Thumbs Up: Perhaps the best-looking midsize sedan, premium feel
Thumbs Down: Could use more power, transmission not particularly sporty
Buy This Car If: You’re shopping for a midsize sedan with good looks and an upscale feel
While this may not come as a surprise to many readers, Mazda doesn’t sell nearly as many Mazda6 sedans as Honda sells Accords or Toyota sells Camrys. That’s not to say the previous Mazda6 was a bad car, but it was easily lost in the crowd, especially when competitors spend serious money on television and print advertising.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different outcome, so Mazda knew it needed to change things a bit with the launch of the all-new 2013 Mazda6 sedan. Rather than building another car to target mainstream sedan shoppers, Mazda made an effort to give the new Mazda6 a premium feel, and it will soon launch a turbodiesel engine option for its newest sedan. Both are strong arguments for shopping the Mazda6, and both show that Mazda is thinking outside the box.
Mazda’s attention to detail is evident in the car’s styling, which reflects the Kodo (soul of motion) design language pioneered on the Mazda CX-5. Some may find its exterior details to be a bit busy, but we’re not in that camp. In fact, we’d call the new Mazda6 perhaps the best-looking midsize sedan on the market today.
We love the muscular sweep of the front fenders, as well as the deep character lines that run upward from the front wheels. Tasteful chrome is used to trim the daylight opening, and the C-pillar trim is dimensional, a detail we haven’t seen on many contemporary automobiles. Even the long roofline and short rear deck add to the car’s sporty nature, giving it a coupe-like stance with sedan practicality.
Distinctive best sums up the Mazda6’s front styling, which is dominated by a sculpted hood and a wide, shield-shaped grille. The front air dam is pronounced, too, and we suspect its a functional piece designed to further reduce drag and improve fuel economy. There’s some brightwork to accent the front end, but it’s not used with the same reckless abandon seen on the new Honda Accord.
Out back, Mazda has done a good job of minimizing the Mazda6’s taillights and incorporating them into the trunk lid. There’s one thick strip of chrome across the trunk we’re not particularly fond of, but otherwise the rear of the Mazda6 is a clean design that we think is destined to age well.
Inside, the dash design and layout delivers a near-luxury feel that ties nicely to the brand’s premium goal. There’s (thankfully) not a trace of fake wood or simulated leather to be seen on the dash, which is adorned with glossy, graphite-colored trim and metallic accents. Even the steering wheel seems to have some thought behind it, as it’s wrapped in leather and shaped for optimal hand placement at the 9:00 and 3:00 positions. If we were the nitpicking type, we’d point out that the infotainment system is small by contemporary standards, but the console-mounted controller makes using it a breeze.
Instruments also convey an upscale feel, with metallic trim rings used for contrast on the tachometer, speedometer and driver information display. It’s an eye-catching design, complete with bright, high-contrast readouts for the gear indicator, odometer, outside temperature, fuel gauge and information screen. Some critics have panned it for being “too plain,” but we much prefer function to flash in our daily drivers.
Our Mazda6 in Grand Touring trim came equipped with leather-clad sport seats up front, and we’d give them two thumbs up. The leather is perforated for improved year-round comfort, and Mazda uses red stitching around the seat’s perimeter to add a bit of style. There’s plenty of side bolstering to hold driver and front-seat passenger in place, and those in the front row get heated seats for cold-weather comfort. There’s even a two-position driver’s seat memory, further proof that Mazda is paying attention to others in the segment.
Those occupying the second row will also have few complaints. Both head room and leg room are surprising, meaning that even those taller than six feet in height will be comfortable in back. We’d like a bit more bolstering on the outboard rear seats, but we suppose that would turn a five-seater into more of a 2+2, and that’s not what Mazda is going for here. It’s also a bit odd that the red contrast stitching is used on the front seats only, especially since the Grand Touring trim includes leather seating surfaces in the rear as well as the front.
For now, the sole choice of engine is a gasoline-fueled, normally-aspirated 2.5-liter four cylinder, producing 184 horsepower and 185 pound feet of torque. That’s enough for reasonable acceleration under normal circumstances, but we’ll admit to being a bit let down by the six-speed automatic transmission’s shift logic. Even the paddle shifters don’t deliver particularly crisp shifts, which begs the question of why Mazda even included paddles aside from the fact that other sport-themed sedans have them.
In any case, you can expect a 0-60 mph time of around 7.5 seconds, but the Mazda6 does deliver better than average fuel economy. The EPA says to expect 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway), and we saw an indicated 30.3 mpg in mostly-city driving.
Like all Mazdas, the 2013 Mazda6 delivers an above-average driving experience. The steering has great feel and is nicely weighted, helping derive the most from the car’s 225/45-19 Dunlop tires. There’s very little body roll in corners, which is all the more surprising given the car’s compliant ride. While we’d stop short of calling the Mazda6 a sport sedan, when you take horsepower out of the equation it will likely out-corner most front-drive midsize sedans. Brake feel is quite good, too, though to be fair we didn’t have a chance to test the Mazda6 on anything but public roads.
If safety is a concern, the Mazda6 will likely impress you with its available features, too. Our Mazda-supplied press fleet car had adaptive cruise control, smart city brake support, cross-path detection, forward obstacle warning, a blind spot monitoring system, a rearview camera and a full complement of airbags. While the car has not yet been crash tested by the NHTSA, it has earned the coveted “Top Safety Pick +” designation from the IIHS, so we expect it to score equally well in NHTSA testing.
Our 2014 Mazda6 i Grand Touring carried a base price of $30,290, including a destination charge of $795. Options on our press fleet tester included the $300 Soul Red Paint, and the $900 Mazda Radar Cruise Control and Forward Obstruction Warning Package, for a total sticker price of $31,490.
For comparison, a similarly-equipped Toyota Camry XLE would price at 30,229, while a comparable Honda Accord EX-L with Navigation would sticker for $30,785.