'I've got six years to return dodgy goods? I must have missed that one, I'd always worked on the principle that it was their problem for the first year and mine from then on, with very few exceptions.'
You've missed that one.
It's always been the case that the Sale of Goods Act has given protection over extended periods of time. The exact definition of durability depends on the item and its expected reasonable lifetime - so a prawn sandwich shouldn't last as long as a hammer.
Generally you are entitled to a replacement or a repair, but if a repair or replacement is too expensive, or not possible then you are entitled to a refund. In which case your rights to redress are dependent on a number of issues such as the amount of time the object worked perfectly before the fault occurred - if you got 5 years 364 days good service out of the hammer before it broke then you might be expected to settle for smaller amounts of compensation.
If the goods were faulty at the time of sale you can ask for your money back within a reasonable amount of time (the law does not specify 'reasonable' - but six months would be unusually long unless you can show you were working with the retailer or the manufacturer to resolve the issue until then).
For the first six months the retailer has to demonstrate that the goods were fit for purpose when sold - the presumption is that there was a defect and the customer is entitled to a refund. After six months, the burden of proof falls on the consumer who must show there is a problem.
And don't confuse your statutory rights (those given in law under SoGA and the Goods and Services Act etc.) with the manufacturer's warranty which is given in ADDITION to those protections.
As with all these things, if you're in any doubt about a contract and your rights under it - call your local trading standards office.