With sporty handling and sleek styling, the Mazda 6 is for drivers who want a midsize sedan but don’t want a mundane car Excellent fuel economy further justifies it as a smart decision.
For 2016, Mazda6 benefits from a major refresh, just two years after this third-generation version debuted. Distinguished by a new grille and headlight design, the 2016 Mazda 6 gets an updated interior with redesigned front and rear seats, a new instrument panel, retooled floor console, new electronic parking brake, refined fit and finish, and Mazda Connect infotainment. The powertrain carries over but there’s a new drive-select feature for 2016. More sound dampening and insulation measures promise a quieter cabin. New safety features for 2016 include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, Smart Brake Support.
A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powers all models, rated at 184 horsepower, 185 pound-feet of torque, and all are front-wheel drive. EPA estimates for the 2016 Mazda 6 are 26/38 mpg City/Highway with the automatic, which comes on all but the Sport.
Competitors to the Mazda6 include Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima. The Mazda is the sportiest of the bunch.
The 2016 Mazda 6 comes in three trim levels: Mazda6 Sport ($21,495), Mazda6 Touring ($23,945), and Mazda6 Grand Touring ($30,195). All come with the same 2.5-liter engine. Sport and Touring come with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic; Grand Touring comes with the automatic. Sport comes with fabric upholstery, Touring gets leatherette, Grand Touring comes trimmed with leather.
This latest-generation Mazda6 is quite handsome. It follows Mazda’s Kodo design language, which aims for an athletic, dynamic look.
A curving, trapezoidal grille with stretched horizontal lines make the car appear wide, not tall like the big-mouthed Mazda3. Wraparound headlights and fog lights with geometric housings suggest athleticism.
From the side, the prominent nose looks almost shark-like. Deep, flowing creases over the front fenders continue into the front doors. The A-pillars are pushed back, which biases proportions rearward and aids driver visibility. Bright trim is used sparingly. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels look substantial, and the optional 19s on higher trim levels look even better.
The 2016 Mazda6 interior has been redesigned and upgraded with better quality materials. On the 2014 model, we noted some of the plastic trim had a generic parts-bin look. It’s now more attractive, with tastefully coordinated materials, more bright trim. Soft-touch materials are used in most of the places driver and passenger are likely to touch.
The new dashboard has sweeping lines that wrap around a new 7.0-inch infotainment screen placed in the center on models so equipped. An electric parking brake takes less space and cleans up the design of the center console. Climate controls have been redesigned, with a more pleasing layout and design.
The standard audio system found on the Sport trim is adequate but nothing special. The 11-speaker Bose setup is a much better choice for audiophiles.
The cockpit of the Mazda6 is centered around the driver. In front of the driver is a trio of gauges that are simple and easy to read. Visibility is good all around, especially in front with the pushed-back of design with the A-pillars. Headroom and legroom are on par with the class.
The rear seats can accommodate a six-foot-tall passenger without any knee cramping or head bumping.
With 14.8 cubic feet of cargo space, the Mazda6 has slightly less cargo capability than do the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. Still, the long, deep layout accommodates plenty of luggage and gear.
The Mazda6 is fun to drive. The chassis is solid, with minimal body roll (lean) around corners. MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link setup in the rear make for a sporty ride that’s firm and compliant, without sacrificing ride quality.
The all-electric power steering on the Mazda6 is more efficient than traditional hydraulic systems and it’s surprisingly responsive. Maneuverability is comparable to that of the Toyota Camry, both of which can turn in tighter spaces than can the Ford Fusion or Honda Accord.
Mazda6 is slightly lighter than an Accord and nearly 300 pounds lighter than a Fusion. In general, less weight allows better fuel economy, better handling, better braking, better acceleration.
The 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine works well in most driving situations, but the driver needs to rev the engine to get the most from it. A lack of power can be felt when climbing steep hills and in other demanding driving situations. High-altitude areas, such as Denver, may challenge it more, though we have not tested this.
The automatic transmission is remarkably smooth. Its unique design uses a torque converter, like those found in traditional automatics, to propel the car and provide creep at speeds less than 5 mph. At higher speeds, a multi-plate transmission changes gears, providing quicker shifts that are tuned to hold revs longer and give plenty of thrust when needed. All that said, we still preferred the manual transmission for this sporty sedan, with its crisp feel and easy clutch.
With a sexy design, engaging driving dynamics and respectable fuel economy, the Mazda6 is a delightful alternative to more mundane midsize sedans.