2014 Mazda MAZDA6 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 8, 2014

The 2014 Mazda 6 is a beauty, with refined, perky powertrains and a driving experience that mostly delivers on what the exterior suggests.

With the excellent new 2014 Mazda6, the automaker shows that its 'zoom-zoom' personality really does scale up into a mid-size car. And furthermore, it proves that the company's core SkyActiv initiative—aimed at keeping cars lean and frugal yet engaging to drive—works.

The outgoing 6 was an often-overlooked model that we've consistently rated one of the most enjoyable to drive models in its class. As for the current model, it's now one of the best-driving mid-size sedans, wrapped in a far more charming, almost sexy exterior.

From the new corporate grille and front end (more of a refined, masculine face than the clownish smile of some other recent models), to the rippled, muscular-looking front fender lines, the arched roofline, and the smooth, surprisingly refined tail and rear lights, the 2014is just gorgeous. Pacing around at 360 degrees, it's impossible to find an awkward angle on this car. The proportions are the best they get in this class, and it's a knockout. Open the driver's door, and what you get is a little farther from fantasy. The Mazda 6 interior isn't going to flat-out seduce you the way the exterior does, but it's neat and quite attractive, with tastefully coordinated materials, just enough brightwork, and trims that place just enough soft-touch surfaces in the places where hands are likely to go.

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Again perhaps at odds with the sexy sheetmetal, the Mazda 6 has a rather simple powertrain lineup; it's powered by a new 2.5-liter 'SkyActiv' in-line four-cylinder engine, fitted with direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 13:1 compression ratio (unleaded gas is just fine)—altogether making 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, and good for up to 38 mpg on the highway. All versions have front-wheel drive, and the engine is fitted to two all-new transmissions: a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic. But it does get better once you're behind the wheel. Mazda has cut lots of weight while strengthening the body, and with a curb weight of just 3,200 pounds the new 6 feels friskier than the output numbers suggest. The new SkyActiv engine needs to be revved in order to access most of its torque; luckily both transmissions tap into that character easily. For the automatic, you get crisp, very quick shifts and almost the feel of a dual-clutch unit; and the manual (our favorite) has short throws and clean, precise action. The Mazda6 isn't sport-sedan firm, yet it handles near the top of the mid-size class; steering is quick and well-weighted, too, although somehow it loses its feel of the road.

If you've spent any time in the new Ford Fusion, or even the new Nissan Altima or Honda Accord, it's likely you'll concede—like we did—that the Mazda6's interior appointments aren't quite on the high ground that those models set. The seats in the Mazda6 are the exception. They're excellent, and even if you go for the base Sport model you'll find great lateral support. The rear bench seat lacks the headroom that taller adults need, and it's positioned quite high up. A roomy trunk and flip-forward rear seats provide that extra dose of practicality that's now the norm for this class.

In addition to all the usual airbags, plus stability control, and four-wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist, some Mazda6 models are offered with Blind Sport Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert—a system that helps spot cross traffic as you're backing out of a parking space, or warn of an adjacent vehicle when changing lanes. There's also Lane Departure Warning, and Forward Obstruction Warning, which detects vehicles ahead and sounds a warning; Smart City Brake Support is also offered—helping prevent collisions due to inattention, at speeds between 4 and 19 mph. Adaptive Front Lighting and High Beam Control are also on offer. The Mazda6 also fits in among the safest models on the market, as an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

Standard features on the base Sport include air conditioning, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, push-button start, a USB audio input, and 17-inch alloy wheels (there are no steel wheels in the lineup). Get the automatic-transmission Sport and you add Bluetooth, HD Radio compatibility, and a rear-view camera system, with a 5.8-inch color touch screen. Touring models get dual-zone climate control, a power driver's seat, blind-spot monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, rear-seat vents, leatherette seats, 19-inch alloy wheels, and the so-called Commander Switch with alternate controls for the screen. And at the top of the lineup, Grand Touring models add leather upholstery, heated front seats, a memory driver's seat and power passenger seat, a fog lamps, steering-wheel paddle-shifters, satellite radio, a power moonroof, bi-xenon headlamps, LED running lamps, and adaptive front lighting. Both the mock-iDrive Commander Switch and the TomTom navigation system are flat-out disappointing, with a laggy response to some of their features, poor map detail, and oddly coordinated menus. But the Bose sound of the 11-speaker premium system is excellent.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Styling

The knockout good looks of the 2014 Mazda 6 exterior are what will grab you, while the interior is sporty, inoffensive, and mostly well-designed.

Not so long ago at all, mid-size sedans could get away with frumpy and anonymous; but the latest family-size models seem to be in a sort of style-and-design arms race—inching ever toward sexy sheetmetal and performance cues, all without removing too much practicality in the process.

