The front-wheel-drive Mazda6 might be the world’s most under-appreciated midsize sedan, a class dominated by Honda, Toyota and Ford with the Accord, Camry and Fusion. Sleek and evocative, the Mazda6 is the most eye-catching among them, with roadside manners as good as any of them. Mazda6 was redesigned for 2013, refreshed for 2016.
The 2017 Mazda6 gets some minor updates, including the Mazda Connect infotainment system now standard.
Mazda6 comes with one engine, a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder with So-called SkyActiv technology such as direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 14:1 compression ratio (in pursuit of fuel mileage), making 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, a 6-speed automatic available.
Its light weight of 3200 pounds gives the Mazda6 some zip. The ride is firm and sporty, the steering direct and communicative. There are clear bloodlines to the brilliant Mazda Miata.
For 2017 Mazda6 gets the G-Vectoring Control system of computer-controlled braking of individual wheels in corners, bringing increased stability and composure to the handling.
With the automatic transmission, the Mazda6 gets 26/38 mpg City/Highway, or an EPA-estimated 31 miles per gallon Combined. With the optional stop/start and a regenerative-energy system called i-eLoop, it can get up to 40 mpg Highway. With the available automatic emergency braking, the Mazda6 is rated a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. In the rollover test, NHTSA gives it a 4.
Three models are available: Mazda6 Sport, Mazda6 Touring, and Mazda6 Grand Touring. Sport comes with cloth upholstery and includes all the usual airbags and stability control, and a rearview camera. The Touring adds blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking. Grand Touring adds LED headlamps with automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking that functions at a higher speed.
The Mazda6 is lean from every angle, with sinewy lines that are almost Italian. It has muscular front fenders and an arched coupe-like roofline. In its class, only the Ford Fusion gets as much attention. The grille boasts the same winged design as Mazda crossovers, while the tail is finely detailed.
The trim quality is high and the sculpting tasteful. The sweeping dash is crowned by the bright new seven-inch infotainment display screen. For 2017 a color TFT screen replaces the previous monochromatic gauges.
There’s impressive interior space, with good leg room and knee room even in the rear, although the roofline does cut into rear passenger headroom. The split rear seats fold forward for more room, and the trunk has an average 14.8 cubic feet but a wide load opening.
The seats remain excellent, whether upholstered in cloth, leatherette, standard leather, or the Nappa leather that’s on the Grand Touring, with heated rear seating available in a Premium package that upgrades the Nappa leather.
It’s not as quiet inside as a luxury car. Visibility was improved in the last redesign with use of high-strength steel in the roof pillars, allowing them to be narrower. The standard Mazda Connect infotainment is quick enough, but its control device is balky and the mapping isn’t as good as that on some of its rivals.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine’s 185 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque is hardly impressive, but it’s smooth and surprisingly frisky, thanks to the car’s lack of weight. It’s a small joy with the 6-speed manual transmission, which comes with the Sport and is available on the Touring. The engine is happiest when it’s being revved. It’s more than competitive against the four-cylinders in its class.
Mazdas have long been known for good balance and handling, and the Mazda6 maintains that standard, maybe even ups the game. It comes alive on a curvy road, with steering that’s especially alive and communicative and a ride that’s firm on the standard 17-inch alloy wheels, and firmer with the 19s on the Touring and Grand Touring models. If a plush ride is a priority in your midsize sedan, the 6 is probably not for you.
The new G-Vectoring Control is standard. It applies braking to separate front wheels in corners, to shift weight forward and increase grip so the turn-in is more secure; when that’s done, the system releases and weight shifts to the rear for balance. Mazda says the deceleration force is just 0.01 g or less, so it’s undetectable; all the driver feels is security.
The Mazda6 looks and feels as good as the best in its class, both inside and out. There is no engine option, so you’ll have to live with a smooth and frisky four-cylinder. It handles exceptionally well, the ride is firm, and response from the steering and automatic transmission is good.
Sam Moses wrote this review, with staff reports by The Car Connection.