For 2016, the Mazda6 five passenger midsize sedan is a compelling alternative to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. It possesses all the latest safety features such as cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, smart brake support with collision warning and EPA mileage estimates that are impressive and the best among midsize sedans. The only way it could get better is if it was available with AWD.
Offered in Sport MT (manual trans), Sport AT (automatic trans), Touring MT, Touring AT and Grand Touring AT that was tested. All models come with one engine choice: a 2.5L, Skyactiv, 184-hp four-cylinder that generates 185 lb/ft of torque and when coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, garners EPA mileage estimates of 28 city and 40-highway mpg. Highway mileage is close to hybrid figures. And Mazda manages to attain that with their i-Eloop system that comes with their $2,180 optional Technology Package.
i-Eloop, which is only available on the Grand Touring model, is a brake regeneration system that helps improve fuel economy without sacrificing driving performance says Mazda. Included with that package is Smart Brake Support, radar-based cruise control, high beam control (automatic), lane departure warning and active grille shutters for better aerodynamics.
Performance is peppy but not a push-you-back-in-the-seat sensation, particularly with four adults aboard. Surprisingly, the 2.5L engine has a compression ratio of 13:1, a ratio that was common on V8’s back in the 60s and 70s. But Mazda manages to harness all available power without the aid of a turbocharger.
Mazda designers did a dandy job on the interior. The test car had a classy white with grey leather décor that included perforated seats that have just the right amount of lateral support. They also feature extended under thigh support that makes long hauls more comfy and almost lounge chair-like. Of course they’re heated, but it’s surprising they didn’t include cooling as well.
The first thing that will catch your eyes is the pop-up 7-inch display that rises from the top of the dash when turning the ignition. It serves the GPS nav, backup camera and Mazda Connect infotainment system that is controlled by a rotary dial on the console. Within the LCD is a traffic app (Total Traffic Network) screen that shows where heavy volumes of traffic exist. There is also a Head Up Display (HUD) that pops up upon turning on the ignition. But it can be disengaged. It shows speed and curves in roads, which doesn’t require taking the eyes off the road to view the gauges. As for HVAC controls, they are logically positioned and are easy to use without having to consult the owners’ manual. And most impressive is that Mazda took the extra step by padding the sides of the console where many folks rest their knees on long trips.
Back seat riders are treated to easy ingress/egress thanks to wide opening rear doors. Headroom is ample while legroom is marginal and dependent upon how far the front seats are racked rearward. And the rear headrests are of low profile for good rear visibility.
Trunk space is ample with a two large roll-a-long capability or a pair of Hoofer golf bags when folding the 60/40 rear seat backs, easily accomplished by pulling two handles in the trunk. The latest automotive issue with trunks is with the spare tire. More and more carmakers are eliminating the spare to save weight and cost and providing a tire inflator kit instead. They kits are useless if there’s a tear in the sidewall, which requires a tow job. But Mazda uses a space saver tire that is a viable compromise.
Mazda6 exhibits sporty handling and parks easily as the electric power steering has a quick 15.5:1 ratio. Sharp turns taken at speed evoke only a smidgen of body lean. Overall, the sedan is taut and for better performance there’s a Sport mode switch on the console that tightens things up a bit and makes shifts at slightly higher rpm’s.
As the top tier trim model, the Grand Touring comes standard with a long list of desired safety and convenience items including a sunroof. And as attractive as the car is, the sticker price is also attractive. Starting at a base of $30,195, the bottom line slips to a still impressive $35,535 after adding the tech package, floor mats and delivery. The base Sport MT can be had for as little as $21,495, a price that is even less than some compact sedans.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Mazda6 its top “Good” overall safety rating while the government’s 5-star safety rating issued it five stars for driver/passenger side crash and four for rollover. As such, we have yet to test a Mazda we didn’t like, and the Mazda6 just adds to that list.