By Jack R. Nerad, Executive Editorial Director, KBB.com
KBB Expert Rating: 8.5
The midsize sedan segment is filled with all-new versions of popular nameplates this year, but among them, the 2014 Mazda6 seems the most willing to break from the "appliance-car" mode in both its exterior styling and its sports-sedan-inspired handling. In a quest to improve across-the-the-range fuel economy while refusing to sacrifice dynamic handling, Mazda has filled the model with a number of related technologies under the Skyactiv umbrella. The innovations stretch from its two engines to its two transmissions to various aspects of its body and chassis structure. The Japanese carmaker has chosen to eschew a V6 in the new Mazda6, instead offering a 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled powerplant and, eventually, a 4-cylinder turbodiesel. Despite the lack of a V6, the Mazda6 is still a credible competitor to Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. In fact, we named the new sedan one of the 10 Best Sedans Under $25,000 for 2014.
While many midsize sedans are plain-vanilla, the Mazda6 spices the segment up with dramatic exterior styling, innovative technology and a significant dollop of fun-to-drive.
We'd never say you would be making a mistake if you chose a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, which are the segment's front-running choices, so if you don't want to stand out a bit, you might shop elsewhere.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2014 is all-new is the truest sense of the term. Not only is the body shape utterly new, so too are the engines, transmissions and virtually every mechanical bit.
Driving Impressions We have to admit there are times when driving the new Mazda6 that we would've preferred the added horsepower a V6 would have given us. But most buyers in the...... midsize segment opt for 4-cylinder power, and the 2.5-liter, 184 horsepower Skyactiv-G engine is a willing enough performer. By designing the body, engine and transmissions at the same time, Mazda engineers were able to tailor the body and chassis to match the other components, resulting in a lighter yet stiffer body, which offers more precise handling. At the same time, the suspension was optimized to enable more confident cornering. We also appreciated the very quick 15.5:1 ratio offered by the fully electric power steering. Those who seek ride comfort above all else might find the Mazda6 a trifle harsh at times, but we will make that trade to gain better handling capabilities.
With an almost diesel-like 13:1 compression ratio, the Mazda6's 4-cylinder gasoline engine wrings eight percent more horsepower and nearly 11 percent more torque than the MZR 2.5-liter gasoline-fired engine Mazda used previously.
I-ELOOP ENERGY CAPTURE
The ingenious I-Eloop system uses a capacitor – not a more expensive and slow-to-charge battery – to gather energy that would otherwise be lost while the Mazda6 is coasting, and the stored energy is used to power ancillary equipment.
We think the interior of the Mazda6 is among the most upscale in the segment. The dash sweeps gracefully from driver's to passenger's side, but while the passenger side offers only a large expanse of soft-touch materials, the driver is presented with a dense cluster of highly legible instruments, gauges and knobs. It's a not-so-subtle bow to the car's "driver orientation." Another is the Mazda6's small-diameter steering wheel that feels great to the touch. Well-bolstered 6- or 8-way power-adjustable driver's seats are standard on all but the lowest trim level, which is equipped with a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat. Rear legroom is among the most generous in the midsize segment thanks in part to the car's 111.4-inch wheelbase.Exterior
The Mazda6's pretty face and voluptuous curves immediately capture the attention of midsize-car buyers, who too often are offered safe, conservative designs. Mazda designers took more chances by basing the new model on Mazda's well-regarded Takeri concept vehicle. Among the important elements are the long hood, rearward-set windshield and muscular haunches over the rear wheels. The Mazda6 also echoes and refines the Takeri's bold front end with its sweeping "wing," prominent Mazda badge, and finely sculptured lower valance. From both front and rear, the emphasis is on width, giving the 2014 Mazda6 the curb presence of a more expensive car.
The entry-level I-Sport trim level is equipped with the Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter gasoline engine and Skyactiv-MT 6-speed manual transmission. It also offers 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels – the largest standard wheels in the competitive set – plus power-operated side-view mirrors and automatic headlight shutoff. Push-button start, cloth seats, power windows with a driver's side 1-touch auto up/down feature, 60/40-split fold-down rear seats, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise control functions, and air conditioning with a pollen filter are also standard features. The standard entertainment system is a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD system that can deliver MP3/SiriusXM satellite radio reception.
In this era of connectivity, the Mazda6 features all-new infotainment options. A 5.8-inch in-dash touch screen tops the center console, and it controls phone, audio and navigation functions. Other available features include Bluetooth connectivity and iPod audio with the familiar information accessible via the touch screen. Grand Touring models feature an 11-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System. When a smartphone is connected, text messages can be shown on the touch screen, and the system can voice the messages and allow users to send replies using fixed phrases. A speech recognition system allows users to search and manipulate audio tracks. The most interesting new bit of optional safety equipment is the Smart City Brake Support system designed to assist a driver in avoiding frontal collisions when traveling at speeds of less than 19 miles per hour.
At introduction only the Skyactiv-G gasoline engine will be available in the Mazda6. It features a radical 13:1 compression ratio for greater efficiency, facilitated by an all-new exhaust manifold design that necessitated a new body structure. Equally innovative are the Skyactiv-MT 6-speed manual transmission and the Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed automatic. The latter employs aspects of both torque-converter and dual-clutch transmissions to deliver both excellent low-speed feel and admirably quick shifts. The transmissions are lightweight and help the Mazda6 turn in segment-topping gasoline-only fuel economy. Waiting in the wings is the Skyactiv-D 2.2-liter "clean-diesel" engine that will arrive some six months or so after launch.
184 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25 city/37 highway (manual), 26/38 mpg (automatic)
Starting at right around $21,000 (MSRP), the base 2014 Mazda6 is value-priced versus its top-tier Japanese brand competitors like Accord, Camry and Altima. Although it is as all-new as a car can be, the base i Sport is priced only $155 more than the previous model. The mid-level i Touring trim (around $25,000 including destination charge) includes virtually all the features of the i Sport model plus extras like dual-zone automatic climate control and a 6-way power driver's seat. The top-of-the-line i Grand Touring starts close to (but still under) $30,000, and it features a wide variety of additions including unique 19-inch platinum silver alloy wheels, a power moonroof, and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. For a more precise look at the prices consumers are currently paying, please view our Fair Purchase Price pages. We expect that the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 will not hold its value quite as well as the Accord or Camry, but that hit might be offset by a lower purchase price.