2016 Mazda MAZDA6 Review

Consumer Reviews
3 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 26, 2016

The Mazda 6 is a near-knockout: its four-cylinder isn't blazingly quick, but the stunning shape and athletic driving experience add a lot of charm to the surprisingly frugal four-door.

In the context of Camrys and Accords and Fusions, the Mazda 6 has been a slow seller; but that doesn't make it less worthy of attention. It's been mostly overlooked, but Mazda hopes a quick refresh in the 2016 model year will help to turn that around.

The 2016 Mazda 6 is an evocative, sleek sedan with some of the best road manners in its class—and a good antidote to the boredom that usually accompanies affordable mid-size models.

The 6 is gorgeous in a way no other $25,000 family sedan manages, not even the exceedingly handsome Ford Fusion. Its muscular front fenders, arched roofline, and finely detailed rear end make it hard to find a bad angle on the car. This year, Mazda's only touched it up lightly, with a reshaped grille that shares the winged design also emerging on the CX-5 and CX-3 crossovers, framed by narrow headlamps with newly available LED trim and rear LED lighting. The grille is illuminated at the bottom by a strip of lighting on models equipped with the LED headlamps.

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On the inside, the Mazda 6 has been less lissome, and plagued in particular with dark grainy plastics. That's changing this year: it's grown more tasteful with a resculpting that pays more attention to material quality, and caps the dash with a bright new display screen. It's attractive, with tastefully coordinated materials, just enough brightwork, and soft-touch materials in most places you're likely to touch.

The 6 has a meager powertrain lineup—on paper anyway. Mazda's 2.5-liter inline-4 is standard across the lineup, and it's a well-developed, new and modern engine. It's fitted with direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 13:1 compression ratio (unleaded gas is just fine). By the numbers, it makes 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, and it's rated for as much as 40 mpg on the highway when stop-start and a regenerative-energy system called i-eLoop is grafted on the drivetrain. All versions have front-wheel drive, and the engine is fitted to either a 6-speed manual, or a 6-speed automatic which gets driver-selectable modes for 2016.

Mazda has cut weight compared to the last 6 while strengthening the body. With a curb weight of just 3,200 pounds, the latest 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. With the automatic, you get crisp, very quick shifts and almost the feel of a dual-clutch unit. The new Sport mode cuts through the logy shift timing meant to improve gas mileage. 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. That said, this is a car that handles well and is eager to change direction, with the nimble feel of something a size smaller, though its ride can bump abruptly with a compact-car feel.

In terms of comfort and storage, the Mazda 6 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 Mazda 6 are excellent (and Mazda's revisited them for the new model year). Even if you're sitting in the base Sport seats, you'll find great lateral support. The rear bench seat lacks the head room that taller adults need, and it's positioned quite high up.

The Mazda 6 has enjoyed excellent crash-test ratings, earning a five-star overall rating from the federal government and IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status (albeit with an acceptable rating in the new small-overlap frontal test). In addition to all the usual airbags, stability control, and four-wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist, some Mazda 6 models are offered with blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts—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 and forward-collision warning, which detects vehicles ahead and sounds an alarm. Other noteworthy safety options include automatic braking at speeds between 4 and 19 mph, automatic high-beams, and adaptive lighting.

Nearly every feature and option you might expect to see available on a modest mid-size sedan is here, although there have been a few disappointing details in the past. One of them was the mock-iDrive "Commander Switch" and the TomTom navigation system, which together felt laggy and oddly coordinated; the system has been replaced by the latest Mazda Connect setup, seen already on the Mazda 3, and including a larger screen set in a restyled dash. It's quicker to respond, but still has the handicap of a kludgy control device coupled with mapping that's a tier below the best treatments (Audi leads with Google Earth imaging here). Other new tech features for 2016 include an electric parking brake that frees up space on the center console and smartphone connectivity, a part of Mazda Connect. A head-up display is now offered as well.

Standard features on the base Sport include air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless ignition, cruise control, 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 the Mazda Connect system, HD radio compatibility, the new Skyactiv-Drive Sport mode, and a rearview camera.

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, fog lamps, standard LED headlamps, steering-wheel paddle-shifters, satellite radio, a power moonroof, bi-xenon headlamps, and adaptive front lighting. We recommend the 11-speaker Bose premium system for its excellent sound. 

The 6's inline-4 gasoline engine incorporates a suite of so-called SkyActiv technologies that include direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 14:1 compression ratio. With the manual transmission, the 6 returns 25 mpg city, 37 highway, 29 combined, according to the EPA. With the automatic, it scores 26/38/31 mpg.

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2016 Mazda MAZDA6

Styling

The Mazda 6 has stunning sheet metal; the cabin's a bit more pedestrian.

The Mazda 6 is easily the most attractive entry in the family-sedan marketplace, and one of the more good-looking sedans today anywhere. With a refined, masculine face and rippled, muscular-looking front fender lines, an arched roofline, and smooth but finely detailed taillights, the Mazda 6 is eye-catching. It's hard to find a bad angle on this car, and the proportions are the best they get in this class.

