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2014 Mazda6 Review By Steve Purdy

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2014 Mazda6

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

The mainstream Mazda6 mid-size sedan experienced a major redesign less than a year ago and has earned excellent reviews from the press, but this is my first experience with the car. I’ve been scheduled to review it a couple of times but something always interfered. Having finally gotten into the driver’s seat for a comprehensive review I find myself fond of it - particularly its unpretentious but stylish design, forward-looking technology and balanced performance.

This segment (Mid-sized Sedans) of the market sees the most intense competition from the greatest number of challengers anywhere in the automotive field and the Mazda6 was one of the most recent to get thoroughly updated. Look at the new Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Mitsubishi Lancer, Buick Verano, Volkswagen Jetta, Subaru Legacy and Nissan Altima and you’ll see what Mazda is up against. The Mazda6, and before that the Mazda 626 (a car this reporter owned but was not enamored with) have never been top sellers but nevertheless enjoyed a loyal following. Mazda makes a valiant effort with this new one to break into the top tier of mainstream sedans.

Our test car this week is a “Blue Reflex” (that’s the color, not the model) iGrand Touring with black leather interior. It’s a good-looking car, in my subjective view, with swoopy lines, distinctive fender bulges, LED lighting, and sexy 19-inch wheels. Standard wheels are 17-inchers and look good as well, but not as good as these bigger ones. Base price on the sticker shows $29,695 and with a couple minor options our bottom line on the sticker is just under $33,000. The Grand Touring top trim level comes with navigation, leather-trimmed, boldly-stitched, heated seating, paddle shifters, Bose premium audio, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights and plenty more. You’ll not be disappointed in the overall content on this model. You can also add a bunch of high-tech driving aids like forward obstruction warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise if you like.

For the more frugal among us the basic Mazda6 Sport shows a base sticker price of $21,785 without all the extras. Many folks will be perfectly happy without leather, navigation and all that other stuff. And, even with this basic car you’ll have the sporty character that can be so endearing.

Central to the Mazda6 redesign is a major advance in fuel economy. The strategy with this car, and other Mazda products, is what they call the “SkyActiv” suite of technologies to maximize fuel efficiency without going to the expense of hybridizing the powertrain. They use direct injection, high compression ratios (13:1), ultra-efficient transmissions, lightweight body and chassis structures, regenerative braking (called iEloop), active grill shutters and aerodynamic tricks to improve mileage. That all results in a highway mileage rating of 40 mpg, city rating of 28 and 32 mpg combined.

Under the hood of this 3,200-pound car quietly resides the only engine that powers the Mazda6, a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder making a decent 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. You can have a six-speed manual transmission in the lesser two trim levels but most will get the six-speed automatic. The transmission choice makes only 1-mpg difference in fuel economy, but we enthusiasts still consider the manual much more fun. Both manage a 7.6-second 0 to 60 time.

My driving environment allows for a great variety of experience, from lonely, wide-open country roads to high-speed freeways and competitive urban thoroughfares. While I love a screaming-hot sports car with excessive horsepower and torque this Mazda6 with high-mileage capability had all the acceleration and performance I needed (not necessarily wanted) in any circumstance. The six-speed automatic transmission downshifted willingly whenever I asked even with a modest throttle input. The conventionally structured suspension is tuned perfectly for us to thrash it about when we liked or cruise comfortably. I would be surprised if anyone found it too stiff or harsh.

Mazda promises a diesel option for this already efficient sedan sometime in early 2014. It will be a 2.2-liter turbo developed through a very successful racing program. We look forward to more details we can share on the new powertrain very soon.

Both exterior and interior styling and design continue Mazda’s reputation for simplicity. They eschew the addition of superfluous chrome, faux-carbon fiber and other excesses we see in some other cars of this class. The distinctive Mazda gaping trapezoidal grill announces this car’s identity to anyone who knows anything about cars. The rear is less distinctive but entirely modern. Dual exhaust outlets hint at the sporty character.

Inside, the leather seats with bold stitching first catches our eye, but as we slide in we notice the cleanness of line, quality of materials and simplicity of controls. Fit and finish are as good as anything we’ve seen in the class. Space is generous in front and rear seating and trunk space at 14.8 cubic feet is good as well. We had to load up on bird seed this week since it was on sale and easily fit four, 50-pound bags of oilers and bird seed mix in there along with groceries for the week.

Mazda cars have for generations now had a well-deserved reputation for spirited performance and handling – hence the “Zoom Zoom.” The Mazda6 is also an IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) Top Safety Pick and one of Car & Driver Magazine’s 10 Best Cars.

Mazda’s new car warranty covers the car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Trying to do my job as conscientiously as possible I searched for something to complain about. It was tough to find anything, but finally during an evening drive home from the city I struggled to dim the instrument panel lights with the terribly awkward dimmer knob at the top of the cluster. I’ll also admit to not being fond of the interface on the TomTom navigation system with small, 5.8-inch screen…oh well.

As you shop for a mid-size sedan we recommend you put the Mazda6 on your list, particularly if you appreciate a bit of sportiness with your every-day drive.

© Steve Purdy