A week in the Mazda6 only confirms our opinion that it's the best-handling and best-looking sedan in the midsize segment.
Exterior and interior styling
Quick steering and agile handling
Ride on the firm side
2017 Mazda Mazda6
Here at Lot Pro, we continue to wonder why Mazda doesn't sell more Mazda6s. Because even though it's a midsize sedan, like every other vehicle Mazda produces (that's every one) it's a driver's car in every sense of the word. The latest Mazda6 is available in three trim levels. Not only is it, in our opinion, the best-looking midsize sedan out there, both inside and out, it’s also one of the few remaining midsize sedans that's offered with a manual transmission.
The third-gen Mazda6 was unveiled in North America at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, going on sale in January, 2013 as a 2014 model. It is underpinned by the same SKYACTIV platform as the CX-5 crossover and Mazda3 hatchback and sedan.
For the 2017 model year, Mazda freshened up both the exterior and the interior, while adding some new technology to certain trim levels.
Outside it also bears a strong resemblance to every other vehicle in the Mazda lineup with its own interpretation of Mazda's "KODO-Soul of Motion" design language. That means a requisite five-point grill up front that's outlined by a wider chrome trim strip. That trim also traces the lower two-thirds of a floating bar grille until it meets and bisects the "eagle eyed" headlamps. On the Grand Touring trim, LED headlights are standard as are LED daytime running lights that surround the lower portion of the projector beam headlamps.
Below the grille, a lower valance features a narrow lower air intake is flanked by pods that house small, round, LED fog lights that are positioned above a pronounced lower air dam.
17 x 7-inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped in P225/65R17 all-season tires are standard on Sport models, while both Touring and Grand Touring models like our tester come standard with 19 x 7-inch alloys (finished in dark chrome on the GT trim) wrapped (in winter, thanks to Mazda) with Bridgestone Blizzak LM-32 P225/45R19 performance winter/snow tires.
For 2017, exterior changes are limited to a turn signal design change on the rearview mirrors.
Inside, there's a free-standing upper dash touchscreen that gives the cabin a very open feeling. A narrow horizontal brushed chrome strip extends from the instrument binnacle to the passenger door, with the space between it and the glove box door filled by a stitched, soft-trim panel.
The flowing upper dash pad features a rich-looking, stitched, instrument binnacle hood (housing a head up display on GT models), while the sides of the center console are covered in a stitched, soft-touch, leather-like material. Those who lust after an Audi A6 for its interior could save themselves some serious cash, without any anxiety, by choosing a Mazda6.
At the same time, the instrumentation is straightforward and easy to read, featuring a prominent center speedometer flanked by a tach and multi-information center. The console mounted control knob is easy to use and does a decent job of cutting performing its functions, although we miss the simpler and less-distracting buttons and knobs of the older system – especially when it comes to functions like adding pre-set stations (although admittedly you don't do this often).
The large controller knob navigates through all the various touchscreen functions, while separate home, music, navigation, back and favorite buttons plus a separate knob for volume and power do simplify things somewhat.
Both front seats are nicely bolstered allowing for plenty of lateral support and there’s adequate hip, shoulder and legroom up front. The seats in back are also comfortable – even for a third adult in the center – with leg room that’s on par with most sedans in this class. All in all, however, the entire cabin is more snug than spacious – a trait the Mazda6 shares with many of the brand's models.
The driver’s view out the front and sides is really good, although the side mirrors do take up some of the real estate. The view out the rear three-quarters and back isn’t quite as good as the sloping roofline and high deck lid cut down on those site lines. Fortunately, a rearview camera is now standard on all Mazda6 models.
Under the hood
The only engine available is an impressively efficient direct injection SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that generates 184 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque. Both the block and the head are aluminum and it features chain driven dual overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake valve timing and a 13.0 to 1 compression ratio
The engine is offered with either a 6-speed manual (in Sport and Touring trim) or a 6-speed automatic (optional on the Sport and Touring, standard on the Grand Touring). Automatic-equipped models, like our tester, come with an EPA estimated 26/38/31 city/highway/combined mpg. In some spirited city driving we observed an impressive 28.1 miles per gallon.
On the road
Although some might find the suspension of the Mazda6 to be on the firm side, it's still compliant and well damped. Potholes and other road imperfections are handled with ease and very little of this is transmitted through the chassis. The steering is very direct with great feedback to the driver, while braking is also excellent with very short stops and it’s easy to modulate the brake pedal (even with the optional i-eloop system that recycles kinetic energy from the brakes to power the vehicle's electronics). Point the Mazda6 into a corner and it tracks flawlessly with no body lean.
At freeway speeds the Mazda6 feels extremely stable and is unaffected by crosswinds or grooved pavement. Because of its suspension tuning and precise steering, you always know exactly where you are on the road. There's plenty of power under the hood which means merging into traffic and passing are effortless.
Speaking of steering, 2017 also sees the introduction of standard G-Vectoring Control for the Mazda6. The system measures vehicle speed, throttle position and the steering wheel rotation rate and, when cornering, initiates a slight reduction in engine torque (by retarding spark timing) that induces an increase in vertical load on the front tires, improving cornering response.
There's more good news as Mazda has added even more sound insulation for 2017 and interior noise levels are now much better than average for a midsize sedan. Especially at freeway speeds, we noticed a definite improvement in the amount of wind, road and tire noise entering the cabin.
2017 Mazda6 equipment changes
Mazda continues to offer the 2017 Mazda6 in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels. For 2017, all trim levels receive a new steering wheel design and enhanced sound insulation.
The Sport trim with the 6-speed manual now has the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a backup camera.
Touring models now come standard with Smart City Brake Support, auto on/off headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers. With this equipment now standard, the optional package for Touring models has been changed from "Technology" to "Premium" with a corresponding drop in price.
New standard equipment on Grand Touring models includes traffic sign recognition, radar cruise control with close proximity warning, lane keep assist, high beam control, smart city brake support with collision warning, full-color head up display, 4.6-inch TFT instrument display and memory settings for both the driver's seat and head up display.
The new optional Grand Touring Premium Package comes with rear seat heaters, a heated steering wheel, Nappa leather sport seats with contrast piping, LED shifter accent lighting, black headliner, "chidori"-stitched steering wheel, bright trim on the power seat switches and glove box handle, matte finish door sash tape and i-eloop regenerative braking.
2017 Mazda6 prices
2017 Mazda Mazda6 pricing starts at $22,980 for the manually-equipped Sport trim and can top out at nearly $36,000 for a fully-equipped and accessorized Grand Touring model. Our Machine Gray Metallic Grand Touring model was very close to the top with a base price of $30,695. Adding $75 for a cargo mat, $300 for the paint job and $125 for brushed aluminum door sill trim plates plus $2,500 for the GT Premium Package brought the total, including an $835 delivery, processing and handling fee, to $34,530.
The Bottom Line
There isn’t much we don't like about the latest Mazda6. It's true that its ride a bit on the firm side, the interior is a bit snug and we preferred the redundant buttons found on the previous infotainment system.
But the fact of the matter is that we have more fun driving a Mazda6 than any other sedan in its segment. But it goes even beyond that. Mazda's midsize entrant also rewards drivers with excellent fuel economy, stunning styling and the handsomest interior this side of an Audi sedan that will set you back close to 50 large.
Buyers looking for these attributes in a midsize sedan should put the latest Mazda6 at the top of their shopping lists.