2015 Mazda MAZDA6 Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 6, 2015

The stunning exterior of the 2015 Mazda 6 isn't leading you on; with an athletic driving experience and a lot of sophistication for the money, this a charming sedan with a surprisingly frugal side.

The 2015 Mazda6 is different. It stands as a light-and-lean counterpoint to the current crop of mid-size sedans, and it offers the impressive space, comfort, and usability to match or even surpass many of its rivals—yet all with a driving experience that feels uncompromised.

Mazda has a knack for pulling off engineering that's so smart, in its cars, that they can be transcendent from the driver's seat. You need only drive a Mazda 3 from the past few years—or any year MX-5 Miata—to understand what it meant with its 'zoom-zoom' tag line. Considering all the challenges around ever-higher fuel economy numbers, ever-tightening safety concerns, and the pressure bolster comfort and feature sets, it feels like the automaker really played its 'A game' with the all-new Mazda6 introduced this past year. 

But it's not completely out of the blue. The outgoing 6 was an often-overlooked model that we've consistently rated one of the most enjoyable to drive models in its class. Why didn't it sell well? We're still not sure; but the 2015 Mazda 6 looks charming, almost sexy, and it's one of the best-driving mid-size sedans on the market.

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With a refined, masculine face and rippled, muscular-looking front fender lines, an arched roofline, and smooth but finely detailed tail and rear lights, the Mazda 6 is just gorgeous. It's hard to find a bad angle on this car, and the proportions are the best they get in this class. But on the inside, it's a little farther from ideal; it isn't going to seduce you inside, although it's near and attractive, with tastefully coordinated materials, just enough brightwork, and soft-touch materials in most places you're likely to touch.

The 2015 Mazda 6 has what sounds like a relatively meager powertrain lineup; although making the most out of light and lean is a Mazda specialty. And the 2.5-liter 'SkyActiv' in-line four-cylinder engine that's standard across the lineup is actually a new and modern 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 either a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic.

Mazda has cut lots of weight while strengthening the body, and with a curb weight of just 3,200 pounds the 6 feels friskier than the output numbers suggest. You'll need to rev the engine to get the most pep, although both of the transmissions are willing partners. 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. Steering is quick and well-weighted, although a little detached as many electric-boost systems are, although this is a car that handles well and is eager to change direction, with the nimble feel of a car that's a size smaller.

And while the Mazda 6 doesn't quite live up to the high ground set by the Nissan Altima or Honda Accord in terms of cabin materials, it offers impressive interior space, with a roomy trunk and flip-forward rear seats that help provide a little more versatility than you might expect. 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.

The 2015 Mazda 6 has strong safety ratings, with a five-star overall rating from the federal government and IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status—although this sedan earns 'acceptable' in the tougher small overlap frontal test. 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. Other noteworthy safety options include Smart City Brake Support (helping prevent collisions due to inattention, at speeds between 4 and 19 mph), High Beam Control, and Adaptive Front Lighting.

Nearly every feature and option you might expect to see available on a modest mid-size sedan is here, although there are a few disappointing details. One of them is the mock-iDrive 'Commander Switch' and the TomTom navigation system, which together are laggy and oddly coordinated (they work better in the Mazda 3, oddly).

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 Commander Switch. 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. And we do recommend the 11-speaker Bose premium system for its excellent sound. 

9

2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Styling

The 2015 Mazda 6 is svelte and handsome on the outside, while it's sporty, inoffensive, and mostly well-designed inside.

With a refined, masculine face and rippled, muscular-looking front fender lines, an arched roofline, and smooth but finely detailed tail and rear lights, the Mazda 6 is just gorgeous. It's hard to find a bad angle on this car, and the proportions are the best they get in this class. But on the inside, it's a little farther from ideal; it isn't going to seduce you inside, although it's near and attractive, with tastefully coordinated materials, just enough brightwork, and soft-touch materials in most places you're likely to touch.

And design for this kind of sedan has been evolving very, very quickly. 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.

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.

Inside, there's not nearly as much beauty--and no seduction, for sure--but the layout is neat and tasteful. The two-level design of the dash, with a separate surface finish, running horizontally across the dash, adds some upscale charm, and we like how Mazda has saved the brightwork and matte-metallics for a few bezels and key points. Materials throughout most of the cabin are well coordinated, and trims that place just enough soft-touch surfaces in most places you're routinely touch.

There's a low point at the middle of the dash, where the blocky base audio system or the available touch-screen TomTom-navigation unit look either dated or from the aftermarket. They're neither well integrated with the look of the rest of the dash nor all that visually striking. The same is true for the climate interface, which clutters a look that's otherwise so clean from a style standpoint.

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2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Performance

The 2015 Mazda 6 isn't quite a sport sedan, but it's far more enjoyable and engaging from the driver's seat than most affordable mid-size sedans.

The 2015 Mazda 6 doesn't scream straight-line performance or completely follow what its leaping-forward form suggests; instead, this is a satisfying, sporty-driving car, with performance that's more responsive and vivid than what you might otherwise expect or find in an affordable mid-size sedan.