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 sheet metal and performance cues, all without removing too much practicality in the process.

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. Similar to 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 6's interior wasn't always up to the status of its sheet metal, however. That changes in 2016, with a new dash subbed in and new materials and trim accents added to brighten up the previously drab interior. The dashboard has nice sweeping lines that, on most models, nicely wrap around a new 7.0-inch infotainment screen placed in the center. Mazda has also cleaned up the design of the center console by swapping to an electric parking brake, which creates space as well.

Interior materials have been improved, and there are more silver metallic-look trim accents now that help spruce up the look and provide more visual interest. The climate controls have also been redesigned, with a more pleasing layout and better integration with the surrounding trim pieces.

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2016 Mazda MAZDA6

Performance

Most family sedans don't have the Mazda 6's level of steering response and ride control; it could use more power.

The 2016 Mazda 6 is a competent performer, although it lacks the straight-line performance that its athletic form might suggest. Instead, this is a satisfying, sporty-driving car, with performance that's more responsive and vivid than what most affordable mid-size sedans offer. It's quick enough—but no speed demon—and rewards the driver's efforts nicely at any velocity.

Compared to the last-generation 6 sedan, Mazda has cut lots of weight while strengthening the body. With a curb weight of just 3,200 pounds, the 6 feels friskier than other cars its size with similar output. 

A 2.5-liter SkyActiv inline-4 is standard across the lineup, fitted with direct injection, variable valve timing, and a very high, 13:1 compression ratio (unleaded gas is just fine). It makes 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, and its good for up to 38 mpg on the highway. All versions have front-wheel drive, and the engine can be fitted to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. Manuals are rare enough in mid-size sedans, and Mazda even lets buyers get the stick in something other than the most basic model, which we appreciate.

You'll need to rev the engine to get the most pep, and it's not the quietest drivetrain we've ever experienced, but thankfully both of the transmissions are willing partners. The 2.5-liter remains smooth and well behaved, even when pressed. The accelerator pedal is floor-hinged and very sturdy, with a solid-feeling (read: German-style) kickdown switch for auto-equipped models that clicks reassuringly at full throttle.

For 2016, all auto-equipped models receive a new Sport mode, which is activated by a console button. The new Sport transmission mode cuts through the logy shift timing that's made the 6 feel slower than it is; the Sport switch resets every time the car shuts down though, reminding drivers that the 6's normal transmission programming is biased heavily toward fuel economy—and flicking the Sport switch cuts into those real-world gas mileage numbers. The automatic does provide crisp, very quick shifts, with a feel almost as surgical and speedy as that of a dual-clutch unit.

The manual (our favorite of the two transmissions) has short throws and clean, precise action with a nicely weighted clutch pedal. Some automatic models get steering-wheel paddle shifters to supplement the shift lever's manual gate—allowing you to select your own gears, except at full throttle, where the transmission forces a downshift to the lowest available gear.

Steering is quick and well-weighted in the latest 6, 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 third-generation Miata's (15.0:1). The result is a quick, responsive feel, and effort that builds nicely off center.

Overall, the Mazda 6's handling is near the top of the mid-size class. It still can ride more like a compact car over abrupt bumps, but that's usually the price paid for a car that drives as nimbly as a compact, too.

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2016 Mazda MAZDA6

Comfort & Quality

The front seats are supportive and have enough room; the Mazda 6's rear-seat head room is compromised a little bit by the sexy roofline.

When it was first introduced for 2014, the latest Mazda 6's interior left something to be desired. For 2016, the interior gets a bit of a redo, bringing better materials, a more interesting design scheme, and some thoughtful revisions to the controls. The model continues to be roomy and easy to see out of, offering a large trunk and flip-forward rear seatbacks for added flexibility.

The seats in this Mazda 6 have always been excellent, and for 2016 Mazda has improved bolstering and comfort for front and rear occupants. 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 head room that taller adults need, and it's positioned quite high. 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). These problems may have been mitigated by the updates for 2016, but we haven't yet been in the new model to find out.

Trunk space is plentiful, with a wide load opening, and the split-folding rear seats fold forward for more space. The trunk does have 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 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. Mazda added some more sound deadening for 2016, but the 6's four-cylinder still is relatively loud—louder than some VW diesels we've driven, noticeable enough that you have to speak loudly to register with the car's voice-command navigation at highway speeds. 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.

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2016 Mazda MAZDA6

Safety

The Mazda 6 scores very well in crash tests, and a new set of safety technology becomes available this year.

The 2015 Mazda 6 has strong safety ratings in all forms, while the upper trim levels offer additional active-safety systems that can help prevent a collision. 

