The Fast Lane The 2017.5 Mazda 6: Aging Gracefully

Courtesy of Mazda

When shopping for a midsize family sedan, most shoppers turn to the two quintessential choices: The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Both cars are known for their legendary reliability and overall build quality and have always been the go-to choices for buyers. In recent years, however, several automakers have begun to pick up the pace and try to capture chunks of the market share away from Honda and Toyota. When the current generation Mazda 6 joined us back in 2014, it became known as the most stylish and sporty sedan in its class. Its sharp handling and luxurious interior made it the ultimate value in the class and the best option that wasn’t from Honda or Toyota. However, since then, Honda and Toyota have respectively gone back to the drawing boards and debuted all-new versions of the Accord and Camry that give the 6 a true run for its money. So where does the 6 stand now amidst its new and improved competition?

Despite being an aging entrant in its class, you would hardly be able to tell by just looking at the 6. The 6 is still one of the most handsome midsize sedans on sale today, boasting sleek and sexy lines benefitting from Mazda’s elegant and attractive Kodo design language. The sharp LED headlamps and LED-lit grill give the car a much more premium and distinctive look over the rather forgettable-looking competitors such as the Honda Accord.

Nothing quite sets the 6 apart from its competition like the interior though. Similarly to the reactions to the Mazda 3 I had previously tested, many of my passengers were in awe of the excellent build quality and fit and finish of the 6. Like the 3, the 6 maintains a fixed tablet-like center screen which pops up from the dash with symmetrically laid out controls below it. My tester was equipped with beautiful parchment leather which adorned the dash as well as the seats, giving the interior a very upscale and sophisticated look. I found the cockpit itself very comfortable, having enough head and knee room, and the backseat was exceptionally roomy as well. However, the infotainment system is where the 6 shows its age. Although straightforward and simple to use overall, the infotainment system was slow to respond for the most part and visually looked dated, further evidenced by the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Yet despite that, the 6’s interior is still class-leading and looks much more premium and expensive than it really is.

In the last decade or so, Mazda has established themselves for making the most driver-focused cars in their class. The 6 doesn’t have jaw dropping performance figures and won’t be beating much off the line at a stoplight but what the 6 offers instead is amazing handling and driving satisfaction that is essentially unavailable for a car of this size at this price point. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 184 horsepower and will push the 6 to 60 miles an hour in about 7.5 seconds. The four banger is refined and feels enthusiastic when accelerating but noticeably falls short on power at higher speeds. That could be remedied by opting for a bigger engine, like you can on the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, but the 2.5-liter four-cylinder is the only available engine on the 6. Where the 6 lacks in power, it makes up for in handling. For a front-wheel drive sedan, the 6 handles wonderfully. The steering has a great sporty feel to it and the chassis responds predictably to inputs. The 6 does all this without sacrificing ride quality; there is nearly zero body roll or wallow in turns.

Despite being in the last stages of its current generation, the 6 doesn’t feel as outdated as some other cars in this class. The 6 comes available with a slew of high-end driver assistance features such as a head-up display with traffic sign recognition, lane-keep assist and a blind spot monitor just to name a few. My top-of-the-line Grand Touring model had every option checked off, coming with the aforementioned options in addition to rear cross traffic alert, a Bose premium sound system, navigation and a radar-assisted cruise control. Some of these features can’t even be had as an option on competitors and are typically found on much more expensive and higher-end cars making the 6 feel all the more premium.

The 6 is an all around fantastic car but it does have its shortcomings, albeit very few. The infotainment system feels ancient and is slow to react and operate and even lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The system itself was frustrating at times to use when driving and could use a much needed update. The main shortcoming the 6 faces, however, is the lack of a larger or more powerful engine. My test vehicle cost nearly $35,000 and an equivalently priced Honda Accord or Toyota Camry can be had with significantly more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engines or even six-cylinder engines.

Mazda has already shown us the new 2018 Mazda 6 which is a heavily refreshed version of the vehicle I reviewed. With the new 6, Mazda will finally add a turbocharged 2.5 liter four-cylinder, making 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, which will finally make the 6 much more competitive and even more fun-to-drive. Mazda has lightly restyled both the interior and exterior as well and will add new features such as ventilated seats, parking sensors and a 360 degree camera.

The Mazda 6 is at the very end of its life cycle but despite being an aging entrant in the highly competitive segment, the 6 still manages to remain a contender. The 6’s brilliantly tuned suspension, excellent fuel economy and premium cabin create a perfectly packaged driver-focused car at a very competitive price point. It’s that formula that makes the current 6 a solid pick over cars like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, new or used.

Chief Competitors: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy

The car used in this review was provided courtesy of Mazda USA.

Are you in the market for a new or used car but don’t know where to start? Reach out to me at thefastlane.highlander@gmail.com and I’ll help you with the search.

Rating Among Midsize Sedans
Powertrain & Chassis (5) Interior/Exterior

(5)

Acceleration 3.5 Front Seat Comfort/Space 4
Transmission 4 Rear Seat Comfort/Space 4
Fuel Economy 4 Cargo Space 4
Steering Feel & Handling 4.5 Fit and Finish 5
Brake Feel 4 Features 4.5
Ride 4 Interior Styling 4.5
Value 4 Exterior Styling 4.5
Overall 4.2

Data Sheet

Engine 2.5-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder
Transmission Six-speed Automatic; Six-speed Manual
Horsepower 184hp @ 5700 RPM
Torque 185lb-ft @ 3250 RPM
0-60 7.5 seconds
0-100 19.2 seconds
Top Speed 130 miles (governor limited)
Fuel Economy 28 City/40 Highway
Base Price $21,945
Price as Tested $35,000

 

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