2014 Mazda Mazda6 review
Improved in every way, this may be the best full-size vehicle for you — and Mazda.
- Relatively responsive electric power steering
- Attractive, curvaceous new body design
- Significant weight savings
- No U.S.-market wagon variant
- Excessive wind and road noise
- Bland interior styling
Fully updated with a fresh design, a new engine and a suite of modern technologies, the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 is aiming to make a splash in one of the market's most competitive segments: full-size sedans, the traditional family car. That's important for Mazda, because though the company is a perennial darling for enthusiasts, in the past it's had some difficulty staying in the mainstream spotlight.
We recently road-tested the upcoming Mazda6, so read on for our impressions on whether it can help Mazda change its position in the market.
The next-generation Mazda6 will be produced in both sedan and wagon variants, although drivers in the United States will never see the wagon. The exterior design of the new model is a drastic revamp from its predecessor, a practice in stark contrast to Mazda's competitors that ever so subtly massage their existing designs (we're looking at you, Honda). Based on the brand's Kodo design language, the new Mazda6 is at once unmistakably Mazda, thanks to signature elements such as the 5-point grille, and something entirely new, with a powerfully poised silhouette reminiscent of a Jaguar XF. It's a highly stylized, eye-grabbing new appearance that is downright surprising for this segment.
The new Mazda6 will land on U.S. soil with a 4-cylinder SkyActiv engine, with a diesel option potentially arriving later. This same SkyActiv classification is also applied to the chassis and body, both of which Mazda claim are designed for great efficiency. This isn't hard to believe, because at 2,992 pounds, the new car is a whopping 337 pounds lighter than the current model. While this is all packed into a package that's slightly smaller than its predecessor, it also is resting on a slightly longer wheelbase — an ideal layout for both driving dynamics and interior and storage space.
The European-spec vehicles we tested are offered with summer tires wrapping either 17- or 19-inch wheels, though that will change to all-season tires for the U.S. market.
Under the hood
While the European 2014 Mazda6 range includes a 2.2-liter diesel and an entry-level 2.0-liter gasoline engine, the latter will never make it to the power-hungry buyers of the United States, because its outrageously high 14.1:1 compression ratio necessitates 91 octane. Instead, we'll get the larger 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine, which boasts direct injection and a still-crazy-high 13.1:1 compression ratio. Pumping out 189 horsepower at 5700 rpm, it's the most powerful SkyActiv mill to date, thanks largely to the extra half-liter of displacement. Matching this horsepower figure is a stout 189 lb-ft of torque, which peaks at 3250 rpm. Despite a fairly traditional design (read: nonhybrid), clever engineering enables Mazda to achieve claimed fuel consumption figures solidly in the mid-30-mpg range.
The 2.5-liter engine can be mated to a traditional 6-speed manual transmission with a typical Mazda short-throw shifter, or to an all-new 6-speed automatic. This new unit features a full lock-up clutch design that improves responsiveness, as well as paddle shifters and "kick down" throttle-pedal functionality. Both transmission options send power to the front wheels only.
Also worth noting is the addition of Mazda's new i-ELOOP system, which borrows some of the functionality of many hybrid vehicles by regenerating power through the vehicle's braking system, enabling battery-free operation of the car's electrical systems and improving overall efficiency. This capacitor-based system will be available as an option later in the model year.
Like most cars in its segment, the Mazda6's interior design doesn't exactly push the envelope. Luckily, it still boasts a tremendously well-made interior, and despite a potentially overly mature design sense, it's rather attractive. Our test cars were fitted with one of two metal trim options — "bold metal" and "dark metal" — and were covered in leather and soft-touch materials. While design is always somewhat subjective, we came away impressed from our time in the cabin of Mazda's new flagship, with no grievances worth mentioning.
