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FEATURES | 8 out of 10
Mazda is also expanding options for the latest 6 with features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, front obstruction warning, rear cross-traffic alert and smart city brake support.
When a smartphone is connected, text messages can be shown on the touch screen, and the system can voice the messages and allow users to send replies using fixed phrases.
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The 6's 5.8-inch touchscreen is small, with low resolution, and the optional TomTom navigation system it displays isn't as intuitive or refined as systems from Honda or Nissan.
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.
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.