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2016 Mazda MAZDA6 Test Drive Review
Aside from smaller interior accommodations than some competitors and the fact that deals are not particularly favorable as the summer of 2015 kicks off, the Mazda Mazda6 might just be the perfect midsize sedan. Priced like a mainstream model but styled and equipped like a luxury car, the fuel-efficient, safe, and technologically advanced Mazda6 Grand Touring is a remarkable automobile.
Look and Feel
It’s easy to love things that are beautiful. Whether it’s a well-groomed golden retriever, an artfully designed crystal bowl, a precision-cut jewel, or a 2016 Mazda Mazda6 Grand Touring.
No one can deny the appeal of this seductively styled vehicle. That the Mazda6 is not a single-purpose sports car that’s difficult to live with on a day-to-day basis, but is instead a hard-working, practical, midsize family sedan, simply serves to deepen its allure, especially when soft evening light illuminates the car’s curves and contours, bringing out deceptively sculptural design elements. To my eyes, this Mazda is the most stirringly styled midsize family sedan on the market today.
Making it even more attractive is the fact that the Mazda6 isn’t as ubiquitous on American roads as the segment leaders, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. After all, who wants to drive what everyone else has? If I were in the market for a midsize family sedan, the Mazda 6 would be slotted high on a short list.
Thus, it was with great anticipation that I took possession of my test vehicle for the week, a 2016 Mazda Mazda6 i Grand Touring, loaded with the Technology Package that includes several useful safety technologies and priced at $33,195, including the $820 destination charge. My time with the Mazda6, which included a long-weekend family jaunt to a seaside destination, only cemented my fondness for this sleek, svelte, and sexy car.
When was the last time someone used those descriptions for a mainstream sedan?
Providing motivation, a terrific 184-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard equipment and the only engine offered for the Mazda6. It’s matched to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission in the Grand Touring trim. If you’re so inclined, you can get a 6-speed manual gearbox in the Sport and Touring versions for lots of row-‘em-yourself fun.
In the Grand Touring, the engine and transmission exhibit a dual personality. When placed in the Normal driving mode, engine response is a bit lethargic, as the transmission rapidly upshifts in order to conserve fuel. Fortunately, the software governing transmission response quickly recognizes when the driver needs more cowbell and switches to a more aggressive shift profile.
Choose the Sport driving mode, and the engine holds revs with greater enthusiasm. The transmission includes a manual shift mode you can engage through the shift lever or by using the paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel, and the car’s downshift rev-matching feature delivers smooth, entertaining gear changes.
For the most part, the engine provides enough power, but there were times when I wished for the swell of power that a turbocharged engine can deliver. That would suit well this car’s personality, but that would also negatively impact fuel economy. Given that I averaged 29.3 mpg during the week, such a trade-off might be worthwhile.
Still, if you can believe it, this result is a bit of a disappointment. The EPA says a Mazda6 ought to return 28 mpg in the city, 40 on the highway, and 32 in combined driving. Despite spending more than half of my driving time on freeways, I barely beat the car’s city fuel-economy rating, though it's worth noting that I frequently used the car’s Sport driving mode.
As is expected from a Mazda, the Mazda6’s driving dynamics match the promises made by the car’s styling. Although the automaker claims no changes to the car’s steering, to the palms of my hands the slightly vague on-center feel of last year’s car is eradicated, leaving crisp and satisfying off-center response combined with a reassuringly connected on-center feel.
Suspension tuning is perfection, delivering plenty of communication from the road without causing a stiff or jarring ride quality, the underpinnings absorbing surface unpleasantness while clearly communicating to the driver what’s going on at the tire contact patches.
Take the Mazda6 on a scenic road composed of curvaceous ribbons of asphalt, and you’ll witness this sedan come to life in its native element. Light, nimble, and responsive, this Mazda is almost ethereally entertaining compared to most other midsize sedans.
Form and Function
Artistically rendered in refined materials and upscale design, the Mazda6’s cabin looks and feels like a luxury sedan. I loved the creamy, parchment-hued leather of my test vehicle, and the dashboard, with its tablet-style display, looks futuristic without coming across as technologically cold. Thoughtful touches are evident throughout the interior, and almost every bin or storage area is lined with felt or rubber in order to reduce noise.