At the front of this latest wave—and perhaps next to the very stylish Ford Fusion—is the new Mazda 6. Give it one look, and it's quite simply a beautiful car. Check out the exterior details, and they all fit nicely together, whether you're looking at the new corporate grille and front end (more of a refined, masculing face than the clownish smile of some other recent models, the rippled, muscular-looking front fender lines, the arched roofline, or the smooth, surprisingly refined tail and rear lights. Pacing around at 360 degrees, it's impossible to find an awkward angle on this car. The proportions are the best they get in this class, and it's a knockout.

The Mazda 6 is a result of Mazda's new “Kodo, soul of motion” design initiative, following the earlier Shinari concept car from the 2010 Milan show, and then the more recent Takeri concept from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. Kodo is “an expression of a forceful and beautiful vitality,” according to Mazda—and what it amounts to in execution is a daring, more sports-car influenced look.

Compared to the previous 6, Mazda has moved the windshield pillar slightly back, and increased the distance from the front axle to the pillar—helping establish more of a rear-biased, performance-car stance. Then as in many other new models, the rearward pillars also allow better visibility in front, and side mirrors have been moved a little farther back, along the doors.

The Mazda 6 interior isn't going to flat-out seduce you the way the exterior does, but it's neat and quite attractive in all. Materials throughout most of the cabin are tastefully coordinated, with just enough brightwork, and trims that place just enough soft-touch surfaces in the places where hands are likely to go.

Up close, Mazda uses a separate surface finish, running horizontally across the dash, to split the upper and lower levels; otherwise, it's backed away from the use of too much brightwork and matte-metallics, saving it only for a few bezels and key points.

The trouble starts around the middle of the dash, and it's what keeps us from giving the Mazda6 a top 10 in styling (we liked it that much otherwise). Whether speaking of the blocky base audio system or the available touch-screen TomTom-navigation unit, these systems look a little bit dated, a little bit like aftermarket systems, and don't appear all that well integrated with the look of the rest of the dash (we had to look at pictures of the last Mazda6, and the one before it, to remember how nicely integrated prior sound systems have been). Look just below the dash's beltline and there's a climate interface that also also doesn't quite fit in with the otherwise no-nonsense look

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2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Performance

The 2014 Mazda 6 is way more fun-to-drive and engaging than most frugal, affordable sedans, but we wouldn't go so far as to call it a sport sedan.

While you might not find the straight-line performance that's hinted in leaping-forward form of the 2014 Mazda 6, this is a satisfying, sporty-feeling car, considering what it also is: a frugal, practical family-oriented sedan.

The new Mazda 6 has a rather simple powertrain lineup; it's powered by a new 2.5-liter 'SkyActiv' in-line four-cylinder engine, fitted with direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 13:1 compression ratio (unleaded gas is just fine)—altogether making 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. All versions have front-wheel drive, and the engine is fitted to two all-new transmissions: a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic.

Through Mazda's SkyActiv initiative, it's cut weight from the body structure, made transmissions more efficient and direct-feeling, and found all sorts of other ways to make efficiency gains of up to 30 percent. In all, the new 6 weighs a rather light (for the class) 3,200 pounds with the base setup and manual gearbox, and only slightly more with the automatic—making it feel very peppy, considering what it has.

In all, the Mazda6 is as quick as most gas-mileage-minded shoppers will ever want; although at the same time, the new SkyActiv engine needs to be revved in order to access most of its torque. Luckily, it's smooth and well behaved when it's revved or pressed. Mazda has this time given the 6 a sturdy accelerator pedal with a floor-hinged feel, as well as a solid-feeling (German-style) detent that clicks reassuringly at full throttle.

The new six-speed automatic slips very little at low speeds, like a dual-clutch gearbox, and has a knack of raising revs and downshifting only when needed, and smartly hitching onto the highest gear whenever you’re only cruising—or even accelerating lightly. Some models get steering-wheel paddle shifters to supplement the manual gate for the shift knob—allowing you to select your own gears, except at full throttle, where the transmission forces a downshift to the lowest available gear.

As likable as the new six-speed automatic is, we’d still rather be in the manual version. Unfortunately, as much as the 6 is trying to appeal to driving enthusiasts, you can only get the manual gearbox if you opt for one of the lower trim levels. The shift action is the best it gets, with short throws and a neat, precise linkage. These versions get Hill Hold Assist, too.

Overall, the Mazda6 handles near the top of the mid-size class. With entirely new suspension geometry aiming especially at eliminating dive and squat, Mazda has given the suspension a little more travel, and also raised the pivot point for the rear suspension, which reduces the impact shocks making their way into the cabin while also increasing controllability under load and near the limit.

