2015 Mazda MAZDA6 Test Drive Review

MAZDA6

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Trims

i Grand Touring
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Starting At: $23,690
i Sport
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Starting At: $14,985
i Touring
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Starting At: $17,640

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Average User Score

55 stars

Based on 1 review

This Car Is Awesome! by NPMazda
 — I have driven a lot of vehicles and the Mazda6 has great style and comfort while still being sporty and fun to drive. This is hands down a great example of a car company setting out to make a change ... Read More

2015 Mazda MAZDA6 Test Drive Review

Look and Feel 10
Performance 7
Form and Function 8
Technology 8
Safety 10
Cost-Effectiveness 9
8.7 10 Overall Score

Given the Mazda6’s general awesomeness, you might think this sharp-looking, well-equipped and fun-to-drive car would command a premium in terms of price. You’d be wrong.

Can a midsize family car exude sensuality and inspire desire? Yes, it can, when it is wearing a Mazda badge. The 2015 Mazda6 looks terrific, blending sleek design and an upscale appearance with delightful driving dynamics in an affordable, fuel-efficient and practical package.

Look and Feel

10

Out of 10

The 2015 Mazda6 looks more expensive than it is. Available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels, prices range from $21,985 to $34,425 with all the extras, including a reasonable destination charge of just $795.

A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard for Sport and Touring trims. Choose the optional 6-speed automatic for the Mazda6 Sport and the price jumps a whopping $1,705, but that increase also pays for an upgraded audio system with a 5.8-inch color touchscreen display, Bluetooth calling and music streaming, text-messaging support, Pandora Internet radio compatibility and HD Radio.

Sport models have cloth seats, while the Mazda6 Touring ($24,640) adds leatherette. Touring trim also includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6-way power driver’s seat, a Commander control knob for the infotainment system, rear air conditioning and heat vents, keyless passive entry with push-button start and appealing 19-inch aluminum wheels. A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is also standard for this version of the car.

The Mazda6 Grand Touring ($30,690) is equipped with a standard automatic transmission and features leather seats, heated front seats, a power sunroof, bi-Xenon headlights with LED running lights, a navigation system, a Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system and more. Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support technology, which is designed to reduce or eliminate the potential for a low-speed impact with traffic ahead, is also standard for this model.

My Grand Touring test car, painted Soul Red ($300) and equipped with black leather, had the optional Grand Touring Technology Package ($2,080). It includes a Mazda Radar Cruise Control system, a Forward Obstruction Warning system, an i-ELOOP regenerative braking system, a lane-departure warning system, automatic high-beam headlights and active grille shutters. Add doorsill trim plates ($125) and a carpeted trunk cargo mat ($75), and my test car’s price tag came to $33,270.

Though Mazda’s impressive Soul Red paint color wouldn’t be my first choice—I’m partial to Blue Reflex—there’s no question that Mazda hit a home run with this car’s exterior appearance. To my eyes, the styling is flawless, perfectly balanced in a way that eludes other modern Mazdas hewn from the company’s latest “Kodo” design philosophy.

Inside, the Mazda 6 is equipped with simple, driver-focused, no-nonsense controls, austerely rendered. The immaculate cabin is accented with exposed red seat stitching, perforations in the leather, and subtle texture and surface contrasts. Black and tan are the available interior colors, and I prefer the latter for its upscale, two-tone appearance.

Performance

7

Out of 10

For now, every Mazda6 is equipped with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, one of the company’s SkyActiv engines featuring direct fuel injection and a higher compression ratio. A diesel engine is planned for this model, one that will improve performance while maximizing fuel economy, but it has been indefinitely delayed.

As 4-cylinder engines go, the 2.5-liter installed in the Mazda6 is a good one, making 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm. In keeping with Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” philosophy, the Mazda6 remains one of the only midsize sedans offered with a manual gearbox, but most of them have the same 6-speed automatic transmission installed in my test car. Only the Mazda6 Grand Touring gets paddle shifters, though.

