The first thing you typically read about the Mazda6 is that it's the "sporty" pup in the midsize sedan litter. In a kennel filled with reliable but phlegmatic family canines, the Mazda6 is the playful puppy that attracts attention for personality traits the others simply don't offer, like having a personality to begin with. While that's true, it isn't the whole story as we discovered when we drove a Touring trim version of the Mazda6 in our comparison test. When choosing the right family pet some might shy aware from the perky puppy pressing its nose against the cage fearing it might be too hard to handle over the long haul, and we think that same kind of mindset might be limiting the appeal of the Mazda6. But the under-reported fact is the Mazda6 isn't just entertaining; it will also be a loyal, reliable member of the family. The fact you can have an uncommon amount of fun with it shouldn't be looked at as a negative but as a positive.
After our lengthy drive that included stints in seven other top midsize-sedan choices, including the highly popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, our jury of testers were nearly unanimous in calling the Mazda6 the most fun-to-drive car of the bunch. Further, we all largely agreed that the dramatic curves of the Mazda6's exterior make it the best-looking car in the group as well. So best-performing and best-looking are nice places to start. Beyond that though, the example of the Mazda6 we tested, which had a manual transmission versus the automatics in the others, was the least expensive of the gathered competitors, and its fuel economy (oddly hindered, not helped by its manual transmission as in days of yore) was up toward the top of the class as well. Yes, there is something to Mazda's highly touted Skyactiv technology suite.
So what are the downsides of the Mazda6 in comparison to the other top midsize-sedan choices in the segment? Some cited what they termed a "smallish" rear seat, and one said the entire interior seemed "cramped." There were also some churlish complaints about the "confining" nature of the front sport seats, but cooler heads countered with the rejoinder that sports seats are supposed to be a bit confining. Otherwise though, the interior came into praise for its sleek design, which was clean and functional without being stark. We also liked the intuitive operation of the controls, though our test example was not equipped with the optional navigation system.
While there are a lot of worthy competitors included in this midsize-sedan comparison, any of which would probably suit most families just fine, many of us continue to be drawn to the Mazda6 as one we -- and our families -- would feel most comfortable in. Yes, our KBB editors are sportier drivers than most, but in the case of the Mazda6 its frolicsome nature and arresting good looks don't come at the cost of practicality and economy. It is one pretty, perky puppy that you and your whole family will fall in love with again and again.
How much should you pay for a new Mazda6? How does its 5-Year Cost to Own stack up? Our Mazda6 Editors' Page is your gateway to answers.
If you're still looking around, check out the other seven cars included in our 2014 Midsize Sedan Comparison Test.