2017 Mazda MAZDA6 Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz
June 26, 2017

Unless you're just power-hungry, the 2017 Mazda 6 remains one of the best family-sedan choices you can make.

Buying a Mazda 6 puts you into something of an elite club: You're willing to shop beyond the Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords, and Ford Fusions of the world for the most under-appreciated mid-size sedan. A host of modest updates for 2017 follow a mild refresh last year that, so far, hasn't exactly turned things around for the ailing brand.

A trio of trim levels are on offer: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring, all of which are powered by the same 4-cylinder gas engine mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

Regardless of trim, the 6 remains an evocative, sleekly-styled sedan with some of the best road manners in the competitive mid-size sedan class—and a good antidote to the boredom that usually accompanies four-doors. We rate it a 7.7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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Mazda 6 styling and performance 

Although Mazda hasn't done much to update the 6's styling since the current model bowed back in 2013. With its muscular front fenders, arched, coupe-esque roofline, and finely detailed tail, the 6 is svelte from every angle. Last year, Mazda reshaped its grille to match the winged designed shared with the automaker's crossovers and flanked its front fascia with LED "signature" lighting on the range-topping Grand Touring. 

On the inside, Mazda upped the 6's game with a tasteful resculping pays more attention to trim quality, and caps the dash with a bright new infotainment display screen. Available Nappa leather trim on the Grand Touring pushes this interior into almost luxury class. 

On paper, the 6 has a meager lineup of engines: a 2.5-liter inline-4 is standard across the lineup, but this engine makes use o direct injection, variable valve control, and a high 13:1 compression ratio to reduce fuel consumption while still producing a class-competitive 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The 6 is rated as high as 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with optional stop/start and a regenerative-energy system called i-eLoop. All 6s are front-wheel drive. 

Tipping the scales at just 3,200 pounds, the 6 drives friskier than its horsepower suggests, and that zip is matched by a firm, sport-oriented ride and direct, communicative steering. Mazda's marketing message that the 6 shares lineage with the brilliant Miata roadster rings true after just minutes behind the wheel.

For 2017, Mazda has added its G-Vectoring Control system to the 6. Essentially computer-controlled trail braking, the system is designed to make the 6 more stable and poised during hard driving. 

Mazda 6 comfort, safety, and features

Inside, the 6 delivers impressive interior space, with a roomy trunk and folding rear seats that provide more versatility than you might expect. Revised last year, the well-bolstered front seats are covered in cloth, leatherette, and a choice of standard or Nappa leather depending on trim level. 

The 6 does well in both the IIHS and the NHTSA crash tests. Models equipped with the available automatic emergency braking, which is bundled with a few other safety goodies, rate as a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. 

The automaker's Mazda Connect infotainment system is newly standard on all trim levels of the 6. Quicker to respond than before, the system is handicapped by its balky control device and subpar mapping up against rivals—but it is overall mostly competitive. 

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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2017 Mazda MAZDA6

Styling

It's hard to find a more stylish mid-size sedan—inside and out.

Looking almost Italian with its sinewy lines and excellent detailing, the Mazda 6 is neck-and-neck with the Ford Fusion for the most attention-grabbing mid-size sedan award.

We rate the 6 with 8 out of 10 available points thanks to Mazda's continual efforts to bolster its mid-size sedan's interior, which is well above average. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

If anything, the 6's tepid sales since its launch have kept its appearance especially fresh. Simply put, you so rarely see a Mazda 6 on the road that the occasional glance at one commands a second look. It's hard to find a bad angle on this car, and the proportions are the best they get in this class.

Not long ago, mid-size sedans were frumpy and anonymous, but the latest models have to try harder. To that end, the 6's almost coupe-like roof line is one of its biggest assets, as long as you're not routinely carrying tall passengers inside.