In addition to all the usual airbags, stability control, and four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, some Mazda 6 models are offered with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert—a system that helps spot cars 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 frontal-collision warning, which detects vehicles ahead and sounds a warning. Other noteworthy safety options include automatic emergency braking (which helps prevent collisions due to inattention, at speeds between 4 and 19 mph), automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and adaptive front lighting.

The Mazda 6 has earned an impressive five-star overall rating from the federal government—despite earning four stars in the calculated rollover test. It also earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award from the safety group.

The 6 sedan is relatively easy to see out of, with the most hindered view being out the rear. That said, it's not as bad as on some other style-compromised sedans. A rearview camera is available on the base Sport and standard on both the Touring and Grand Touring models.

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2016 Mazda MAZDA6

Features

The new Mazda Connect infotainment system in the 6 sedan is a better replacement for its creaky predecessor.

For 2016, the Mazda 6 again offers three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. A manual transmission is standard on both the Sport and Touring, with the automatic available; all Grand Touring models come with the automatic.

Although the base model, the Sport is far from basic. It includes air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless ignition, cruise control, 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 the new Mazda Connect infotainment with its 7.0-inch screen and control knob, Bluetooth, HD Radio compatibility, and a rearview camera system, as well as the new Sport mode button.

Touring models get dual-zone climate control, a power driver's seat, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear vents, leatherette seating surfaces, 19-inch alloy wheels, and Mazda Connect. Two packages are available on Touring models, but only on those with the automatic transmission. The $1,325 Moonroof/Bose/Satellite Radio package is self-explanatory, upgrading to an 11-speaker Bose sound system and the $1,675 Touring Technology package adds automatic emergency braking, automatic LED headlights with auto leveling, LED daytime running lights, the adaptive front-lighting system, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door opener, an auto-dimming driver's side mirror, heated side mirrors, and heated front seats.

At the top of the lineup, Grand Touring models includes all of the contents of those packages save for automatic emergency braking, plus navigation, leather upholstery, a memory driver's seat and power passenger seat, fog lamps, steering-wheel shift paddles. A Grand Touring Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, the i-ELOOP Regenerative Engine Braking System, a lane-departure warning system, automatic high-beams, and active grille shutters for $2,180.

Most 6 sedans now include the Mazda Connect infotainment system, which was first used on the Mazda 3. It is a better system than what the 6 originally came with, with much quicker responses, easier-to-navigate screens, and better voice recognition, especially when entering an address on navigation-equipped models. It's still not up to par with the best systems available in the segment, between the kludgy controller and multiple interface layers you have to penetrate to do something as simple as set a radio favorite.

The available Bose audio setup, with 11 speakers and Centerpoint 2 surround, sounds great 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 touchscreen, 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.

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2016 Mazda MAZDA6

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy ratings for the Mazda 6 are excellent, right in line with the brand's reputation.

The Mazda 6 is a very fuel-efficient car thanks to smart engineering and a lightweight design. While there's no hybrid model, there is an available mileage-boosting electrical system, and even the base 6 returns the mileage of a smaller model.

The 6's inline-4 gasoline engine incorporates a suite of so-called SkyActiv technologies that include direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 14:1 compression ratio. With the manual transmission, the 6 returns 25 mpg city, 37 highway, 29 combined, according to the EPA. With the automatic, it scores 26/38/31 mpg.

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) electric-assist system, earning 2 mpg better in both the city and highway cycles, 28/40/32 mpg. The system helps the car boast a phenomenal 656-mile highway range.

Based on our experiences with the Mazda 6, the gasoline engine delivers excellent real-world mileage—perhaps 3 to 5 mpg better in real-world driving than other vehicles with comparable EPA ratings. That distinction seems to evaporate when the 6's new Sport shift pattern is activated; it keeps gears lower and revs higher, swapping more drivetrain responsiveness for less efficient operation.

Like many cars in its class, the Mazda 6 now does better with the automatic than with the manual in the official test as well as in real conditions—partly because the automatic is so good at quickly bringing engine revs down when they're not needed, but also because of gearing differences between the two transmissions.

Mazda has long promised a diesel engine for the 6 lineup—a 2.2-liter turbodiesel inline-4. If this model ever makes it past the delays and goes through U.S. emissions testing, we expect its highway ratings to significantly top 40 mpg. It is looking less likely that a diesel will arrive for the 6 in this generation, however.

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September 27, 2017
2016 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Grand Touring

fairly good sporty car

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I have test drove the Mazda six several times and I have a mixed feeling.Handling is first rate, ride is stiff and at time loud and uncomfortable.Interior seating very goor in front fair in rear... + More »
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June 26, 2015
2016 Mazda MAZDA6 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Grand Touring

Amazing Car! Could Not Be Any Happier

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Slightly underpowered for it's class and size. MazdaConnect has it's issues too. Would love the ability to use the Nav System freely and openly, especially while driving. When it locks up due to driving... + More »
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April 16, 2015
For 2016 Mazda MAZDA6

This is best car for the value.

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Nice car for young age people as well as middle age peoples.
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Styling 9
Performance 8
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