Dreaming that one day you’ll own a genuine sport sedan packed with alluring style, sumptuous luxury, and the latest in technology? Bummed that you can’t afford anything more than what the average American spends on a new car? Don’t worry, my friend, because Mazda has just the set of wheels for you.
Behold the refreshed 2016 Mazda Mazda6, offered in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring versions that range in price from a no-options $22,615 to $34,770 with all the extras. This attractive midsize family sedan is beguiling in base form and gets even better when fully outfitted with soft leather, an 11-speaker surround-sound stereo, navigation, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, a blind spot warning system, and an innovative brake energy regeneration technology that improves fuel economy.
Testing included a Touring with a 6-speed manual gearbox and a loaded-up Grand Touring, each painted in Mazda’s signature Soul Red color. Interior fittings exuded quality and aesthetic good taste, for the most part appearing and feeling like an entry-level luxury car. My Grand Touring’s Parchment (off-white) leather looked terrific, but I question its long-term compatibility with modern dark-wash jeans. Or immature offspring.
Refined and eager to rev, a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is the only engine, powering the front wheels through either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. I preferred the manual; the automatic, when driven normally, tended to upshift too quickly in order to conserve fuel (I averaged just 29.3 mpg, short of the EPA’s 32-mpg estimate). When I activated the Sport button, the automatic transmission tended to hold revs too high for too long. Driven with vigor without the Sport mode engaged, or in Sport mode and using the paddle shifters, the powertrain responded beautifully (speeding ticket time). These were not issues with the manual, but, unfortunately, the manual is not offered with Grand Touring trim. However, because Americans don’t care much these days for a clutch, it shouldn’t impact sales.
Equipped with big 19-inch wheels wrapped in 225/45 Dunlop SP Sport 5000 tires, and without the weight of a V6 engine sitting over the front wheels, the Mazda6 felt light, nimble, and athletic on my favorite back road. The steering was crisp and precise, and the steering wheel was a joy to grip. Well-calibrated suspension tuning eliminated unwanted body motion without beating me up, and the car almost glided from corner to corner while a huge smile was plastered on my face. Brake pedal response upon initial engagement could use further fine-tuning, but this is a minor issue magnified only by the absence of other dynamic faults.
Comfort is challenging, depending on how big you are and the weather outside. Four average-sized adults will be happy, but longer-limbed people will have trouble finding the right driving position and will resent riding in the undeniably snug back seat. More concerning is that the Touring model’s standard leatherette upholstery traps sweat on hot days, and that the Grand Touring is unavailable with ventilated front seats or heated rear seats. The trunk measures on the small side of the midsize sedan segment, too, at 14.8 cu.-ft., but a compact folding stroller fits wheels-first.
Mazda Connect infotainment technology is new for the 2016 Mazda6, but by and large simplicity rules as far as instrumentation is concerned. Mazda Connect incorporates a tablet-style touchscreen display mounted on the dashboard, combined with a set of buttons and knobs placed atop the center console. Similar in concept to Audi and BMW systems, Mazda Connect puts the Mazda6’s owner on a steep learning curve, but the result is intuitive operation via voice, steering wheel, touchscreen, and console controls.
Thoughtfully, Mazda allows Grand Touring owners to configure aspects of the optional lane departure warning system, programming it to warn before or during lane departure, via audible or tactile methods, and in various degrees of urgency. As a result, I was inclined to keep the system engaged rather than to shut it off while muttering in irritation.
Blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic systems worked perfectly, too, and while I did not experience the collision warning system, I did notice that the adaptive cruise control system automatically slowed the car on the tighter curves of Pacific Coast Highway just north of Malibu. Should an accident prove unavoidable, the Mazda6 earns “Good” and “Superior” ratings in all Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, making this one safe automobile.
Safe, efficient, and comfortable (at least on cool days for people of average stature), the 2016 Mazda Mazda6 is a practical car, but it is also plenty of fun to drive. Given the number of noggins I noticed swiveling to take a long look at it, this car is a head-turner, too. Best of all, it can be yours for far less than you thought it would take to own a stylish set of wheels packed with advanced technology.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2016 Mazda Mazda6 page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
Image credit ©2016 Christian Wardlaw / AutoWeb