By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 8.9
The 2017 Mazda6 is proof that a family sedan can be both practical and exciting. While it doesn't boast the sales numbers of rivals like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion, the Mazda6 has an ace up its sleeve: It's one of the most fun-to-drive mainstream midsize sedans money can buy. To do so, you don't need much of it, thanks to a price starting under $23,000. Upgrades for 2017 enhance the Mazda6's appeal, including a standard infotainment system and Mazda's G-Vectoring Control, which aims to lessen driving stress. Only one engine is offered in the Mazda6 and its interior isn't the largest, but if you're looking for a midsize sedan that loves to play, the Mazda6 remains the athlete in its segment.
If your practical side needs a sedan that does usual sedan duties but your heart craves something that quickens its pulse when the road curves, the solution is the Mazda6. Throw in impressive efficiency, great looks and -- for those who wish -- a crisp manual transmission, and you've got a winner.
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All 2017 Mazda6 models receive G-Vectoring Control, which uses nearly imperceptible engine modulations to ease your own nearly imperceptible steering corrections. Base Mazda6 sedans receive a 7-inch infotainment screen as standard, while Touring and Grand Touring models receive active safety and driving aids like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist as standard.
We admit there were times during our testing of the Mazda6 when we wished for 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. When more zip is really needed, switching to Sport mode (automatic transmissions) usually does the trick. Where the Mazda6 excels is in handling. It can take a corner like few other mainstream midsize sedans. We've even tracked this car at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca -- and had a blast doing so. The new G-Vectoring Control has nothing to do with torque vectoring in the traditional sense of power output to individual wheels, but rather its varies engine output in the slightest in relation to steering input.
The 2.5-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder employed in the 2017 Mazda6 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.
Yes, in an era where cars are learning to drive themselves, we realize that using three pedals and a stick shift can seem almost primitive. But if you relish the engagement, control and overall satisfaction of shifting for yourself, know that Mazda is helping keep manuals alive in a lively way.
The Mazda6's already-impressive interior has been further improved for 2017. A big change comes where it’s needed most: the infotainment system. After last year's move to a 7-inch center display controlled by a rotary-dial master control, it becomes standard across the line. Top-line Grand Touring models feel like a luxury sedan with perforated leather seating and a head-up display. On paper, the rear seat's 38.7 inches of legroom look 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 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. The Machine Gray Metallic premium paint color is new for 2017. At only $300, this optional color is an inexpensive way to stand out.
The 2017 Mazda6 is available in three trims: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. A base Sport model with manual transmission comes with keyless entry and push-button start, cruise control, 60/40-split folding rear seats, the Mazda Connect infotainment system with 7-inch color touch-screen display, rearview camera and 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD Radio system with USB and auxiliary inputs, plus Bluetooth streaming for phone and audio. Touring models have more features and standard active safety systems. Amenities include Leatherette seating, dual-zone climate control, power driver's seat, 19-inch wheels, auto on/off headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers, plus blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and Smart City Brake Support.
The Touring trim can be further outfitted with heated front seats, moonroof, 11-speaker Bose audio system and LED headlights. Top-line Grand Touring models get navigation, the Bose system, radar cruise control, perforated leather seats, a power-passenger seat, paddle shifters and illuminated grille. Grand Touring models can be further outfitted with lane-keep assist, high-beam control and memory-seat adjustment. Formerly called the Technology package, the Premium package now includes Mazda's fuel-saving i-Eloop regenerative-braking system, heated rear seats and steering wheel, Nappa leather seats and interior brightwork.
The sole powerplant for the 2017 Mazda6 is the 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G gasoline 4-cylinder engine. It features a radical 13:1 compression ratio for greater efficiency, yet still runs on regular unleaded. 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. Grand Touring models with the i-Eloop system squeeze out slightly more efficiency thanks to its regenerative-braking system and active grille shutters for better aerodynamics. Formerly rated up to 40 mpg, under the revised EPA testing the Mazda6 now has a 35-mpg highway rating for automatic models.
184 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/34 mpg (manual), 26/35 mpg (automatic), 27/35 mpg (i-Eloop)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Mazda6 has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $22,780 for a manual-transmission Sport model. The mid-trim Touring models we recommend begin just over $25,000. Opting for an automatic transmission on either is an extra $1,050. Topping the Mazda6 lineup is the Grand Touring model that starts just over $31,500 and can cross $34,000 with the Premium package. At these prices, the Mazda6 starts slightly lower than major competitors like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Subaru Legacy, and is in line with a Hyundai Sonata, which comes standard with an automatic transmission. As such, the Mazda6 is one of the best values in its segment. To be sure you're getting the best deal, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. The Mazda6's resale value is expected be mid-pack, trailing standouts like the Legacy, Camry and Accord.