My test car had the optional Grand Touring Technology Package, which includes a brake energy regeneration system called i-ELOOP. Basically, i-ELOOP captures the otherwise lost kinetic energy generated by the powertrain when the driver is coasting or braking, turning it into electricity that is in turn used to power the car’s electrical accessories. Mazda says i-ELOOP improves fuel economy by 5 percent, and the EPA gives models with the Technology Package a higher fuel-economy estimate. Too bad it doesn’t seem to work very well.

Without i-ELOOP, the EPA’s numbers are 26 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in combined driving. With i-ELOOP, those numbers rise to 28-city/40-highway, for a combined rating of 32 mpg. Understandably, then, I was quite disappointed with my observed 25.7-mpg average, even if I had a blast driving the Mazda6 no matter where I went.

This is not a fast car, but it is a quick car, and its automatic transmission is calibrated to keep the engine in the thick of the power for hill climbing while also proving quick to downshift for passing. Activate the transmission’s Sport driving mode and the engine holds revs and gears while quickening response to requests for additional power.

Around town, the ride is taut and athletic but not at all uncomfortable or harsh. Naturally, I tackled my favorite twisty two-lane roads in this car, and the Mazda6 proved stable and connected, but softer than expected, displaying more body motion than an enthusiast might like.

In addition to tightening the suspension another half turn, Mazda ought to fine-tune the electric steering. For lack of a better descriptor, it feels a little bit "sticky" when the driver is working the wheel through a set of S-curves or dialing in adjustment for a decreasing-radius corner. In any other situation, the steering is excellent, drawing no undue attention to itself.

If the suspension and steering proved less than perfect when hustling the Mazda6 on a writhing mountain road, the car’s brakes worked flawlessly, providing excellent pedal feel, modulation and stamina on a hot testing day. On one occasion, the car’s Brake Assist function engaged when I rapidly lifted off the accelerator and applied the brakes, delivering full stopping power right away.

When you’re not tossing the car down a canyon road, the Mazda6 proves sublime when sitting in traffic. The cabin is remarkably quiet, the engine almost silent at idle, so isolated that I identified a persistent rattle evident on rougher sections of city streets or when engine revs built. On the highway, wind noise is evident but not bothersome.

Form and Function

8

Out of 10

Although simplistic in appearance, the Mazda6’s interior employs quality materials in all the right places. The dashboard and upper door panels are soft and pliable, the windshield pillars are wrapped in fabric instead of plastic, and the cupholders and many storage areas are lined with rubber. Glaring exceptions to the car’s otherwise impressive aesthetics include piano black trim that reveals fine scratches and throws too much glare and the cheap-looking rubber gasket around the sunroof opening.

My Grand Touring test car had an exceptionally comfortable 8-way power driver’s seat that lacked only seat ventilation on a 90-degree day to achieve perfection, and the thickly padded center armrest slides forward to provide additional comfort. My wife complained that the front passenger’s seat did not supply height adjustment, but it does sit high enough off the floor so that the omission isn’t that big a deal.

The Mazda6’s rear seat is soft and positions passengers a bit low in the car, but the bottom cushion provides good thigh support. The front seat backs are plush, too, a bonus on top of the car’s decent leg- and footroom. As a father with young children, I think it would be nice to see manual side window sunshades offered on the Grand Touring model.

Speaking of windows, every version of the Mazda6 is equipped with one-touch power window operation for both up and down functions. As far as controls go, everything is located where you expect to find it, is clearly labeled and works intuitively.

I do, however, think the 5.8-inch touchscreen display is too small for this car, but it delivers high-resolution clarity combined with sensitive touch buttons, making it easier to use. Mazda also surrounds the screen with primary function buttons and traditional stereo knobs, minimizing interaction with the screen to some degree.

If you’d rather not use those, try the Commander control dial mounted to the center console. I never used this feature during my week with the Mazda6, preferring instead to fiddle with the touchscreen and the knobs/buttons on the dash. But I love that Mazda even gives me the choice.