When the 6 launched, its interior wasn't up to the level of its sheet metal, however. A new dashboard arrived last year with sweeping lines and improved material quality throughout. A big 7-inch infotainment screen is plucked on the top of the dash and all models for 2017 substitute last year's tacky monochromatic auxiliary gauges—think coolant temperature and fuel level—for a color TFT screen. Finally, the 6 looks and feels as good as the best in its class both inside and out. 

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2017 Mazda MAZDA6

Performance

The Mazda 6 subscribes to the classic sports car definition: It handles wonderfully, but it won't win a drag race.

As long as you don't live at altitude or consider drag racing to be your favorite pastime, the Mazda 6 will undoubtedly delight you. This nameplate has been synonymous with balanced handling since day one, and Mazda continues to up its game with the current 6. 

The Mazda 6 comes in with a solid 7 out of 10 for performance because although it lacks a powerful engine option, it handles exceptionally well, with good ride quality and terrific steering. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With a curb weight of a mere 3,200 pounds in base configuration, the 6 is friskier than other cars its size with a similar amount of power. To that end, the 6's 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is rated at 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, which is channeled to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual on Sport and Touring models or a 6-speed automatic that's optional on those and standard on the Grand Touring. Enthusiasts will laud the availability of the stick shift on more than just the base model. 

The 4-cylinder is smooth but requires a good amount of revving to really wake up. Still, this sedan is more than competitive against other 4-cylinders in its class. 

Where the 6 really comes alive is when it is pushed through a tight, curvy road. Its balanced chassis is one of the best in the business, regardless of price point, and its steering is especially alive and communicative. For 2017, a new G-Vectoring Control System works like "trail braking" by applying engine braking when the wheels are turned to shift weight forward. The end goal is to increase grip on the front tires in order to maximize turn-in tenacity. Once the turn is held, the system releases the torque load to transfer weight to the rear of the car. Mazda says that the deceleration force is subtle—just 0.01 g or less—in order to retain a more natural feel on the road. 

The 6 does ride firmly even on its standard 17-inch alloy wheels, while the 19s included with Touring and Grand Touring models are even stiffer. If a plush ride is your primary goal, the 6 may not be the mid-size sedan for you.

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2017 Mazda MAZDA6

Comfort & Quality

Big interior improvements have made the 6's cabin a nice place to spend time, but its rear seat headroom is lacking.

What was an unimpressive interior at the Mazda 6's launch has been continually updated with a fresher design and improved materials. That case of continual improvement carries over for 2017 with the availability of a Premium Package for the Grand Touring model that adds plush Nappa leather seating surfaces.

Yet even the base Mazda 6 is nicely outfitted inside and out, which is why we rate it a 8 out of an available 10 points. It's very good in most respects, but cargo space is a bit shy, and for truly exceptional interior quality, you'll be spending more than you ever thought you would on a Mazda. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 6's seats have always been excellent, whether covered in cloth, leatherette, standard leather, or nappa leather. Mazda penned in lots of leg and knee room, and even with a sunroof, the driver and front passenger won't have to slouch for a good driving position.

Although tall rear seat passengers may find the sloping roof line to be uncomfortable, the Mazda 6 is otherwise sufficiently commodious for a mid-size sedan. At least those back seat passengers have netted a heated rear bench for 2017—at least if they're riding in a Grand Touring with the available Premium Package. 

Trunk space is average for the class at 14.8 cubic feet, but a wide load opening and split-folding rear seats that fold forward for more space are assets. 

With up to 40 mpg, the 6 should be a great highway cruiser—but even with some sound deadening improvements Mazda has made over the last few years, the 6 is a bit louder inside than most rivals. 

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2017 Mazda MAZDA6

Safety

The 6 scores well in crash tests and its collision avoidance tech is available on a wide range of trims.

The 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. 

As a result, we rate it with a 9 of 10—it loses a point only because the NHTSA gives it 4 stars in the rollover test (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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The IIHS, however, rates the 6 as a Top Safety Pick+, its highest score, thanks to its strong performance in all of its instrumented tests and its available automatic emergency braking technology. 
 
