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RECENTLY DRIVEN

2014 Mazda 6 GT 

 

The large five-point grille is a Mazda design signature shared with other models.

 Car tested  2014 Mazda 6 GT
 Body style  Four-door sedan
 Engine  2.5L-four (184 horsepower)
 Transmission  Six-speed automatic
 Least expensive Mazda 6  $24,495
 Price as tested  $34,195 (GT automatic with the Technology package

 Observed fuel consumption

 11.8L/100 km (winter), 8L/100 km (summer)

 

Long, low, clean lines make for a sleek silhouette. A steeply-raked windshield and small windows make the 6 appear lower than it is, but also hamper outward vision, further obscured by the wide centre pillar

History
The 2014 Mazda 6 is the third-generation of the model that replaced the 626 at the end of 2002. Unlike the last 6, which was a unique model built in the U.S. for North America, the newest 6 is assembled in Japan and only one version of the platform will be sold worldwide.   

Competition
The 6 is a D-Segment midsize car that competes with vehicles like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Accord and Altima were all redesigned for 2013, so it will face some serious competition.   

Styling 
The Mazda 6 is stylish in a segment known for for offering bland vehicles for the North American market . The 6 is fronted by a tall, very vertical grille flanked by swept-back headlights. The chrome trim, which surrounds the grille and extends to the leading edge of the headlights, is a neat styling touch. The 6 looks long, which it is, but also low, which it isn't. Only half an inch lower than the Honda Accord, the 6's low-slung look is an optical illusion created by the steeply-raked windshield pillars, tall body sides and diminutive windows. With clean lines and very little adornment, it is a shape that should age well. Panel fit and paint finish were very good. 

 

Crisp, clear gauges. The gauge on the right is part of the accurate trip computer and can display a number of different read-outs including easy-to-use instant and average fuel consumption monitors.

Performance
Two four-cylinder engines have been announced -- the gasoline four tested here, and a 2L diesel. As with several other automakers, Mazda dropped the V6, and no high performance MazdaSpeed turbo four appears to be in the works. The 2.5L direct-injection four cylinder gas engine is shared with the CX-5 compact sport utility vehicle. Apart from a diesel-like clatter at idle (partially due to a high 13 to 1 compression ratio), the big four is smooth, quiet and has a sporting rasp when pressed hard. Good power, flexibility and well-chosen gears mean the engine doesn't have to work too hard to deliver results.

Mazda Skyactive system employs a high compression ratio for power production and fuel efficiency in conjunction with special fuel injectors, pistons with deep recesses to improve torque and works in concert with an elaborate four-into-two-into-one long branch exhaust system and a short combustion duration to eliminate engine knocking such a high compression ratio generally promotes. Mazda also notes that reduced internal friction and lighter internal components also promotes fuel efficiency. Fuel economy appears to be depdendent on ambient temperature. Two different 6s in two different cities consumed roughly 12L/100 km in winter conditions but a subsequent car tested in Montreal during the spring was, at around 8L/100 km overall, much more frugal than the first two cars, but used more fuel than the 7.6L/100 km city and 5.1L/100 km highway mileage figures advertised by Mazda. Mazda claim that Skyactive also encompasses a lightening process throughout the car which bears witness as the 6 weighs about 72 kilograms (150 lbs.) less than a Honda Accord Touring with automatic transmission.

The six-speed automatic transmission upshifts to the highest possible gear early in order to favour low fuel consumption in economy tests; it does so smoothly and downshifts promptly enough when needed. High gearing permits relaxed cruising, but there was a slight exhaust boom at around 120 kilometres-per-hour.

The electric power steering is precise, but lacks any meaningful feedback which prevents the driver from confidently exploring the capabilities of the 6's able chassis. Turn in is crisp on our test GT shod with 19 inch wheels and low-profile tires, and the ride is resiliently firm with no trace of harshness. The 6 feels planted and confident at highway speeds, even in windy conditions. However, this new 6 isn't as fun or engaging to drive as either the last 6 or the first-generation 6. 

APA tester opinions were mixed on their opinions on the 6's braking. While the brakes function very well, some APA testers thought the brakes had good feel and weighting and others who dismissed them as being grabby with non-linear response.  

On the highway, the 6 exhibits significant levels of wind noise emanating from the windshield pillars and while there is little tire or suspension noise, the sound of road debris like road salt and grit pinging off the underside of the car is intrusively loud.

