Mazda’s SKYACTIV gas saving approach has clearly fueled sales of the compact CX-5 crossover. Well now Mazda is focusing their new thinking at the mid-size sedan realm with an all-new Mazda6. But no matter how innovative, it won’t be easy to get traction in a segment dominated by Camry and Accord. But, as the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, and Nissan Altima have recently shown, noteworthy designs can make a dent. So is it the Mazda6’s turn? Let’s find out.
The 2014 MAZDA6 is the 3rd generation of Mazda’s mid-sizer. And while sales have never been huge, that’s mostly because the 6 strived to offer something unique. This also marks the 2nd vehicle to get the full SKYACTIV treatment, which emphasizes light weight and increased powertrain efficiency over electric-assist or alternative fuels to raise fuel economy. And it introduces further new technology dubbed i-ELOOP, which is a capacitor-based regenerative braking system that feeds power to electrical components during normal braking.
Feeding power to the 6’s front wheels is the CX-5’s new SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter I4 with fuel sipping goodies, super-high 13:1 compression ratio, direct injection, variable timing, and reduced friction, all helping to produce 184-horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque. Both a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic are available. Still to come is the promised SKYACTIV-D diesel, making its way to our shores later this year.
The design and size of the interior usually makes or breaks a family sedan. It clearly hurt the previous Mazda6. The new car is clearly roomier, with a driver focused layout that looks handsome and orderly. The BMW-inspired, low dash features controls that are all easy to operate. Optional is an iDrive-like “commander-switch” that manages the rather small 5.8-inch radio and nav display. But, its buttons are mostly the same as those that surround the touch screen or are on the steering wheel, so we don’t feel it’s any more convenient.
The three pod gauge cluster has a large tach left, speedometer center, and an info display on the right. But, with only a coolant light, it not as sporty as it appears. Radar Cruise, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Forward Obstruction Warning are new options.
The front seat bottoms seemed thin, but overall comfort is good whether covered in leather in the Grand Touring model or in cloth as in the base Sport model. There’s minimal steering wheel rake so you sit lower than most family sedans. More MX-5 than CX-5 and we liked it.
Thanks to a longer wheelbase, rear seat room is no longer a Mazda6 handicap. Rear legroom is up almost an inch and now comparable to Camry and Accord. Cargo capacity actually falls a bit however, to 14.8 cubic-ft. We spent time in both the quite luxurious Grand Touring model and the base Sport and found them to each have a different personality.
The Sport with its manual trans was clearly the most fun; the shifter is almost Miata-like, and gives the car a more engaging and entertaining personality.
Not that the Grand Tourer is a snoozer. Its automatic is much improved, though the SKYACTIV-DRIVE transmission is in a real hurry to shift up as soon as possible to maximize fuel economy.
Like just about every other updated chassis the new 6 gets stiffer and lighter, and like most Mazda’s when driven at a slightly aggressive pace it feels very willing-and-able with sharp turn-ins and responsive steering. It’s only when you keep pushing that you’re reminded that even though the suspension feels firmer than Camry and Accord, this really is a family sedan. Further reminders come from Dynamic Stability Control that was a little too eager to engage.
Going SKYACTIV on the ¼-mile in our Grand Touring auto-equipped Mazda6 was not exactly thrilling, but not exactly slow either; 0-60 is dispatched in 8.2-seconds, with 16.4-seconds and 87 miles-per-hour to finish the entire quarter mile.
While it won’t supplant the Ford Fusion as best looking in the segment, we are fans of the 6’s slick looking, swoopy sheet-metal. 19-inch wheels are standard on Touring and Grand Touring models, and even the base Sport model features 17s.
The SKYACTIV approach does indeed payoff in Government Fuel Economy Ratings; 26-City, 38-Highway, and 30-Combined for the automatic. That’s 2 MPG Highway better than a similar Camry I4, and the same as Accord. We averaged a fine 33.9 on Regular grade. The Energy Impact Score is thus better than average; 11.0-barrels of annual oil use and yearly CO2 emissions of 4.8-tons.
Prices for the Mazda6 are up just slightly over last year, starting at $21,675.
The 2014 Mazda6 has stayed true to its roots of driving enjoyment, while taking care of most size and equipment issues. We see SKYACTIV economy gains also as a plus. Still, it won’t topple Camry or Accord. But, is new “6” now a more desirable alternative to the brown paper bag family sedan? You bet your sweet “Zoom-Zoom” it is.
Long Term Updates
Date: August 2013
We debated about ordering a 2014 Mazda6 with a manual transmission. After all, this stylish mid-size family sedan is usually equipped with an automatic. But, we did and we’re glad. It enables us to explore the true nature of the car and see that at Mazda there really is some “Zoom Zoom” in every design.
Our Sport is also the base trim, and we are impressed at how well equipped it is. Lots of power accessories, cruise, supportive seats, and even a decent sounding stereo, all for less than $22,000.
Fuel economy is decent too. The SkyActiv powertrain is returning 32.9 miles per gallon of regular after 2,200 miles of daily duty.
And, yes, it is a pleasure to drive. No automatic, not even with paddle shifters, can duplicate the driver-car interaction of a manual tranny. Plus, in the 2014 Mazda6, it fits us like a glove.
Date: October 2013
There are many reasons we enjoy having a 2014 Mazda6 in our long term fleet.
Mazda’s new family staple is dramatically styled, setting it apart from market leaders like Camry and Accord.
It is also very roomy and comfortable, and our base Mazda6 Sport even comes with a smooth action 6-speed manual transmission. That catapults what might be a suburban appliance into the near sport sedan category.
It is loads of fun to drive. The 2.5-liter SkyActiv four is clearly more responsive with a manual than with an automatic.
And did we mention fuel efficient? SkyActiv promises a lot and at 34.6 miles per gallon of regular after 3 months and 10,000 miles, it is delivering.
We do miss a better stereo and some of the bells and whistles, but on the other hand, there’s little to distract you from enjoying your drive in the Mazda6.
Date: November 2013
Another family car that so far plays to a smaller group of fans is our 2014 Mazda6 Sport.
But, that’s changing as more buyers are drawn in by the new “6’s” striking good looks.
Looks that fit a family sedan that is a total performance package; matching a sporty sedan nature with excellent fuel economy, and a very affordable price. Granted, our car is the standard 6-speed manual. But, even automatic cars get the driver involved like no rival.
The 2.5-liter SkyActiv four has more than ample power, and that’s with a hybrid-like 34.8 miles per gallon of regular fuel economy after 6 months and 10,000 miles.
Best of all, we have had no mechanical issues, not even premature wear and tear. Nope, for us, the Mazda6 keeps coming up as a winning number.
Engine: 2.5-liter I4
Torque: 185 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 8.2 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.4 seconds @ 87 mph
EPA: 26 mpg city/ 38 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 4.8 tons/yr