A soft, comfortable seat beckons to the driver, and although my long-limbed spouse found thigh support a bit lacking, after 5 hours of driving, neither of us was eager to exit the car. Adults riding in the rear seat may find the accommodations a little tight compared to other midsize sedans, but two people of average size will be quite comfortable. My kids had no complaints, either.
The Mazda’s trunk is also on the small side, measuring 14.8 cubic feet. With that said, it handled a long weekend excursion for my family of four with no trouble, and because the distance between the seat back and the trunk lid is generous, a compact folding stroller fits both wheels-first or lengthwise, something that cannot be said for some of this car’s competitors.
Mazda imbues the revamped 2016 version of the Mazda6 with the latest and greatest in infotainment technology. The car’s new Mazda Connect system offers a dizzying array of functions, settings, and services, and while the learning curve proves a bit daunting at first, it's easy to use once everything is set up to your liking.
In similar fashion to an Audi or BMW, the Mazda Connect technology is adjusted using a Commander knob surrounded by ancillary primary function buttons located on the car’s center console. With acclimation, using these controls becomes second nature. The system’s display screen is mounted within the driver’s reach at the top of the dashboard, and it's touch-sensitive when the car is at a standstill. Voice commands also control certain aspects of the system.
Highlights of Mazda Connect include an E911 system that activates when the airbags deploy during a collision, helping occupants get in touch with emergency responders and to get help as soon as possible. The system also includes text-messaging support as well as Aha and Pandora music-streaming apps, and the Mazda6 is available with a Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system. The navigation system features both 2D and 3D map rendering and provides truly astounding topographical clarity and surface street detail.
My test vehicle also had a heads-up display, and I’ve come to appreciate these, because they are genuinely useful for helping the driver keep his or her eyes on the road. Mazda’s approach is to project information onto a curved, clear piece of plastic rather than onto the windshield, which helps cut down on unwanted reflections.
If Mazda Connect is impressive, the level of safety the Mazda6 delivers is amazing. In addition to E911 calling after a collision has occurred, this car is available with a number of features designed to reduce the possibility of a crash happening in the first place. And my Grand Touring test car had it all, thanks to the optional Technology Package.
The Technology Package adds a lane-departure warning system, a radar cruise control system with a forward-collision warning system, and Smart Brake Support automatic emergency braking. These features join the blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert that comes standard for the Touring and Grand Touring trim levels.
The radar cruise control system worked well in terms of slowing the car, though Mazda could refine it for smoother engagement. Fortunately, I had no need for the Smart Brake Support system, which Mazda says will work at a variety of speeds to automatically apply the brakes when the forward-collision warning system detects the possibility of a collision. Through Mazda Connect, I could customize certain settings for the lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring systems to make them less intrusive, and the car’s rear cross-traffic alert feature came in handy when backing out of parking spaces.
Should these systems fail at preventing a crash, you can rest assured that the 2016 Mazda6 is ready to protect its occupants. In NHTSA crash tests, the car gets a 5-star overall crash-test rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the Mazda6 a Top Safety Pick for the 2015 calendar year.
Thrifty with fuel, expected to be dependable over time, and predicted to be inexpensive to own, a Mazda6 is a cost-effective choice in its class. However, warranty coverage is merely average, and ALG gives this Mazda a middling 3-star warranty for depreciation, so there is room for improvement.
Sales must be strengthening, too, because aside from lease deals and zero-interest financing for a limited time, Mazda isn’t really offering deals on this car. If you already own a Mazda, though, that’s good for a loyalty bonus, and the automaker is targeting owners of specific competing makes and models with what it calls “trade-in bonus cash.”
Despite the lack of big rebate programs as this review is published, we still think buying a Mazda6 makes a whole bunch of sense. That’s because you are almost certain to love this automobile, and that adoration for what you drive delivers a special kind of payback every single day of the week.
Liz Kim has worked within the world of cars for 15 years, at various points reviewing and writing about, or analyzing and marketing, everything automotive. It’s no wonder that she married a fellow automotive journalist. Liz can be found examining and assessing the latest vehicles when she’s not busy keeping the peace between, and the schedule for, her two young daughters.
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