are an experienced tow car driver.

Once up to speed the Mazda 6 stays steady with little driver input. Even in crosswinds it keeps the van under control. In an emergency lane-change test the 6 gripped well. When pushed hard there’s a bit of body roll, but the caravan was kept in check.

In the hill-start test the electronic parking brake (a spec addition to the latest car) held car and van still on the 1-in-10 slope and released smoothly, but it took a balance of clutch and throttle to pull to the top of the gradient.

The 6 is a capable tow car, but you have to work the engine and gearbox hard.

Everyday driving

Mazda has added more sound-deadening and retuned the 6’s suspension to make it more refined and comfortable.

It’s now a quieter car at speed, although there’s still a lot of road noise over coarse surfaces. The trouble is, standards in the family-car class keep improving and to our ears the new Ford Mondeo and VW Passat are both quieter than the 6. However, it’s a better motorway cruiser than before.

Ride comfort has improved, especially on cars with 17-inch alloys. However, SportNav cars have 19-inch alloys. They really set off the Mazda’s good looks, but their rubber-band tyre profile gives the suspension more work to do. Again, we’d rate the Mondeo and Passat above the 6 for ride comfort.

Keen drivers may not welcome the lighter feel to the steering, but it makes the car easier to manoeuvre at low speeds, and the 6 is still good fun to drive.

Space

The Mazda 6’s cabin has gained a seven-inch touchscreen, better-finished plastics and a tidier dashboard.

Those travelling in the front have ample space, and there’s enough legroom in the back for tall adults to travel in comfort. However, there’s an inch or so less legroom than in the new Passat, and an even bigger deficit compared with the Škoda Superb.

Mazda doesn’t sell a 6 hatchback, so buyers have a choice of the saloon tested here or the estate. The saloon has a usefully large 489-litre boot. If more space is needed the rear seats fold flat, but this leaves a slight slope to the floor.

Running costs

Mazda is generous with standard kit, even on its more basic cars. Go for a high-spec model like the SportNav we tested and you can expect plenty of comfort and high-tech driver aids, including dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, leather upholstery and heated seats.

That’s more than fair for £24,595, and What Car?’s researchers reckon you can save £1500 or so from that if you haggle. Fuel economy is impressive for a petrol, returning 47.9mpg on the combined cycle. We managed 26.4mpg when towing.

Technical specs

Engine size1998 cc
Kerbweight1470 kg
85% KW1250 kg
Towball limit75 kg
Maximum towing limit1500 kg
Power163.0 bhp
Torque155.0 lb ft
Official MPG47.9 mpg
CO2135 g/km
30-60mph13.5 seconds
30-0mph10.9 m

Verdict

So, come the end of our rigorous Mazda 6 review, what tow car potential do we think this car has – could it be the perfect companion on your caravan holidays?

The 6 was already a good car, and the changes have improved it. A little of its sporty personality has been lost, but it’s now better finished and more comfortable.

This petrol model makes a decent fist of towing, but you have to work the engine hard. However, the 6 compensates with impressive stability.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It's a strong tow car
  • The standard kit list is impressive
  • The 6 has a good-sized boot

Cons

  • The engine and gearbox need to be worked hard when towing
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