A top-trim midsized sedan, with a lovely interior, a good ride, engaging steering and shifter.
Despite the best intentions of many, the world still feels like it is becoming increasingly superficial. It seems like it’s more important that our shoes look cool, than be actually comfortable; Media shows us countless examples of what we should look like at the beach, but chooses not to remind us that Zac Efron hasn’t eaten more than a carrot since 2005. The question becomes: does this trend seep into different industries? Jumping into the 2017 Mazda6 GT, with its surprisingly lovely interior, we had to ask the question: is the beauty only skin deep?
Our tester, which came in at $34,790 with the optional Snowflake White Pearl paint, and a six-speed manual transmission, certainly aimed to live up to its “GT” name. Gone are the hard plastics and low quality “leathers” of yore; the Mazda6 GT aspires to make you feel comfortable and classy. On our tester, the dark brown stitched leather trim extended past the dashboard and onto the center console, and contrasted nicely from the rest of the black interior. Almost everything your hands come in contact with feels high quality.
The interior is highly ergonomic; the six-way power adjustable driver seat coupled with good armrest placement allows the driver to find a very acceptable and comfortable driving position, both for long journeys and spirited driving. The seven-inch colour touchscreen display, might have a home-screen that looks like it would better belong in the DVD menu for a “Blade” movie, but the interface is simple and effective; It is easily controlled from a relaxed position by the drivers right hand. The touch capabilities are only enabled at a complete stop.
Important economy and vehicle information is communicated to the driver via a colour multi-information display in the gauge cluster, now standard on the GT trim. The driver is kept comfortable with heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Rear seat passengers won’t feel left out, as they will find lots of space and their own heated seats. We felt safe cruising down the highway due to the Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and a standard back-up camera made parking simple. When we picked the car up, a classical station had been left on the radio, and the clarity of the car’s 11-speaker Bose audio system kept it tuned there for the week.
The elegance carries over to the exterior as well. Mazda has made an effort to create a car with smooth swooping lines. This car included 19 inch gunmetal wheels, which we think suit the car nicely. The front end looks good as well, with LED headlights and an adaptive front-lighting system.
While the exterior seemed well designed, there were a few interior quirks. When the console brightness was at the right level for nighttime driving, the lights for the heated seats or parts of the climate controls were so bright in the cabin that it was distracting. The climate controls themselves were a bit confusing also, requiring the driver to toggle through numerous options for air direction.
The centre console, while beautifully designed, can easily wobble back and forth, indicating questionable solidity over time, and during temperature changes a few creaks developed in the dashboard. However your writer drives a decade-old Subaru most of the time, which sings the national anthem of squeaks and cracks on a good day, so it feels silly even commenting on a few minor interior noises.
The ride in the Mazda6 GT is quite good. Well damped and supple, if not as flowing as some. Mazda has added noise isolating glass this year and the results show..er.. sound. Road noise is reduced but not whisper quiet. The ride and sound damping isn’t quite as good as the German competition, such as the Audi A4 (reviewed here), but it will keep the average buyer very satisfied.
Even though the cabin is fairly well isolated from the outside, a surprising level of driver engagement makes it through. The steering is decently weighted and provides some feedback, and the shifter and clutch are surprisingly mechanical. Almost to a fault, actually. Clutch engagement is obvious and the shifter slots into gears with a mechanical ‘thunk,’ but occasionally a slightly botched gear changed will punish the driver with a pretty severe jolt. However, do not take this as a complaint overall, because we will gladly take one look at a manual shifter on a GT-trim car, smile, and say, “thank you Mazda.”
Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control (GVC) which is now standard on the Mazda6 was a highlight of this car in the snow. As the driver turns into the corner, Mazda claims that the benefits of the SKYACTIV technology allow the engine to subtly and precisely reduce torque to the wheels causing a slight deceleration. This allows more weight to move over the front wheels increasing front grip and thereby making a better turn-in. In fact, we found that this is exactly what happens.
The GVC system (previewed here) creates a yaw-moment without any rough interruption to the cornering experience. All the driver notices, is that the car just tends to point the direction it should be going, and with minimal body lean. No drama. It handles surprisingly well for a front-wheel-drive sedan, about on par with the Honda Accord (reviewed here). The systems ended up being better at rotating the Mazda6 than most drivers will be able to, even when using techniques like left-foot braking and turning in on a trailing throttle.
So, here we have a top-trim midsized sedan, with a lovely interior, a good ride, engaging steering and shifter, and very well done stability control. What’s the catch? Is there one? Yes, there is. Under the hood the Mazda6 GT sports a 2.5L inline four-cylinder engine. It delivers 184 horsepower at 5700RPM. It’s enough to compete with the four-banger midsize sedans, but most offer higher output models. Mazda uses lightweight components and impressive compression ratios to make the power, but it simply feels too slow in a car of this size.
Unfortunately there isn’t a larger engine option (or a turbocharged version) in the Mazda6. This prevents the GT from fully competing with its larger (and often more expensive) Japanese counterparts. We do commend Mazda for sticking with naturally aspirated engines, as we like the response and sound they make. Fuel economy is acceptable as well, with our tester coming in at 9.1L/100km in a combination of city and highway driving.
This returns us to the concern of some cars being too “superficial”. The 2017 Mazda6 GT fulfills many criteria for a comfortable touring car, with a manual transmission and good driver engagement. Mazda bills this car as a comfortable, efficient GT car that doesn’t sacrifice performance. In reality though, it will fall a bit short for some due to lack of power and a few quality concerns. However, when we were being quietly whisked down the highway, with hands on a heated steering wheel and no need to look past the heads-up display, it occurred to us that sometimes, being superficial is quite alright.
2017 Mazda6 GT Manual Gallery