8. August 2013
The Mazda6 is simply the best-looking midsize car on the market today. Period.
While a colleague pointed out that there is incredible charm in the Ford Fusion, given that it has the front-end appearance of an Aston Martin DB9
No, not the Ford Fusion nor the Mazda6. The DB9.
Let’s face it: the Aston Martin already exists, assuming you’re sufficiently wealthy, you can buy the real thing, not the mass-market version. Don’t get me wrong: the Fusion is a great looking car; I can count on one hand the number of cars that I consider to be affordable by most of us, and the Fusion gets a digit.
But the Mazda6 is something that is sui generis. The Mazda6 has a design that is distinctive, a departure from what’s out there. There is no DB9-Mazda6 analogue.
And for that it gets full marks.
The Mazda6 has the implementation of Mazda’s clever powertrain/structure/aero/mass engineering regimen called SKYACTIV technology. Which is essentially a means by which the car can deliver exceptional driving performance (yes, as in the “Zoom-Zoom” tagline, which seems to have zoomed away) while providing better-than-good fuel efficiency.
While the steering is responsive, the car seems solid, and the overall sense of things at (slightly above) freeway speeds is most satisfactory (after all, people buy midsize cars to go places, not to pretend they’re at the Nurburgring), the remarkable thing about the car is that the fuel economy figure on the sticker—with the big combined number of 30 mpg—is exactly what I got, 30 mpg. It is generally my rule of thumb to take those sticker numbers with a grain of salt about the size of a Mazda6, yet the car delivered. Incredible. Yes, it has a 2.5-liter, DOHC four-cylinder engine. And yes, although there is 184 hp, this is not head-snapping territory.
But there it is: a handsome car with respectable fuel efficiency.
Inside, the car has black leather and a nicely designed instrument panel. Trim includes a combination of well executed soft plastic materials and metallic plastic trim. A quibble that I’ve heard is that the car has a 5.8-inch color touch screen display, which is, admittedly, smaller than the screens found in other midsize cars. Still, it unless you really need to visit your local optometrist for some serious vision correction, the screen is certainly fit to purpose, so it is hard to get too exercised about that. I think the rain-sensing windshield wipers more than make up for the loss of a few square inches of digital information.
One feature that the car has that took me by surprise is its Smart City Brake Support. Essentially, this is mean to provide full braking when the forward-looking laser sensor in the rearview mirror area determines that there is something—ideally a car—ahead and that you’re not applying the brakes with sufficient vigor to keep from running into it, assuming that you’re driving at a low speed (18.6 mph or less). I was in the parking garage at the airport, slowly driving toward the two-by-four gate that needed to swing up to allow my entry to a particular floor in the deck. Apparently the SCBS figured that I was going to run into it, so it activated the system. It reminded me of a scene from Star Trek or Serenity when the command “Reverse thrusters!” is shouted and the crew members get jolted by the sudden shift in momentum. Call me surprised.
Arguably, there has been no other time when there are so many good cars in a single category. It is hard to cite a midsize car that isn’t really quite notable in some way. The OEMs across the board have recognized that design matters and that, in addition, it requires a solid engineering backbone for a car to keep up with its competitors in the class.
Mazda has done one hell of a job with the 2014 Mazda6.
Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC, VVT I4
Horsepower: 184 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and head
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.4 in.
Length: 191.5 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 57.1 in.
Coefficient of drag: 0.26
Curb weight: 3,232 lb.
Passenger volume: 99.7 cu. ft.
Cargo volume: 14.8 cu. ft.
EPA: 26/38/30 city/highway/combined mpg