As for features, the Mazda6 boasts a roster of expected specs suited to a high-quality modern sedan. This includes the obvious power equipment and a full array of available audio goodies, including an 11-speaker Bose system, USB and Bluetooth functionalities and steering wheel controls. Like many cars these days, the Mazda6 features two displays: a smaller one mounted in the instrument panel used for driver information, and a larger touch-screen system mounted high up on the dash for comfort, entertainment and navigation systems.
Additionally, the new Mazda6 is packed to the brim with safety technology — available parking assistance and rearview camera systems, as well as front and rear collision detection and avoidance, radar-based adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and so on. It's fair to say it's as loaded as anyone could ever expect.
On the road
There are some important impressions to take away from our time behind the wheel of the 2014 Mazda6. For starters it feels great to drive, proving that Mazda isn't just throwing around marketing buzzwords when it talks about a passion for driving. While many other manufacturers equate "sport" with extra badging or a different wheel design, Mazda really tries to build in sportiness from the ground up. Dare we say it, it's reminiscent of BMW's legendary dedication to performance DNA in years past.
Despite the French roads being woefully straight and boring during our testing, it is obvious the Mazda6 has the same good steering as its siblings, a trait likely due to brilliant fine-tuning of the suspension — particularly the caster angle. Though the steering is a touch too light for our taste, it's the best electric steering we've felt in this segment, with the possible exception of the Volkswagen Passat.
As for downsides, we did notice a lot of noise — both from the road and from the wind. The latter could be coming from the side mirrors. We also weren't too thrilled with the i-STOP system's smoothness as it deactivated and reactivated the engine, but that feature isn't heading to America anyway.
Right for you?
If you're in the market for a full-size sedan and have been shopping the likes of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, then you owe it to yourself to consider the Mazda6. This especially applies to buyers who enjoy driving.
You can expect to see the U.S.-spec Mazda6 hit dealer showrooms in early 2013, and please join us in hoping that diesel-powered variants will arrive by midyear. Pricing has yet to be announced, but it's reasonable to expect it to stay in line with the previous generation — not to mention its competition — meaning a range starting in the low $20,000 range. While there's certainly nothing inherently wrong with the Mazda6's competitors, as enthusiasts, we truly hope Mazda has a hit on its hands here. The Mazda6 has all the right ingredients, and its fate now lies in the hands of the buying public.
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.
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I've owned several Mazdas, cars and trucks. If the Mazda6 came in the same wagon as the European version, I'd buy it, no questions asked. I don't want a chintzy SUV with no space and crappy mileage. I want a HOT Station wagon with decent gas mileage.
I'll wait until July to hear if Mazda will release it in the US. If not, we will be going with the Subaru or Toyota Venza.
Nick in Mass,
You can call it whatever size you want. It changes nothing about how it stacks up against its competitors:
"The 6's wheelbase measures 111.4 inches, nearly 2 inches longer than either the 2013 Honda Accord or 2012 Toyota Camry and it's part of the reason the 6 has the best rear legroom in the class."
The reason Mazda 6 will continue to struggle in the US is because the US consumers who buy family cars don't want fun to drive cars. They mostly care about depreciation, reliability, fuel economy and size -- in other words the opposite of a car enthusiast.
One only needs to look at the Passat (and Jetta). They got dumbed down, made worse in every way imaginable for the enthusiast, more bland, cheaper inside, and they are selling like hot cakes compared to previous gen Passat and Jetta. Well at least Mazda got the size right as it has more rear legroom that 2 class leaders.
at 3000 lbs this car is only a bit heavier than the current mx 5 (Miata). maybe 50 or 100 lbs.
i have always been dissapointed mazda didn't stick a larger engine in there. there's more than enough room.
well, i like my 99 miata.
it's got over 150k on it and it's still on the original clutch.
but i got to say, there's a design flaw and it's a radiator that gives out.
in my case, it led to a host of troubles that ended up with a $3000 repair bill for a new head gasket and upper engine rebuild.
i just feel a honda or toyota wouldn't have run into these problems. they seem to be engineered to be idiot proof.
whatever, make sure you have a really good mechanic work on your car. not some idiot!