Back in 2013, when I drove the then all-new Mazda 6 here in the UAE, it didn’t take me long to realise that it was going to be a game-changer in the D-segment. Although the big design update in 2009 had elevated the 6 into an infinitely better looking car than the previous versions, the 2013 car’s styling was nothing short of revolutionary in a category that had been weltering in a mire of dreariness. I believe if the other major players in this group look exciting today, buyers should be thankful to this Mazda for acting as a catalyst. It wasn’t just about looks either, with the slinky good looks effectively translating into an engaging driving experience too. It looked, felt and drove like a car from a loftier brand in a pricier segment. This passion to build cars and crossover SUVs that compete in a class above, at a price that is affordable stems from a set of guiding principles that the manufacturer calls “Mazda Premium.”

But in the five years that passed, the segment has changed considerably, with most of the other contenders improving the appearance, quality and performance of their offerings by leaps and bounds. The current iterations of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord are arguably the best ever in the long history of these nameplates. So it’s appropriate that Mazda has decided to give the 2019 6 a mid-cycle update to keep it fighting fit amidst this onslaught. The corporate grille still looks very much like the one seen in the Shinari concept long back, but has been given a tweak, now looking elegant and aggressive at once. A new variant of the brilliant trademark red hue has been added this year, dubbed the Soul Red Crystal that adds a distinctive metallic sheen to exterior, and foglamps, which used to be lower in the front bumper have now been integrated with the headlight unit.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The cabin has also been spruced up, the main changes being fully redesigned seats with high-density, vibration absorbing urethane foam and the cleaner, less cluttered dashboard design. It feels markedly more premium than before, and thanks to the improvements made in noise, vibration, and harshness insulation, the ride is more serene as well. A head-up display that projects essential information onto the windshield ahead of the driver is a welcome addition in this price point.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine remains the same, but although it feels livelier than the output figures of 185bhp and 250Nm suggest, Mazda really needs to bring in the turbocharged unit that it offers in other markets. This is more important now as rival manufacturers are offering more powerful engines as well as a wider choice of powerplants across trim levels. For example, the new Accord’s 2.0-litre turbo churns out 247 horsepower and 370Nm while the range-topping Toyota Camry is available with a 3.5-litre V6 that’s good for 298 horsepower and 356Nm. But viewed on its own, the Mazda 6’s four-pot is sprightly enough for a family car, with the six-speed automatic gearbox doing an excellent job as well. There’s no dearth of safety and convenience features in the 6, with even the entry level model now coming with dual zone AC, rear AC vents, rear parking sensors, and auto levelling LED headlamps while the top variant now comes with Radar Cruise Control with stop & go function that lets you set cruise from 0-30kph.

And for all that it offers, the 6 is priced right too, with the base ‘S’ Grade starting at Dh79,900, and the‘R’ Grade topping out at Dh114,900. Despite the relative power deficit in comparison to major rivals, the 6 still remains a compelling proposition in the D-segment.

 

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