Game Changer

Youth and exuberance has finally overcome old age and treachery. Mazda has created something special with the latest 6, and redefined the category as a result. Not only is it the most fun-to-drive vehicle in our test group, but the Mazda6 is arguably the most sophisticated entrant among all midsize sedans -- both inside and out.

To the casual observer, the refreshed Mazda6 might not differ much from the 2015 version, but looks can be deceiving. The series of small changes made to the 2016 model amount to something big. Take, for instance, the 6's class-leading materials quality, feature-rich yet intuitive tech, and luxury-like dash layout. Combine these attributes with a quieter cabin and impressive handling, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say the Mazda6 can legitimately compete with costlier premium sedans like the Acura TLX, Lexus ES and Buick Regal.

Regarding the Mazda6's raison d'etre, underhood motivation comes courtesy of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. While that may not sound particularly electrifying on the surface, the Mazda6 still out-accelerates most of its 4-cylinder-powered rivals thanks in part to its lightweight underpinnings and a quick-witted 6-speed automatic transmission. And if you prefer to change gears the old fashioned way, the Mazda6 is one of the last remaining midsize sedans to offer a 6-speed manual (not available on Grand Touring models). But regardless of which powertrain combo you choose, every driver is greeted with responsive brakes, fuel economy that consistently breaches the 40 mpg mark on the highway, and perhaps the most well-sorted steering calibration this side of dedicated sports cars.

2016 Mazda6 at a Glance
2016 Mazda Mazda6 Midsize Sedan Bar Graph

Dynamism aside, the Mazda6 is also a practical powerhouse. Like most cars in this class, the Mazda6 offers about 15 cubic feet of trunk space and a fairly low load-in height. Unlike other cars in this class, however, folding down the Mazda's rear seats produces a nearly flat cargo floor accompanied by a wide pass-through. Though on paper rear legroom is a bit tighter than some competitors, deep cutouts on the front seatbacks provide ample knee room for most adults. On the other hand, the front seat's aggressive side bolsters might be a bit restrictive for the average American driver.

Our nearly loaded tester checked in right around $31,000, including destination and delivery charges. High-end accouterments at this price point consist of leather upholstery, heated front seats, a head-up display that can be viewed through polarized sunglasses, rain-sensing windshield wipers, LED headlights, automatic collision braking, and the least distracting infotainment system available on the mainstream market. For buyers who want it all, the $2,200 Technology Package lands you adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane departure warning and Mazda's unfortunately named i-Eloop regenerative braking system that bumps up EPA fuel economy figures by two marks in the city and on the highway.

Here's how the 2016 Mazda6 stacks up against the competition:

Mazda6 vs. Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry and Mazda6 lay home to some of the finest interiors in the segment. Although the Mazda can't compete with the Camry's optional V6 when it comes to outright acceleration, the Mazda6 counters with better value for the dollar, a longer roster of optional equipment, superior handling and an exterior design free of shiny black plastic.

Mazda6 vs. Honda Accord

The Mazda6 and Honda Accord took turns trading punches in what turned out to be a closely matched affair. While both models provide excellent steering, ride comfort and interior ergonomics, those more interested in maximum resale value and dependability might express a preference for the Accord.

Mazda6 vs. Chrysler 200

Be it performance, styling, value or technology, the Mazda6 has the Chrysler 200's number. That's not to say the 200 is a disappointment, though, as there's still a lot in Chrysler's midsizer when it comes to infotainment, highway ride quality and interior materials.

Mazda6 vs. Hyundai Sonata

Aside from a fun-to-drive standpoint, the Hyundai Sonata and Mazda6 have a lot in common. They both offer class-exclusive features, exceptional ergonomics and check in at the lower end of the midsize sedan pricing spectrum. Then again, the Sonata's 10-year/100K-mile powertrain warranty might be the ticket for shoppers who seek additional peace of mind.

Mazda6 vs. Subaru Legacy

Not unlike most Subarus, the Legacy's ace in the hole is standard all-wheel drive. If that doesn't pique your interest, it's worth noting the Subaru is a bit slower, significantly noisier and slightly thirstier than the Mazda6.

More Midsize Sedans

Build and price your own 2016 Mazda Mazda6, read our full review or check out our Midsize Sedan Buyer's Guide to see more options in the segment.

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