By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 9.0
The 2016 Mazda6 may not have the massive market share of best-selling rivals like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, but in the competitive midsize sedan market, it still stands out. True to Mazda's "Zoom-Zoom" boasts, the Mazda6's calling card is its athletic nature. Among the 11 family sedans comprising this segment, the Mazda6 is arguably the most fun to drive. Its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine isn't a powerhouse, but it is remarkably fuel-efficient. Rather than relying on brute force, the Mazda's dynamic performance is enabled by its light weight, impressive cornering ability, and a satisfying 6-speed manual transmission for do-it-yourselfers. Stylish design is also part of the Mazda6's appeal, but its 5-passenger interior can feel somewhat confined.
If you're looking for a midsize sedan that's fun to drive, fuel-efficient and stylish, it's hard to beat the Mazda6. Base models have an alluring starting price under $22,500, while top-line trims offer features like automatic emergency braking and radar-based cruise control.
The Mazda6's swoopy exterior compromises some interior room, especially in the rear. With a diesel Mazda6 still being forbidden fruit in the U.S., the 2016 model remains confined to just one gasoline engine choice. And if you need all-wheel-drive traction, you won't find it in the front-drive-only Mazda6.
KBB Expert Ratings
Now two years into its current generation, the 2016 Mazda6 receives an updated interior that includes a larger 7-inch touch screen, a sport mode on automatic transmission models, and an electronic parking brake. Exterior revisions include a new grille and available LED headlights.
We admit there were times during our testing of the Mazda6 that we wished it had a little more oomph. Competitors offer this in the form of larger V6 engines...
... or turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplants. But the majority of family sedan buyers will opt for standard 4-cylinder engines, and as such, Mazda's 184-horsepower 2.5-liter will meet most expectations. Moreover, the "more with less" nature of its Skyactiv technology (see below) plays well into the Mazda6's overall dynamic synergy. Its sporty suspension, light-yet-strong body and excellent braking ability make for an engaging and enjoyable sedan. The fully electric power steering has excellent feedback and a relatively quick 15.5:1 ratio. As for overall comfort, we found the big 19-inch wheels and tire package on Touring and Grand Touring models a bit harsh. Opting for the lower-priced Sport trim brings smaller 17-inch wheels and a better ride – but fewer features.
The 2.5-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder has an insanely high 13:1 compression ratio that helps it deliver maximum power and fuel economy without the need for turbocharging. The result is the best of both worlds: Snappy power delivery and highly commendable fuel economy.
I-ELOOP ENERGY CAPTURE
Drivers wishing for the best fuel economy from their Mazda6 should consider the i-Eloop system that's available on top-line Grand Touring models. This regenerative braking system employs a fast charging capacitor in place of a battery to capture and store electricity while the car is coasting.
The Mazda6's already-impressive interior has been improved for 2016. One of the biggest changes came where it was needed most: the infotainment system. Last year's 5.8-inch touch-screen display has been replaced with a 7-inch model that rises from the center dash, and the rotary-dial master control in the center console now has an easy-to-reach volume control nearby. The new electronic parking brake frees up more space in the same area. On paper, the rear seat's 38.7 inches of legroom looks good, but in reality, the overall space can feel tight. Up front, the sport seats are well-bolstered on the sides but less so in back. Larger drivers are advised to try before buying.
Midsize sedans have recently taken on a trait usually not associated with traditional family haulers: style. The Mazda6 has been among the most successful of sedans transitioning from ho-hum to hot. This latest-gen Mazda has a pretty face and voluptuous curves. It adds up to a 4-door sedan that looks sporty, but not so over-the-top that it risks being outdated anytime soon. Among its standout elements are a long hood, rearward-set windshield and muscular haunches over the rear wheels. A retouched grille and new fog light surrounds in available ultra-bright LED headlights freshen the car for 2016.
The 2016 Mazda6 is available in three trims: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. A base Sport model with a manual transmission comes with keyless entry and push-button start, cruise control, 60/40-split folding rear seats, and a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary and USB inputs, plus Bluetooth streaming for phone and audio. This model's base price is tempting, but we recommend spending the extra $1,500 and stepping up to the automatic transmission-equipped Sport model. That model adds the 7-inch touch-screen display, a backup camera, a multifunction command center, and HD Radio. If you want a better-equipped manual transmission Mazda6, one is available in Touring trim.
Most major options for Mazda's midsize sedan come by climbing trims. The well-equipped midline Touring model has leatherette seating in place of cloth, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, dual-zone climate control, a 6-way power driver's seat and 19-inch wheels. That model can also be had with navigation, heated front seats, a moonroof and Bose audio. Top-line Grand Touring models get navigation, an 11-speaker Bose audio system, leather, an 8-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, a power passenger seat, and paddle shifters. Other Grand Touring model options include the i-Eloop regenerative braking system, radar-based cruise control, lane-departure warning, and Smart Brake Support collision-mitigation system.
The sole powerplant for the 2016 Mazda6 is the 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G gasoline engine. It features a radical 13:1 compression ratio for greater efficiency. 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 laudable fuel economy of up to 38 mpg on the highway. Grand Touring models with the i-Eloop squeeze out more efficiency thanks to its regenerative braking system and active grille shutters for better aerodynamics. Those models are rated up to 40 mpg. As advanced as the engine is, it doesn't require premium fuel.
184 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/37 mpg (manual), 26/38 mpg (automatic), 28/40 mpg (i-Eloop)
The 2016 Mazda6 has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $22,300 for a manual transmission Sport model. As mentioned, we think spending the extra $1,500 for the automatic transmission version of that model or stepping up to the Touring trim that starts at about $24,800 is the better value. At the top end of the Mazda6 range is the Grand Touring model starting just over $31,000 and reaching $35,000, fully loaded. At these prices, the Mazda6 is in line with competitors such as the Accord, Camry, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Chrysler 200. Starting slightly less are the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Passat. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their new Mazda6. In the coming years Mazda's midsize car is expected to hold its value well, but still trail leaders like the Legacy and Camry.