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Virtual Adviser's™ opinion
Two significantly similar cars, no doubt about that. Still, each one has something different to offer. Having both cars powered by diesel engines and utilizing the 4-door sedan body style within the same 'Large family car' segment, the only major difference here really is their wheel drive configuration (rear for the BMW and front in the case of the Mazda). The first one has a BMW-engineered powertrain under the hood, a 4-cylinder, 16-valves 143hp unit, while the other one gets its power and torque from a 4-cylinder, 16-valves 143hp engine designed by Mazda.Safety
The first thing to look into here would be the results from European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) tests performed on the two cars. Good thing is that both vehicles got tested, with the BMW being a slightly better choice apparently. Still, apart from the official crash test results there are other things we need to be aware of. Both vehicles belong to the large family car segment, which is generally a good thing safety-wise, but it doesn't do much to help us decide between the two. On the other hand, taking kerb weight as an important factor into account, the Japanese car offers a marginal difference of 1% more metal.Reliability
I don't like generalizing things when it comes to reliability, although it does seem that Mazda as a brand displays somewhat better results, when all the models are taken into account. That's the official data, while our visitors describe reliability of BMW with an average rating of 4.3, and models under the Mazda badge with 4.5 out of 5. Some independent research have also placed 3 Series as average reliability-wise, and 6 is more or less at the same level.Above it all, drivers of cars with the same engine as the German car rank it on average as 4.3, while the one under the competitor's bonnet gets 4.1 out of 5.Performance & Fuel economy
BMW is a bit more agile, reaching 100km/h in 0.2 seconds less than its competitor. In addition to that it accelerates all the way to 210 kilometers per hour, 5km/h more than the other car. When it comes to fuel economy the winner has to be the German car, averaging around 4.7 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (60 mpg), in combined cycle. We can't ignore that 28% difference compared to the Japanese car.
Mazda appears just a bit more reliable, although the difference is truly marginal. The most important thing when deciding between any two vehicles should always be safety, both passive and active. In my opinion, everything taken into account, the German car offers slightly better overall protection and takes the lead. It all continues in the same direction, with BMW offering somewhat better performance, just enough to call it quicker. To make things even better, it consumps less fuel! All together, there's not much more to say, in this case I wouldn't even consider anything but BMW. In any case that's my personal view, built upon all the data available to me. What should decide here though is the way you feel about the two vehicles, and I hope you'll find my guidelines useful in the process. Also, you could use the oportunity to find out which car, everything taken into account, would be the perfect choice for you in the eyes of the virtual adviser™, among thousands of similar, yet so different vehicles.