Opt for the 6 Sport and you'll get all the usual airbags and stability control, as well as a rearview camera. Stepping up to the Touring nets blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.
 
The Grand Touring trim level adds LED headlamps with automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking that can apply the brakes at higher speeds than in the base-trim form. 
 
An important note: the IIHS says that the 6's optional LED headlights are superior to the standard halogen units. 
 
The 6 sedan is relatively easy to see out of thanks to more extensive use of high-strength steel rather than standard steel in its roof pillars. High-strength steel allows for narrower pillars than standard steel. 
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2017 Mazda MAZDA6

Features

The Mazda 6 can feel almost luxury grade inside, but its infotainment system frustrates at every opportunity.

For 2017, the Mazda 6 continues to offer three available trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. A manual transmission is standard on both the Sport and Touring. The automatic is optional on those trims and is standard on the Grand Touring.

Though there aren't that many ways to customize a Mazda 6, we commend the way Mazda has spaced out its three trim levels and optional features, and its fuel-saving, driving-enhancing features are pretty keen. On the other hand, we're not at all fans of its convoluted infotainment system. We rate it 7 out of 10 available points. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Although it may be the entry-level model, the Sport is not basic. It rides on attractive 17-inch alloy wheels and includes upmarket features like a high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, HD radio, keyless ignition, LED taillights, Bluetooth streaming audio, and a USB port. Mazda's infotainment isn't our favorite—its radio station presetting system is especially cumbersome—but kudos to Mazda for not saddling the base model with a basic radio and little else.

Opt for the Touring and you'll substitute leatherette seats and 19-inch wheels for the Sport's cloth and 17s, as well as dual-zone climate control, automatic headlamps, Smart City Brake Support, a power driver's seat, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear seat climate control vents.

Two option packages are available for the Touring with the automatic only. The first combines an 11-speaker Bose audio system with a moonroof and SiriusXM Satellite radio. From there, the Premium Package can be added and it includes heated front seats, LED headlamps, an automatic dimming interior rearview mirror, and a Homelink garage door opener. 

The Grand Touring builds on the Touring with the Premium Package. It's the only way to order up a Mazda 6 with leather seats, and it also adds navigation, laminated side glass for a quieter cabin, memory for the driver's seat, a power passenger seat, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist that nudges a drifting 6 back into its lane, full automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams. 

A separate Premium Package available on the Grand Touring (and different than the one on the Touring) brings with it nicer Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, a black headliner, and a heated steering wheel, as well as the automaker's exclusive high-tech i-eLoop regenerative braking system and the new G-Vectoring Control system. It's those two latter features that nudge the 6 up and above its rivals in our eyes.

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2017 Mazda MAZDA6

Fuel Economy

At 35 mpg highway for the volume model, the Mazda 6 is one of the most efficient in its class.

Even in its base form, the Mazda 6 is among the least thirsty cars in its class—but a brake-regeneration system can bump that figure to 40 mpg. 

At 31 mpg combined and up to 38 mpg on the highway for the higher-volume automatic transmission model, the 2017 Mazda 6 earns 7 out of 10 available points. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Keep piling on the options, however, and you'll eventually net the automaker's sophisticated i-eLoop system, which captures energy otherwise lost during braking to supply electrical power to the car's accessories. To get i-eLoop, you'll have to start with a Grand Touring model and then add the available Premium Package. i-eLoop's technology is derived directly from Le Mans race cars, but even the standard 6 is fuel thrifty.

Credit goes to Mazda's so-called SkyActiv suite of technologies that includes direct injection, variable valve control, and a very high 14:1 compression ratio that nonetheless still allows this sedan to run on regular grade fuel.

With the standard 6-speed manual, the 6 returns 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined, while the automatic checks in with an even more impressive 26/38/31 mpg. 

A long-promised turbodiesel Mazda 6 continues to be on the automaker's radar, but it is at least a model year or two out. 

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7.7
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 7
Fuel Economy 7
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