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