A Study in Superlatives
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Mazda6
This could be something worthy of a superlative.
Cars that could elicit superlatives are ones that evoke fuzzy warm feelings. It sends all of the qualitative scores through the roof. These feelings are usually scrutinized for bias – whether present or not. Nonetheless, we have to back up our findings with facts – that is what we are supposed to do here.
Understand that one person's opinion is not universally shared. We all have our favorites, true. Does that challenge the objectivity of the reviewer/journalist/pundit/influencer espousing the good tidings of a vehicle? If the facts are correct, everything should fall into place, right?
This is the job I am tasked to do. Even I have my own favorites. And, yes, you can challenge my bias on this one, too.
The Mazda6 was one of my favorite cars to drive. The first generation was a sports sedan where it never mattered if you could fit a family of five in. You chucked it through the curves, made the tires squeal, you felt the road at every twist and turn and it rewarded you when you took the wheel of one.
When the second generation Mazda6 showed up, people thought they lost it again. When the Flat Rock-built 626 ended its run in 2002, it was derided as a soft and not so wonderful mid-sized sedan that could be described as "meh." That was the same response for the last generation Mazda6. It gotten so big, it forgot to do what the original did best – be a driver's car. It did, however, accommodate five people rather comfortably – a saving grace for the reality of the mid-sized family car market.
Like every Mazda enthusiast – and, in my case, a former owner – I hoped that the second generation’s successor would bring back some of that "Zoom-Zoom" magic to the 6. It had to be a bold statement with advanced technology and a great balance that keeps enthusiasts and families alike happy.
The execution however did not surprise us. The term "Skyactiv" was used as the operative for the new 6. This is not just about the engine and transmission – the Skyactiv approach goes deeper, with suspension, chassis and other parts completing the package. All I want to know is whether all of these Skyactiv elements will keep the 6 relevant in the marketplace, while satisfying the enthusiast.
The first look at the new 6 will be a memorable one. While most of its class try to separate themselves by a single line or a greenhouse profile, the 6 goes further. The front end is the best execution of the KODO – Soul of Motion design language. It is chiseled, tailored and inviting. The fender curve is alluring, giving a strong shoulder to the 6’s profile. The roofline is pure Mazda, swoopy lines and all. From front to back, the 6 looks lower – even so compared to the last generation.
It is indeed up to the details. If not the bold grille texture, it will be flow of lines and elevations throughout the car that makes the 6 distinctive in its class. Some might complain about the rear end being derivative – taking its cue from one of its competitors. In a sense, it is not. The 6 was meant to have a lower profile all around – though the nineteen-inch alloy wheels shod with Dunlop SP Sport tires make it even more sports car-like.
Once you do get situated inside, you will find an instrument panel that is similar to the CX-5. However, the design is befitting of the 6, thanks to a encased Bordeaux trim stretching from the center stack out to the passenger side. Instrumentation is straightforward and perfect set for the driver. Controls are quite good, as well. The automatic shifter is short, but could be a bit of a reach for taller people.
If you love the Soul Red color on the outside – as on this tester – you will love the contrasting leather seating and color scheme. The seats are leathered in taut Almond hide, contrasting the black trim and carpeting. Red stitching finishes the seat trim. The colors itself are inviting for one to take the wheel.
Taut is another term describing the front seats. Bolstering is right to lock you into your position. There is power lumbar adjustment along with height and rake. Taking the wheel of the 6 feels more sports car-like than a family sedan, but it is designed to create more of the balance between enthusiastic driving and creating comfort over distances. Rear seating is not bad – average adults would find a comfortable home with ample leg and headroom.
Though the infotainment system in the 6 induced some feedback, it is not perfect. It does work with TomTom navigation, SiriusXM and HD Radio and Bluetooth connectivity. There are redundant controls on the steering wheel, as well as a console mounted knob with a series of buttons to cover the key controls on the infotainment system. Bose provides eleven Centerpoint Surround Sound speakers to create a great sounding cabin.
Under the hood is the Skyactiv 2.5litre four-cylinder, spewing just 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the MZR engines of the past, do not expect the Skyactiv to rev to the red line. It will rev when you ask it to, but it will bring you down to cruising speeds at under 2000RPM – as expected in a mid-sized car these days. This Skyactiv engine is a very happy motor under the 6's hood. The Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic gearbox works very well with this engine – matching shifts to revs and delivering smooth shifts. All of this power is feed to its front wheels.
There is a key word already mentioned in a few places so far that best describes the Mazda6: Balance. It perfectly defines the driving experience of this mid-sized sedan. The ride is nether soft or hard – it is solid without any give to bad road surfaces. Outside noise levels are unobtrusive, though rougher surfaces can be a bit challenging to the ears. If you feel any lean or roll, it is controlled to a minimum. However, it loves to corner and take on the road – event through the aftermath of a major storm.
Speaking of cornering, the steering system reacts quite well, but it hates tight spots. It loves tracking curves and provides enough response and feedback from the road. Brakes are superb in both normal and panic situations. The pedal feel maybe a bit spongy, but it will get used to your foot action quickly.
This Grand Touring model added a couple of more useful active safety features that truly work well. With both Radar Cruise Control and Forward Obstruction Warning, the Mazda6 feels just as safe as some of the most luxurious cars featuring similar equipment.
The big surprise has been in fuel consumption. Though some mid-sized family sedans already reached the 30MPG threshold for non-hybrid drivelines, the Mazda6 garnered a fuel economy average of 31.7MPG. In other words, this thing sips fuel better than its competitors.
The Mazda6 starts off with a manual gearbox and a well-equipped Sport edition at about $21,975. The Grand Touring is the top shelf model, with this example rung up at $31,490 – including the Radar Cruise Control and Forward Obstruction Warning.
At this present moment, the Mazda6 proved that one could be different amongst run-of-the-mill mid-sized family sedans. This is on the sporty side, and that is not a bad thing. In fact, it makes the Mazda6 more desirable amongst its ilk.
Being different is one thing; being fantastic is another. That is the best way to describe the Mazda6 experience – in the calm after the storm.
Come to think of it, "fantastic" is a superlative – in my own humble opinion.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Mazda North American Operations.
All photos by Randy Stern