When I drove the previous generation Mazda6, I was unimpressed. It was fine, but it lacked the pizzazz of every other car in the Mazda lineup. So, when I got behind the wheel of the 2014 Mazda6, I was completely surprised.
From the Zoom-Zoom yet fuel sipping Skyactiv engine to the sleek styling, this is finally a midsize sedan from Mazda that I truly like.
I've always liked the edgy lines on the Mazda lineup, and starting with the 2014 model year, they get more pronounced. The hard edge over the front wheel wells combined with the strong lines leading into the pointed shark-like nose give the Mazda6 a strong, lean look. This new design scheme started with the all-new Mazda CX-5, and is carried through in both the Mazda6 and Mazda3 for 2014.
The interior maintains a simple and intuitive design, putting the most important knobs and dials at your finger tips. I liked all the controls on the steering wheel, which made it easy for me to make phone calls and change radio stations while keeping my hands at 9 and 3.
While the design is a huge draw for the Mazda6, in my mind, the biggest and best change for 2014 model year is the 2.5-liter, 4-cylider Skyactiv-G engine. In fact, this engine is so phenomenal that Mazda no longer offers a V-6 engine option on this model. And why should they? There's absolutely no need. This 4-cylinder engine has more power as well as more efficiency. Take a look at the 2013 vs 2014 models:
- 2013: 170 horsepower, 167 pound-feet of torque, 21 city mpg, 30 highway mpg
- 2014: 184 horsepower, 185 pound-feet of torque, 25 city mpg, 37 highway mpg
That alone is pretty impressive. But when you combine the increased power and efficiency with increased interior quietness, you have a real winner. When I first drove the previous generation Mazda6, I thought it was rather lackluster all around from the design that looked like a Toyota Solara to the engine power that lacked a certain Zoom-Zoom.
But this new model -- with both the automatic and the manual transmission -- leaves me giddy with delight. It's fun. It's comfortable. It's gorgeous. And it's quiet. One of my biggest complaints in the old model was the whining engine noise that traveled back into the cabin that had me cranking up the radio. But during my test period in the 2014 Mazda6, I actually drove with the radio off simply because I was so happy with this new-found silence.
While the estimated miles per gallon on the Mazda6 are impressive, I wasn't able to hit the high end of the scale during my weeklong test. But I came pretty darn close. The average of combined city/highway driving is 29 mpg, and I ended my test week with 28.7 mpg.
In a previous test, I had an automatic version of the Mazda6, and the Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed Sport automatic transmission is pretty smooth. But, I have to admit, I like the Skyactive-MT 6-speed manual a lot more. The gear transitions are smooth, and the clutch is relatively light - both of these make the Mazda6 with a manual an easy every-day driver.
The test car was a mid-level Touring model with the manual transmission ($24,440), and it included some minor options such as Soul Red paint, door sill trim plates, cargo mat carpet for the trunk and clear film rear bumper paint protection. The as-tested price was $25,015. There are no package options available on the Touring model if you opt for the manual transmission. This means: no surround sound, no navigation system, no auto on /off headlight and no heated side mirrors ... among other things. Standard features, however, are pretty extensive and include: blind spot monitoring, backup camera, leatherette seating surfaces, rear cross traffic alert, Bluetooth, Pandora and HD radio.
The base trim for the Mazda6 is the Sport model ($21,785), which comes standard with push-button start, steering-wheel-mounted controls, back-up camera (automatic only), power door locks, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cloth seats and Bluetooth connectivity (automatic only). The top-of-the-line Mazda6 is the Grand Touring model ($30,490), and it adds trim exclusive features such as driver's seat memory, heated front seats, leather seats, Bi-Xenon HID headlights, power sliding glass moonroof and front-obstruction warning (option).
Northerners, beware: If you want heated front seats, you'll have to opt for the Grand Touring model as heated seats aren't an option on lower trims. And, if you want heated front seats and a manual transmission, you're out of luck. The Grand Touring model is only available with an automatic transmission.
The one thing I didn't like about the Mazda6 is the fact that push-button start is standard across all models, but the advanced keyless entry (the kind that lets you keep the key fob in your purse) isn't available at the Sport trim, it's an option on the automatic Touring trim and only becomes standard at the Grand Touring trim. During the test period I constantly found myself fumbling in my purse for the key fob, whether I was trying to unlock the car or lock it after I was done driving. This is the kind of thing that would annoy me to no end if I owned the car. But that's my pet peeve, and you have to decide if it's yours. Or if you're just going to spend the extra money for the Touring Technology Package ($2,000) on the Touring model (automatic only!) or level up to the the Grand Touring trim ($29,695).
Dastardly keyless entry peeve aside, I really liked the Mazda6. It's easy to drive, sporty, fun, efficient and has plenty of space for passengers and stuff. Anyone who's looking to buy a midsize car should put this on their must-test list. It might just win you over.