Our test GT was equipped with the Technology package (includes radar cruise control, forward object detection and a lane departure warning). The radar cruise control is very well thought out. The driver selects a speed to be maintained and can also pick a following distance to be sustained as well. If a vehicle in front is moving slower than the Mazda 6 driver picked, the car will slow imperceptibly to maintain the distance selected, however, if the 6 driver changes lanes to one that is unobstructed, the car will speed up to the velocity initially selected. If the 6 is moving too quickly in relation to the speed of the car ahead, or if another car changes lanes in front of the 6, consuming the selected following distance, the 6 will brake autonomously to maintain the desired distance between it and the car ahead. 

Mazda's i-ELOOP Smart City system, which uses regenerative braking to store power in capacitors to help run some electrical components, part of the GT Technology package our test car was equipped with, was totally transparent in its operation.

With steeply-raked windshield pillars, small side windows, massive centre pillars and a high trunk line, the 6 suffers from limited outward vision.

Interior 
The driver faces an instrument panel inhabited by a trio of large, clearly-marked gauges. While not adventurous, the 6's dashboard is classically elegant and is stocked with simple, logical controls that move with a smooth precision. 

The 6's front seats are large, firmly padded and initially welcoming, but some APA drivers found them uncomfortable after a few hours. Front seat legroom is adequate, but the cabin is narrow for this type of car. The rear seat itself is supportive, but legroom is very tight on the new 6, tighter than any other car in its class except for the similarly-afflicted Chevrolet Malibu. In fact, the 6 offers little more cabin space than a Honda Civic or Hyundai Elantra, which renders the purchase of such a large car pointless. The 6 has a longer wheelbase and is longer overall than the Honda Accord, but the Accord trumps the 6 mightily in terms for cabin space. 

With abundant soft-touch surfaces, matte finishes, glossy piano black and superb faux alloy accents, the 6's carefully constructed cabin is one of the most luxurious in the midsize class.

The 6's climate control easily coped with cold weather during the test and the seat heaters warmed quickly.

The name-brand audio equipment provided only mediocre sounds but the Tom Tom navigation system, while having poor graphics and map detail, was easy to use and directed the driver precisely and accurately. The BMW iDrive-style console-mounted rotary controller functioned very well.

With only bottle holders in the doors, oddments storage in the 6 is inadequate.

The 6's trunk is wide and long, but shallow, limiting true volume, and the short  trunk lid made loading the trunk a more involved task than it would be on a car greater space between the rear window and the end of the trunk. 

The active cruise control allows the driver to pick cruising speed and the desired distance from the car being followed

 

The classically simple, highly-functional dashboard of the Mazda 6  

Simple, straightforward controls move with precision

Pricing
The GS and GT trim upgrades as well as the GS Luxury package are all very good value. The GT Technology package represents a lot of technology for the money. Containing much of the GT's features for a lower price, the GS with the Luxury package is the best value of the lineup.

Mazda is offering very good lease terms on the 6. Compared with the Honda Accord Touring (which does lack the Mazda's radar cruise control), the 6 GT with the Technology package is roughly $2600 more expensive than that of a Honda Accord Touring and generates higher monthly payments for leasing and financing. A Mazda 6 GX with automatic transmission is priced roughly $500 more than an Accord LX sedan, but lacks the Honda's rearview camera and power driver's seat. The Honda is significantly cheaper to lease but generates a similar finance payment. The Accord will have better resale value than the Mazda. 

 

A steeply-raked windshield pillar, small window and large mirror conspire to reduce visibility

Reliability
Three-year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain. The 2.3L version of Mazda's MZR engine series suffered from connecting rod failure and excess oil consumption, it is unknown whether Mazda has corrected these problems in the related 2.5L four used in the 6. Mazda's Skyactive system is unproven. An extended warranty from Mazda Canada is recommended.

Safety
The 6 is equipped with dual front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The 2014 6 was rated Good in the frontal, side, rear and roof strength tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Acceptable in the IIHS slight frontal offset test. The 2014 6 has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States.

The trunk is wide and long, but shallow. Trunk hinges move in dedicated slots and won't crush luggage as the trunk is closed 

Rear seats fold flat to create a level load floor. Thick rubber mat is a dealer-installed accessory

Short trunk lid makes loading awkward 

Skyactive technology proved less fuel efficient than anticipated

Three-quarter rear view of the elegant Mazda 6

Summary
Strong points on the Mazda 6 include attractive styling, nicely executed controls and displays, acceptable refinement and a more precise driving feel than some of itts competitors. However, the poor space efficiency of the new 6 provides compact cabin space in a midsize format, undermining the reason for buying a bigger car. In addition, the longevity of Mazda's 2.5L four is unknown, the technology of the Skyactive system is unproven and depreciation is likely to be higher than offerings from Toyota and Honda.