Take a look at the Mazda6’s specifications, and you’ll see that the trunk measures 14.8 cubic feet, on the small side for a midsize sedan. However, it is shaped to accommodate a collapsible stroller wheels first or lengthwise, which is helpful to harried parents. It’s easy to fold the 60/40-split rear seats, too.

Tech Level

8

Out of 10

Load a Mazda6 with all the extras, and there’s no shortage of technology. So let’s get right to it.

First, the infotainment system offers voice-controlled MazdaConnect services, including Bluetooth calling and music streaming, text-messaging support, Aha Radio with Facebook and Twitter connectivity, and a Mobile 911 function that automatically dials out for help following a collision, as long as a paired smartphone is inside the car at the time of impact. This system also includes HD Radio, a USB port and Pandora Internet radio, and it can be upgraded with a navigation system that is remarkably easy to program.

My test car also had a Surround Sound system with 11 speakers. I’m no audiophile—decades of driving convertibles has ruined my hearing—but I thought this system sounded merely okay, not nearly as awesome as its official “Bose AudioPilot2 Centerpoint” name would lead one to believe.

We’ve already covered the available i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system in an earlier section, as well as how ineffective it proved during my testing. It is part of an option package that also includes automatic high-beam headlights and a Mazda Radar Cruise Control system. As I find with most adaptive cruise control systems, Mazda’s seemed to get a little confused on Pacific Coast Highway’s bends and curves, but braking is gentle rather than sudden, consistent rather sporadic, helping to soothe rather than panic the driver.

Safety

10

Out of 10

Consult crash-test ratings for the 2015 Mazda6, and you’ll find it to be one of the safest cars in its class. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it a 5-star overall rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls the Mazda6 a Top Safety Pick.

In addition to supplying excellent crash protection for its passengers, the Mazda6 is available with numerous technologies designed to prevent a collision from occurring in the first place. All models except for the Sport with a manual gearbox include a reversing camera and Mobile 911 connectivity. Upgrade to the Touring trim level for a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, which is standard for this model.

Grand Touring trims add a Smart City Brake Support system, which works at speeds between 2 and 18 mph to identify when the Mazda6 might collide with an object, warning the driver and, if necessary, autonomously braking the car in order to avoid a low-speed crash, or to at least reduce speed prior to impact. This feature is optional for the Mazda6 Touring, contained in an option package that also adds automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a navigation system.

Exclusively offered for the Mazda6 Grand Touring, a forward-obstruction warning system and a lane-departure warning system enhance the car’s safety technology. While the former refrained from sounding false alarms on twisty canyon roads lined by rock walls, the latter proved rather ineffectual, warning of lane departure when the car was nowhere near a lane marking and sometimes failing to identify lane markings. Fortunately, a button shuts it off.

Cost-Effectiveness

9

Out of 10

Given the Mazda6’s general awesomeness, you might think this sharp-looking, well-equipped and fun-to-drive car would command a premium in terms of price. You’d be wrong.

Nobody knows about the Mazda6, and that makes this car a terrific deal. First of all, the sticker prices are aligned with key competitors in the midsize sedan class. Beyond that, as the summer of 2014 draws to a close, Mazda is offering competitive bonus rebates if you trade-in a competing model for a new Mazda6, as well as a loyalty bonus rebate if you already own a Mazda. Add no-interest financing for 60 months, or choose a zero-down lease at a remarkably affordable monthly payment, and buying a Mazda6 makes sound financial sense.

Beyond the deals, a Mazda6 is not expected to cost very much to own and maintain, and both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power say it should prove to be more reliable than your average family sedan. While it’s true that I didn’t get very good gas mileage, a less enthusiastic driver, or someone who spends more time on freeways, can certainly improve upon my experience.

That leaves the car’s average depreciation rating as the only numeric negative. Given my experience, though, you might just love this car so much that you’ll never want to get rid of it.

Updated

Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.

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