Mazda boasts that the 6's steering ratio (15.5:1) is nearly as quick as the Miata's (15.0:1), and that results in a quick, responsive feel; the new electric power-steering system provides weighting that's just right—well-centered, and with effort that builds nicely—but road feel is surprisingly a little lacking.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Comfort & Quality

A firm but composed ride combined with supportive front seats altogether make the 2014 Mazda 6 a joy—although the back seat may be missing a tick or two of headroom for taller guys.

If you've spent any time in the new Ford Fusion, or even the new Nissan Altima or Honda Accord, it's likely you'll concede—like we did—that the Mazda6's interior appointments aren't quite on the high ground that those models set.

The seats in the Mazda6 are the exception. They're excellent. You get sport seats with a little more side support than you might expect in an affordable mid-size sedan, even at the base Sport level, and there's more thigh support than typical, which helps tremendously for longer-distance drives.

In back, the bench feels somewhat high up, and that conspires to make getting in a little more challenging than you might expect. Even once you’re in you may find your head surprisingly close to the roofline—made worse if you decide to sit in the middle by a sort of upward hump. Although we appreciated the fold-down center armrest with cupholders.

Trunk space is plentiful, with a wide load opening, and the split-folding rear seatbacks fold forward for more space; although there are some sharp edges that may snag items that brush the top of the cargo space.

Ride quality is impressive, but not quite luxury-car quiet. There's a little more road noise than you'll find in some models in this class, but the ride is about perfect for most roads—firm, yet absorbing the most jarring impacts. Our drive was during some particularly strong crosswinds, and it’s worth noting that the 6 seemed unflustered, tracking well and blocking out the sort of wind noises we might have expected. The coefficient of drag is as low as 0.26, which probably helps with that.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Safety

The 2014 Mazda 6 should be much better at protecting occupants—and, perhaps, staying out of trouble.

The 2014 Mazda 6 is one of the better picks in this class for safety--although doesn't get ratings that are quite class-leading.

In addition to all the usual airbags, plus stability control, and four-wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist, some Mazda6 models are offered with Blind Sport Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert—a system that helps spot cross traffic as you're backing out of a parking space, or warn of an adjacent vehicle when changing lanes. There's also Lane Departure Warning, and Forward Obstruction Warning, which detects vehicles ahead and sounds a warning; Smart City Brake Support is also offered—helping prevent collisions due to inattention, at speeds between 4 and 19 mph. Adaptive Front Lighting and High Beam Control are also on offer.

The Mazda6 has earned an impressive five-star overall rating from the federal government, albeit with a four-star frontal rating. And although it's among the better vehicles that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has tested, and an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, its 'acceptable' rating in the tougher new small overlap frontal impact test isn't quite up to the standards of a few other top achievers in the class.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Features

The 2014 Mazda 6 offers a lot of features for the money—and some standout technology in its upper trims—but its infotainment interface leaves lots to be desired.

The 2014 Mazda 6 is offered in three different models: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. Sport and Touring models are offered with the automatic or manual transmissions, but the Grand Touring is automatic-only.

Standard features on the base Sport include air conditioning, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, push-button start, a USB audio input, and 17-inch alloy wheels (there are no steel wheels in the lineup). Get the automatic-transmission Sport and you add Bluetooth, HD Radio compatibility, and a rear-view camera system, with a 5.8-inch color touch screen. Touring models get dual-zone climate control, a power driver's seat, blind-spot monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, rear-seat vents, leatherette seats, 19-inch alloy wheels, and the so-called Commander Switch with alternate controls for the screen. And at the top of the lineup, Grand Touring models add leather upholstery, heated front seats, a memory driver's seat and power passenger seat, a fog lamps, steering-wheel paddle-shifters, satellite radio, a power moonroof, bi-xenon headlamps, LED running lamps, and adaptive front lighting.

Options are limited to a few packages. The Touring Technology package ($2,000) adds Smart City Brake Support, Bose premium audio, the navigation system, heated mirrors, advanced keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, and a universal garage-door opener to the Touring, while an Advanced package ($2,080) adds Radar Cruise Control, Forward Obstruction Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and High Beam Control—as well as the new fuel-saving i-ELOOP system—to the Grand Touring. Separately, Radar Cruise Control and Forward Obstruction Warning can be added to the Grand Touring for $900.