The 2.5-liter 'SkyActiv' in-line four-cylinder engine that's standard across the lineup is actually a new and modern 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 either a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic.

Mazda has cut lots of weight while strengthening the body, and with a curb weight of just 3,200 pounds the 6 feels friskier than the output numbers suggest. You'll need to rev the engine to get the most pep, although both of the transmissions are willing partners. 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.

And 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. 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.

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.

Steering is quick and well-weighted, although a little detached as many electric-boost systems are. 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, and effort that builds nicely off center.

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2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Comfort & Quality

The back seat might suffer a bit from the stylish roofline, but the Mazda 6's firm but composed ride and supportive front seats add up to a very plesant experience.

The Mazda 6 has interior appointments that, while impressive, aren't quite on the high ground set by some models that have recently raised the bar -- like the latest Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, or Nissan Altima. But the Mazda 6 does offers lots of interior space, with a roomy trunk and flip-forward rear seats that help provide a little more versatility than you might expect.

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. Even in a drive with some strong crosswinds, a test 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.

The seats in the Mazda6 are excellent. And even if you go for the base Sport model you'll find great lateral support. 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.

The rear bench seat lacks the headroom that taller adults need, and it's positioned quite high up. 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 (where there's a fold-down center armrest, which we appreciated).

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.

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2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Safety

The Mazda 6 matches great occupant protection ratings with an equally impressive feature set.

The 2015 Mazda 6 has strong safety ratings, and a good set of active-safety features -- especially if you're willing to pay extra and move up to the top-trim Grand Touring model. 

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.

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. Other noteworthy safety options include Smart City Brake Support (helping prevent collisions due to inattention, at speeds between 4 and 19 mph), High Beam Control, and Adaptive Front Lighting. Those systems earn the IIHS 'advanced' rating in front crash prevention.

Review continues below
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2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Features

The infotainment system in the 2015 Mazda 6 might be its low point; but there's otherwise some standout features and technology.

Three different models remain offered for the 2015 Mazda 6: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. If you want a manual gearbox, you'll have to stick with the Sport or Touring levels, as the Grand Touring only comes with the automatic transmission.

You get a lot of standard features on the base Sport -- including 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 or rear drum brakes in the lineup. And if you get the automatic-transmission Sport, you also get 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 Commander Switch. an iDrive-style controller that works with a just-adequate TomTom navigation system. Altogether however, this system ends up laggy and oddly coordinated (we found the newer version of this system in the Mazda 3 to work much better, by the way).  

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. And we do recommend the 11-speaker Bose premium system for its excellent sound. 

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.

At the top of the lineup you get 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. It was more sluggish in dealing with satellite radio, however, so keep that in mind depending on what you commonly listen to.

That high-end system also has SMS text capability built in (check with Mazda to see which handsets work). There's voice control built in, too; but don't expect to simply start using it. And unfortunately there are no natural-language commands here; it’s structured with a system of syntax-intensive commands nested in menus.

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2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Fuel Economy

You won't find a hybrid or a diesel here (at least not quite yet), although the 2015 Mazda 6 is one of the leanest, most efficient sedans its size.

The 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. While there's no hybrid model, the 6 returns the mileage of a model a size smaller.

Mazda has long promised a second engine in the lineup—a 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder—and while this engine has reportedly been held up in U.S. emissions testing, we expect its highway ratings to significantly top 40 mpg. 

In the meantime, the most fuel-efficient Mazda 6 model is the Grand Touring with the GT Technology Package, where you get the capacitor-based (no clunky additional battery pack) 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. This brings a phenomenal 656-mile highway range.

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, the gasoline 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.

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October 13, 2015
2015 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Grand Touring

Outstanding "family sedan"

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I hate the term "family sedan" for a car like this because it implies boring and utilitarian, which this car is definitely not. Very good performance and fun to drive. (A turbo would be nice but I always want... + More »
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August 19, 2015
2015 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Manual i Sport

Sublime, just that.

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It's by far, the best car ever based on a relation price/product. I'm completly happy wiht my red soul all new mazda6.
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July 19, 2015
2015 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Manual i Sport

2015 Mazda 6 is an amazing car.

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Owned a 2015 6 GT for approx 7 months and now have approx 10k miles on it. Simply put this is an amazing car that is very satisfying to drive with so many features that once you grow accustom to you will not... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2015 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Touring

new but love it & don't know it yet

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The car is attractive, comfortable and simply nice. I only have had the car for a couple of weeks, so no comment on reliability. The car is fairly quick and handles well--- I am not sure about the Nitrofil in... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Best value in midsize car segment

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I test drove several other cars before purchasing the Mazda6. It has all of the options including Tech Package. The handling and performance are second too only BMW and Audi. Fuel economy is averaging just... + More »
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April 13, 2015
For 2015 Mazda MAZDA6

Best car I've ever owned

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This is a great car. I got the GT trim with Tech Package. It has lots of electronic bells and whistles, most notably radar cruise control. It isn't the quietest car around (apparently improved in 2016), but I... + More »
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Styling 9
Performance 8
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