Fleet News Awards: Best upper medium car - Mazda6
It’s 11 years since the original Mazda6 helped transform perceptions of the Mazda brand in the UK.
The range had become, with one exception (the MX-5), a collection of worthy-but-mostly-dull traditional sector cars that were never anywhere near as good as the best in class and certainly weren’t desirable.
The Mazda6 of 2002 set the tone for an entire range refresh that would revitalise the appeal of the brand; it majored on driver appeal, value and styling in that order.
At the time, Mazda was tethered to Ford (which was a major shareholder in the company), and although the Mazda6 had little in common with European Ford products, the Mazda2 and Mazda3 that followed were heavily reliant on shared technology.
But as challenging economic times saw Ford divest itself of some of its interests in other brands, Mazda would soon be left to go it alone while rivals were increasing investment in hybrid technology as well as cleaner petrol and diesel engines.
Although Mazda revised the Mazda6 in 2007 (as well as the Mazda3 a couple of years later), these were not all-new models and were merely eking extra life from these still-competent cars as the company focused investment on its new big project: Skyactiv.
The name is given to the all-encompassing fuel-saving technology behind Mazda’s sixth-generation products, which started with the CX-5 in 2012 (which was highly commended for Best Crossover in the 2013 Fleet News Awards) and continued with the 2013 Mazda6, launched in the UK in January.
It includes a focus on reducing weight in the structure and powertrain, as well an starting with a clean sheet of paper for both petrol and diesel engines to ensure conventional technology is as efficient as possible before exploring hybrid and other technology.
Mazda’s head of fleet, Steve Tomlinson, has been in the job for around a year, and says effective communication is key to ensuring customers understand the benefits of the technology involved in Skyactiv.