2014 Mazda 6: First Drive Page 2

February 1, 2013
Considering the sportier 'zoom-zoom' ethos behind it, the Mazda 6 is far more comfortable than you might expect it to be. With well-bolstered sport seats throughout the model line—even in the base Sport—as well as a really nice (firm but absorbent) ride, this is a car that holds you in place on curvy roads and gives you plenty of support for long-haul Interstate slogs. The back-seat is comfortable, too, although the swoopy roofline limits headroom for those much over six feet tall.

Rewarding, but not edgy

That said, it might not be quite as sharp as you'd expect either. Mazda redesigned the suspension, as well as the pivot points in back, so as to allow more travel without upsetting the geometry—and while countering dive and squat. It's on the firm side for a mid-size sedan, but we wouldn't call it a sport sedan; this is a car that feels ideally tuned more for long, sweeping corners than for the unpredictably banked corners. Over irregular surfaces and tight corners, even right up against the limits, the quick-ratio steering stayed oddly stoic, despite the nice steering-wheel weighting that altogether delivered a sort of Cliffs Notes crib of what was happening at the tires.

Otherwise, the 2014 Mazda 6 offers a lot of features for the money--with the nearly fully loaded, active-safety-equipped Grand Touring we spend the most time with bottom-lining at about $31k. So it stands strong, mostly, when you're cross-shopping by value.

Mazda calls the instrument-panel layout ‘uncluttered,’ and we appreciate the clean look and admittedly simple layout; but Mazda struck out in many interface aspects—with climate controls and infotainment interfaces that neither match each other—for interface, tactility, and the like—nor the rest of the car. One of them is the climate controls, which despite knobs that are easy to grab quickly to change settings yet have a display that's covered with a lens that seems to gather reflections during daylight driving (closing the sunroof helped).

Infotainment disappointment

The other disappointment is audio and infotainment systems. The base system in the Sport is a blocky unit that doesn't quite fit in, while most other models get a touch screen system, combined with available TomTom navigation that also doesn't work well with the look of the rest of the car and doesn't function particularly well; even if you're not the type to opt up to MyFord Touch or have the latest smartphone, you may find it frustrating and sluggish. Although Pandora integration worked great with our iPhone5, satellite-radio information was laggy, maps took a long time to load and had poor detail, and the so-called Command Controller you get in top trims responds inconsistently to the various screen menus—feeling more than anything like an underdelivering BMW iDrive knockoff. It looks pretty good on the center console, but it doesn't function well. And sitting through the tutorial for the voice-command system, we learned that it’s structured with a system of tree-style commands; in this age of Siri, you can’t simply give it a natural-language command and expect results.

Infotainment aside, the rest of the materials throughout the cabin look and feel quite great, and in general, the Mazda 6 does a great job in pretending it's a little more upmarket than it is.

And as we pointed out, the driving experience is positively charming, and never bland. If you're ever down about a few of those other points, step out, take a look at the exterior, then speed off on your favorite backroad. Your relationship with this zoomy mid-size sedan will be rekindled.

See our full review of the 2014 Mazda 6 for more details on its feature set and safety, as well as more about the driving experience.
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