Recently, I spent some time behind the wheel of our long-term 2014 Mazda6 focusing on one (major) feature: The drivetrain. Our test car came equipped with the mid-level i Touring package which includes a SKYACTIV 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Like other Mazda models equipped with a manual transmission, the Mazda6's clutch is easy to engage and does so shortly after you lift the pedal off the floor. Before you know it, you're rolling along as gear changes are smooth and quick.
Like all vehicles that have a manual transmission, the Mazda6 has a sweet spot when it comes time to change gears. If you know when to hit said changes, it's like you're driving an automatic model while still getting to enjoy the fun that comes with operating a manual transmission. If you need to have a little bit of fun while driving but still want to be practical, the Mazda6 with this combination can't be beat. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is good for 184 horsepower, 185 lb-ft of torque and the EPA has rated this engine with a manual transmission at 26 city/38 highway/30 combined. In real world driving, we've noticed that this estimation is pretty close to the real deal, especially the 30 mpg combined figure.
Many automakers today have code words for fuel efficient drivetrains. For example, Ford has the EcoBoost, Honda has the Earth Dream engine lineup, and Nissan has Pure Drive, just to name a few. Like Mazda and its SKYACTIV technology, all of these aforementioned technologies work together to boost fuel economy. Unless your profession requires you to speed off quickly and often, a figure approaching 200 horsepower offers a solid balance of power and fuel efficiency - something the Mazda6 features.
Now, 184 horsepower may not sound like enough to some but those are the people who spend a lot of time at the pump. In fact, the Mazda6's horsepower rating is more than enough and the 6-speed manual transmission works seamlessly with it. During my most recent time with the Mazda6, I spent a good portion commuting to and from Kelley Blue Book's offices in Irvine, California over a 60-mile roundtrip. Depending on traffic, the majority of said commute was spent on Interstate 405 and, depending on the time of day, we had a chance to see certain aspects of the drivetrain shine. When the roads were open, we logged a combined fuel economy rating just north of 30 mpg. When the roads were at its normally congested level we were able to see firsthand how easy it was to repeatedly work the clutch.
Usually, in Los Angeles traffic, it's the next closest thing to a death sentence being stuck in traffic with a manual transmission. This isn't the case though with the Mazda6 and its easy clutch engagement. After crawling on the packed freeway for just over an hour or so (mind you, I need to go just 30 miles one way), my left leg didn't feel any worse for the wear. There are other manual transmissions currently available today that, after being stuck in traffic for a while, make your leg feel cramped and sore. This was not the case with the Mazda6 and its buttery-smooth 6-speed manual transmission.
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