The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2014 Mazda6 First Drive Launch Review By Larry Nutson

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Mazda6

The All-new 2014 Mazda6
First drive road report

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

Last year when I first saw photos of the all-new Mazda6 in various on-line news releases I was immediately impressed and attracted by its refreshing new exterior design. The "Soul of Motion" KODO design language had been applied directly from the Takeri concept. I was really looking forward to seeing this car in person and especially on the road. The hills of west Texas just outside Austin provided the perfect mid-winter driving environment to experience the all-new 2014 Mazda6. The ancient live oaks and the undulating hills of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, which was originally established to protect the habitat of migratory birds, gave us the opportunity to put the Mazda6 through its paces…no snow, no rain, dry roads and temps in the mid-70s did it all.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The 2014 Mazda6 is built in Japan and will be sold in markets around the globe. First unveiled last year at the Moscow auto show, it has been shown in various venues around the world and is now on sale in the United States. Competing in the mid-size sedan segment with about 15 different entries priced in the $20,000 to $30,000 range the Mazda6 is a key volume contributor to the Mazda brand.

The Mazda6 is perhaps a redefinition of the modern sports sedan targeted at professional Gen-Y buyers and folks looking to move up from smaller sedans such as the Mazda3. Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Passat shoppers should be giving the Mazda6 a good look.

The 2014 Mazda6 is front-wheel drive, seats five, and is the first complete incorporation of Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology in the mid-size segment. Let me point out here that Mazda’s SKYACTIV suite of technology is an engineering philosophy that encompasses the engine, transmission, suspension, and chassis.

The full application of SKYACTIV first appeared with the new CX-5 and now on the all-new Mazda6. My overview on SKYACTIV can be found here on Noteworthy is that Mazda’s highly-efficient SKYACTIV technology has just been named Green Car Journal's 2013 Green Car Technology Award winner at the Washington Auto Show.

Powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.5-Liter, 184HP DOHC 4-cylinder engine, coupled to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, the Mazda6 is offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models. Prices start at $20,880 for the Sport with MT and run up to $29,495 for the Grand Touring with automatic. The Touring is forecasted to be the most popular at about 45% of sales, with the Sport bringing in about 30% and the Grand Touring the balance at 25%. The MT is offered on both the Sport and the Touring.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Outside, inside and under-the-skin, the Mazda6 is all new. The exterior has great proportions. Up front you see Mazda’s new face, its brand signature featuring the 5-point grille. The A-pillar has been pushed back giving the Mazda6 cab rearward proportion. The car is a bit “snarky” with the visual CG pulled rearward, and has an evil eye, as described by Derek Jenkins, Mazda’s Director of Design. Sculpturing along the side, the pulled-back C-pillar, and the horizontal look at the rear gives the Mazda6 a very coupe-like appearance.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Inside the “6” is equally new with a compact instrument binnacle, small diameter steering wheel that affords great visibility of the three gauges, comfortable and well bolstered seats, and loads of infotainment. The center console stack uses both tactile knobs and touch-screen for functions. Rear headroom and knee room are improved and quite adequate.

The trunk is roomy at around 15 cuft with plenty of luggage space and also expands with a split-fold rear seat. Weight is reduced from the previous Mazda6 by about 97 lbs. in spite of more equipment being added.

EPA ratings for the automatic are 30 combined mpg with 26 city and 38 highway. The manual transmission is rated at 29 combined mpg with 25 city and 37 highway. On our 200 mile drive in the Texas hills we got in the range of 33-34mpg in spite of some higher speeds and aggressive driving on the winding roads. The SKYACTIV engine uses regular gasoline even with its high 13:1 compression ratio.

New on the Mazda6 will be i-ELOOP, the world’s first capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system to power all the vehicle’s electrical systems, along with the SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine and the front collision-detecting Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system. May 1st is the planned start for i-ELOOP and the 2.2-liter diesel will come in the second half of this year.

At the recently completed Rolex 24 at Daytona, three Mazda6 race cars competed in the new GRAND-AM Rolex Series GX class. Built by SpeedSource Race Engineering, these race cars were the first diesel-powered vehicles to compete in the 51-year history of the premier motorsports endurance race in the United States. Equipped with a turbocharged SKYACTIV-D 2.2L, the diesel racing engine remained 63 percent OEM stock yet has a blistering output of 400 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 445 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

My overall take on the Mazda6, recognizing that some is a matter personal taste, is very positive. The styling is exciting and stands out in the very crowded mid-size segment. The SKYACTIV program provides outstanding driving dynamics and a very comfortable and confident ride. Interior is very refined and comfortable with excellent fit and finish, and a load of well executed features.

The 2014 Mazda6 is a very exciting car and a pleasure to drive. It’s in showrooms now so go see it in person.

© Larry Nutson