A class-leader in styling | The most engaging and fun to drive midsize sedan available in this price range.
The holidays are always an exciting time here at DoubleClutch.ca. Not only do we get to spend some time at home with our families, but we also get to break routine and spend some more time together as a team. Another reason we all look forward to this time of year is because we usually get to spend an extra week with our assigned test cars. The extra time really lets us get familiar with the cars, and for me this also means getting away from my typical commute and getting to experience the car on some special trips. For this reason, I really wanted to spend my holidays with a car that I would enjoy, so I gladly accepted the offer to test a 2015 Mazda6 GT equipped with Mazda’s praised 6-speed manual.
One of the things I like most about the current Mazda lineup is what they call the “KODO Soul of Motion” design language. The car’s graceful yet athletic lines give it a gorgeous side profile that actually makes that car look like it’s moving even when it’s standing still. The 19” alloys on the top-line GT trim complement the design perfectly and the car looks rather impressive from the outside. Details like the xenon headlamps and dual exhaust set the sporty GT trim level apart from the rest of the Mazda6 lineup; however, I do wish the folks at Mazda had done a little more to distinguish the top trim level car from everything else on the road. In Meteor Grey, my test car has a tendency to disappear into the sea of grey sedans in most parking lots.
The designers at Mazda did not forget about the interior of the Mazda6 and it’s what I would consider to be a near prefect driver centric layout. Everything is exactly where you’d expect it to be. All the important information you may want to see, such as fuel economy, is clearly displayed and all controls are within perfect reach of the driver. The black leather sport seats with red accent stitching are very supportive, attractive and upscale looking. The rest of the interior has a simple elegance to it; it’s not overdone or flashy, but the materials used and overall fit and finish is above average for the category.
As you would expect from a top trim level sedan, my $33,000 Mazda6 GT has a healthy set of features including an 11-speaker Bose sound system, rearview camera, heated front seats, driver’s seat memory, power moonroof and the very trendy adaptive front lighting system which has proved itself very useful on dark wintery highways. The one big let-down for me is that the Technology Package could not be ordered with the 6-speed manual. Most of the equipment in the Tech pack consists of driving nannies that don’t interest me, along with the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system which I am not sure saved me any fuel in the Mazda3 I drove awhile ago. However, someone at Mazda thought it was a good idea to bundle the SiriusXM radio into the Technology package. This means one cannot have SiriusXM and a manual in the Mazda6, so I would be spending the holidays without my favorite country radio stations.
Another feature of the Mazda6 that I wasn’t really satisfied with is the infotainment and navigation. The infotainment system itself functions fine and gets the job done, but it does look quite dated. My bigger issue however is with the navigation. Much like the 2013 CX-9 I drove more than a year ago now, the Mazda6 utilizes a TomTom based system that is almost exactly like my 5-year old $150 handheld unit; it’s laggy, confusing and the display graphics are way behind some of the stuff I’ve seen in competitor cars. Time to step up some of the Technology Mazda.
What the Mazda6 lacks in gizmos it more than makes up for in driving dynamics. Powered by “the 4-cylinder that could” 2.5L unit pushing out 184 horsepower, my test car actually felt quite peppy and agile in normal driving. The slick 6-speed gearbox made it easy to make the most of the 4-cylinder’s power and despite the car’s large dimensions, Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology approach to building cars has helped keep the weight down to 3183 lbs. Only when pushed for quick acceleration does the Mazda feel slightly underpowered. Otherwise in normal driving, I’d have no need for more power under the hood and I enjoyed the impressive 7.8L/100 fuel economy I managed on my mixed commute.
One thing that has always set Mazda apart from other car makers in my eyes has been their focus on the driving dynamics of the cars they build. The Mazda6 is no exception and I truly did enjoy the engaging experience the car delivers. The handling is phenomenal for a midsize sedan, flat and tight through twisty corners and a very nice firm on-center feel. The suspension and low-profile tires skew towards the performance side of things and greatly aid the sharp handling, though that means that the ride quality inside the Mazda does suffer a little bit. The clutch is a little grabby for my taste but it was easy to get used to and I did enjoy selecting my own gears while bombing around on all my holiday errands. That said, if I were making a long term purchase decision, I would give the SKYACTIV 6-speed automatic some serious consideration. I am sure many of our enthusiast readers will disagree, but shifting my own gears in a midsize sedan feels a little awkward to me. I think I’d reserve the experience for a weekend sportscar and not a daily commuter.
Towards the end of my 2 weeks with the Mazda6, I took it on a 6-hour round trip through cottage country and up into Northern Ontario to pick up some rare replacement parts for my project car. On the long highway journey, the Mazda’s firm seats kept my fiancée and I cozy and comfortable. I did notice a fair bit of wind and road noise, another minor sacrifice in the name of sportiness. Getting off the highway and onto some snowy backroads, the Mazda6 did get a little squirrelly, as big wheels and a low ride height are not ideal for winter in the North. The Mazda persevered and made it back onto the slushy highway where it felt much more at home. I averaged a nice 7.0L/100km on the trip and despite the Mazda’s handful of shortcomings, I would take it on that trip again in a heartbeat.
The Mazda6 GT doesn’t have the soft, silent ride and latest tech that some midsize buyers shopping in this price range might want; however, for the enthusiasts, the Mazda6 might just hit the sweet spot. In my opinion, it is the most engaging and fun to drive midsize sedan available in this price range. Plus it looks great and delivers seriously impressive fuel economy numbers.