The TomTom navigation system that we experienced in an early drive left a lot to be desired. Mazda notes that the system has “premium maps,” but we found the resolution, the detail, and the appearance of the system to be inferior to just about any other in-car navigation system we've used as of late. The system is essentially the same one that Mazda's using in the CX-5 compact crossover, and the so-called Command Controller that upper trims get, located just ahead of the center console bin and armrest, is a disappointment as well. What looks promising from a few feet away unfortunately only provides a few redundant controls for the navigation and entertainment system—and ends up feeling like a BMW iDrive knockoff

We also found the audio features in the Grand Touring to be among the most sluggish we’ve encountered recently (tuning satellite radio, dialing up tracks). For instance, the system grabbed track info from satellite radio in a laggy way, as if it were loading it a character at a time from a slow internet connection. However, the system has a great-sounding Bose audio setup, with 11 speakers and Centerpoint 2 surround, and works very well with Pandora Internet Radio—better, in fact, than we've noted from far more advanced state-of-the-art infotainment systems. Selecting Pandora from the touch screen, it right away asked us on the iPhone for accessory control and within a second or two was playing music—with full track info, the opportunity to thumbs up/thumbs down, and easy switching between stations.

SMS text capability is built in, although it won't work with the iPhone. There's voice control built in, too; but don't expect to simply start using it. It’s structured with a system of syntax-intensive commands nested in menus, so you'll need to learn those first.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Fuel Economy

The 2014 Mazda 6 is one of the leanest and most fuel-efficient models in its class—and that's before even considering its upcoming clean-diesel option.

The diesel engine option that we thought would show up in the Mazda 6 (and allow it to top 40 mpg) isn't arriving for 2014. That said, the 2014 Mazda 6 is a very fuel-efficient car with its base four-cylinder gasoline engine—incorporating a suite of so-called SkyActiv technologies that include direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 14:1 compression ratio.

Based on what we've seen with both this 2.5-liter version in the Mazda6, as well as the smaller 2.0-liter version that's going in the Mazda3, this engine delivers excellent real-world mileage—perhaps 3 to 5 mpg better in real-world driving than other vehicles that have comparable EPA ratings. Like many cars in its class, the Mazda6 now does better with the automatic than with the manual in the official test as well as in real conditions—mostly because the automatic is so good at quickly bringing engine revs down when they're not needed.

In brisk driving, over 125 miles of suburban boulevards and country two-laners, mostly, with some expressway driving, we averaged nearly 31 mpg in an automatic Mazda6.

Add the GT Technology Package, and you get the capacitor-based i-ELOOP system, earning 2 mpg better in both the city and highway cycles—for a net 28 mpg city, 40 mpg highway--32-mpg Combined in a mid-size sedan; no clunky hybrid battery pack. This brings a phenomenal 656-mile highway range.

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March 1, 2016
2014 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Sport

Great Mileage and Very Dependable

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Very good mileage, averaging 32 mpg Have 60,000 miles and only one small shifter problem. Did not have to replace first set of tires until 55,000 and still have the other with good mileage on them. I had a... + More »
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June 9, 2015
For 2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Loved my car but...

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I had this over 2 years. Had the GT. I'm surprised with the one review about having same tires @40,000. I needed new tires about a year later. I had a shifter problem about 3 different times. The cover/plate... + More »
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May 13, 2015
For 2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Nice car but has a lot of road noise.

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We like the car but the seats are a little tight and it has a lo of road noise.
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May 5, 2015
2014 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Touring

Awesome family sedan

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Stylish sedan, worth a value. The car have a cutting edge technology. Need a lot to improve in entertainment systems. The model need an engine variety.
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April 29, 2015
2014 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Grand Touring

Excellent Value

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The Mazda6 is a hidden jewell. It is well with the money and my only two complaints are the noise level, which is a little high, but certainly acceptable and the Tom Tom navigation system, which is inaccurate... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2014 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Sport

I love my 6

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I thought having a 4 cyl in a full size would be a prob, but Mazda's got a great little engine in this car. The steering and handling have that typical sporty mazda feel. The car looks great and is super... + More »
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April 21, 2015
For 2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Hybrid mileage without the hybrid

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My 2014 Soul Red Mazda 6 is the perfect combination of style, safety, and economy. It seats four adults comfortably. It has an array of features including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and... + More »
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April 15, 2015
For 2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Hands Down, Best Midisze Value out there...

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This is such a great car. Its quick, it handles well, has a super smooth engine/transmission, great styling, and I have been getting 34 mpg average over the 43,000 miles that I have driven it. Regarding... + More »
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April 13, 2015
For 2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Outstanding Midsize Choice

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I've owned my '14 Mazda 6 Grand Touring for almost 2 years. During that time, it's averaged slightly over 35 mpg (I keep track of every fill-up & odometer reading). It has the GT package, which includes the... + More »
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April 10, 2015
For 2014 Mazda MAZDA6

I love this car!!!

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This Mazda gives me great gas mileage (31.4 m.p.g. average combined city/highway) for the traditional non-hybrid 4 cylinder gas engine. The overall ride of the car can be a bit "stiff" at times, but the trade... + More »
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Styling 9.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 8.0
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