Efficiency and passion | The 2016 Mazda6 GT lives up to its Zoom-Zoom heritage, and the added niceties of a fantastic interior give this car soul.
You may not realize it, but it has already been two years since the Mazda6 was redesigned and was among the first representations of Mazda’s split from Ford Motor Company. While it received rave reviews from auto journalists, the sales figures for 2014 did not match up. Mazda managed to only sell a fraction of units of the Mazda6 compared to mid-sized rivals from Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Ford. Most spoke about the removal of the 6-cylinder option from the Mazda6, and the lack of a hybrid option or a turbocharged 4-cylinder. There have been rumours about a diesel arriving on Canadian shores, but I would still rather see the introduction of a turbocharged 4-cylinder option, perhaps with the Mazdaspeed name attached to it.
Fast forward to this past January, the 2016 Mazda6 was introduced as a mid-cycle refresh in an effort to boost sale, with subtle exterior changes and a vastly improved interior. I noticed immediately that the interior well put together, I struggled to find a part that I found cheap. The plush perforated leather was a joy to sit in; even after long trips I did not feel the need to get up and stretch. The large amount of interior space is also a plus. With plenty of legroom for passengers, this car would make an excellent road trip cruiser.
The new instrument panel still has the three-screen gauge cluster that was featured on the 2014 models, but now includes extra displays for the radar cruise control, the lane departure warning system (LDWS) and the blind spot monitoring system. My tester was also equipped with the flip up heads up display screen on top of the gauge cluster that displayed the speed and cruise control functions. It also included a display illustrating the adjustable following distance settings for Mazda’s radar cruise control (MRCC).
The new dash and centre console unit are the most noticeable upgrades in the interior; it gives the Mazda6 a more spacious feeling inside. The stand-alone screen is extremely good looking in this interior, and I found that this touchscreen on my tester was much crisper and brighter than the 2014 model, and the use of the HMI Commander dial and surrounding buttons gave the interior a premium feel. Mazda has also claimed that they’ve reduced interior noise by up to 10 percent and highway noise by 25 percent. The Mazda6 is quiet, but during a cold start up, or under hard acceleration the engine makes a coarse sound, which does become addicting when you’ve been enjoying complete silence.
The MRCC unit was equally impressive. Part of the $2,800 technology package, MRCC measures the distance between your car and the car in front and automatically adjusts the Mazda6’s speed to ensure a safe following distance. Toronto traffic aside, at speed the MRCC did do its job flawlessly; heavy rain also did not affect the radar in the slightest. One particularly annoying feature is the LDWS. I generally do not have a problem with this system on a professional level, but I just cannot stand the way it goes about warning you. A loud white noise-like sound erupts from the speaker closest to whichever side you’re starting to drift towards. Simulating the noise you would get from riding over rumble strips, it can be a bit of a jarring experience when it first happens.
Outside, the Mazda6 receives the most visual upgrades when in GT trim. The addition of a larger grille, a thicker piece of chrome surrounding the grille, the LED daytime running lights, stunning 19-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, fog lights, and a unique illuminated LED that surrounds the grille in the shape of the adjacent chrome piece. Giving the Mazda6 a distinct look at night that turns heads, the ‘signature grille illumination’ unfortunately suffers from having the front license plate blocking a portion of its beauty. Further, the 2016 Mazda6 gains three new colours; Deep Crystal Blue, Sonic Silver Mica, and Titanium Flash Mica.
There have been some criticisms of Mazda deciding to remove the 6-cylinder and go exclusively with the 185-horsepower 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder SkyActiv unit, but I found it to have enough power for the platform. The Mazda6 goes 0-100 km/h in 8.3 seconds, but this is still about half a second faster than the Accord and the Sonata. While I do have cravings for a V6 motor or a turbocharged four cylinder to give that extra kick, this engine still pulls fairly strong once it revs out past 3,000 rpm.
The 2016 Mazda6 is available with a standard six-speed manual transmission, or a six-speed automatic. The automatic is a $1,300 six-speed automatic option on the GX model, but a no-cost option on the GS and GT models. My tester was equipped with the automatic, which shifts very quickly and was quite smooth. This will be the choice for most Mazda6 buyers. For enthusiasts, I personally believe opting for the manual transmission instead would be the healthy choice for this car.
Since my test car was fitted with the $2,800 technology package, it was also equipped with the i-ELOOP energy regeneration system which turns kinetic energy that otherwise would have been lost during engine braking and actual braking, into electricity that can be used to power the vehicle’s electrical systems. Thus, instead of having to sacrifice 10% of your engine’s power to run the electrical systems, the capacitor can be used instead to ease fuel consumption. Being a capacitor, the charge it held both filled up and drained quickly, and was most effective during city driving when coasting, and braking are most frequent. During highway driving where coasting and braking are not as frequent, the i-ELOOP is essentially not powering any of the vehicle’s electrical systems and the load is placed back onto the engine.
However, the Mazda6 is rated at 5.9 L/100km on the highway, so the absence of the i-ELOOP system is not a factor in fuel economy. It is important to note that even without the fuel-efficiency of a hybrid motor, a CVT or a stop-start ignition system, the Mazda6 is one of the most fuel-efficient sedans in its class. Over the course of my test week I averaged a fantastic 8.6L/100km average with mostly city driving.
The as-tested price for my tester tops out at about $35,000, competitive in this segment for a loaded model. For a car that is among the best handling and most engaging in the midsized sedan class, it has won my heart. The 2016 Mazda6 GT lives up to its Zoom-Zoom heritage, and the added niceties of a fantastic interior give this car soul. It is hard to say that about a lot of new cars nowadays, as many have become lifeless and boring. Throughout my experiences at DoubleClutch.ca, I have only come across very select few cars where I have told myself “I would buy this for myself”. The 2016 Mazda6 can and will most definitely be added to that very short list.