2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review, Revisted

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review, Revisted

The 2014 Mazda6 has been lauded by everyone and their uncle who has driven it. When I first had a go, I said the best version to buy was the Touring with the manual transmission. Problem was, I never even drove it. Now I have, and it's lovely.

(Full Disclosure: I asked Mazda for a car to get team Jalopnik around LA during the LA Auto Show, and they kindly obliged with a Mazda6 Touring with a 6-speed. In addition to around LA duties, I took it 400 miles north to San Jose and back down to Los Angeles. A thorough test.)

When I first drove the 6, I was thrilled with most aspects of it, other than the clutch in the sport model with the six speed. For once, time has been kind and the clutch is actually better than I remember in 6 I just drove. It actually engages at a natural point and has a linear progression. It went from being awkward to a joy, as if the clutch finished going through puberty.

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review, Revisted

Steering is still a tad light and overboosted, but I decided to give it a real test of braking and handling by taking California's famed Route 33 through Ojai. If you haven't driven 33, you really need to. This is one of the best roads in America with a great variety of corners and straights. There is also some truly breathtaking scenery.

It's here where you can see the performance chops of a car. And, unfortunately, after a short aggressive run, the brake pedal became soft. When I pulled over to check it out, smoke was billowing out of the rear brakes. That is kind of expected though, and it speaks to how much fun the 6 is to drive. Like the Mazda3, it encourages you to get on it and drive quickly. With upgraded brakes (and a stiffer suspension to curb body roll), it'd be on par with much more expensive sports sedans in the twisties.

Steering is still a little overboosted for my tastes, but it is plenty capable to have some fun in faster corners.

On the highway, the 6 got gas mileage in the 30s at around 80 MPH which is pretty good, though below the EPA's 40 MPG bumber. Yesterday I spent seven straight hours behind the wheel and was never uncomfortable. The seats are fantastic and all the dash materials feel better than the super soft I had in my first test car.

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review, Revisted

Now, the infotainment system, that was frustrating. See, it has this button that says "nav" on it. In this car, pressing that button does precisely nothing because it doesn't have nav. Mazda says you can upgrade to it later, which is a nice idea, but if you don't order it in the first place, what's the likelihood you'll use it? You'll use your phone for nav. And instead you'll have a nav button taunting you, looking all smug, knowing you'll want to press it but nothing will happen.

The system also decided my iPod couldn't play through it, and my iPhone could only work sometimes. Bluetooth audio playback from the phone initiated a phone call, and it wasn't high quality. Bruce Springsteen sounded like he was in even more of a tunnel than usual.

But those are minor compared to how much better this car looks and drives than any of its competitors. I think that after my second drive, I'm even more impressed by the 6. And the most impressive part is that the Touring with the manual that I drove cost just more than $24,000. In my book, that makes the Mazda6 the bargain of the century in the car world.

To take a line Louis CK once said about farts, you don't need to be smart to buy a Mazda6, but you'd have to be stupid not to.

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Pending approvalOriginal post by Travis Okulski on Jalopnik

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

Buying a midsize sedan is like buying a pair of men's loafers; lots of choices but few anyone would get excited about unless you're spending bank. There's the new Honda Accord, the perennially boring Toyota Camry, the nicely warrantied Hyundai Sonata, and the gorgeous Ford Fusion. It seems the Mazda6 was all forgotten.

But no! Mazda went through its divorce from Ford and got to work on an all-new flagship sedan. For 2014, the 6 is totally new from the ground up. It shares no parts with the Ford Fusion. None. Zero. Zilch. You'd think that's bad because the Fusion is an excellent car.

It isn't a bad thing. And that's because Mazda has built the midsize sedan I'd most like to own.

(Full Disclosure: Mazda wanted me to drive the new 6 so bad they flew me to Austin, TX and put me up in a hilltop lodge spa thing where I learned that Mazda makes many cars that aren't Miatas. Shocker. I also mentioned that I own a Miata about 96 times.)

For 2014, the Mazda6 gets all Skyactiv, which is a word you've probably heard in relation to Mazda lately. If you're like me, you also had no idea what it was and thought it was just a creative marketing buzzword that meant absolutely nothing. Well friends, we were both wrong.

Skyactiv describes the entire architecture of the car. For the 6, everything is brand new from the ground up. The chassis, engine, transmission, and body were all designed with the other in mind at the same time. That way there wouldn't be sacrifices to fit the engine into a chassis that would need to be modified to accommodate it. It's a very zen approach.

It's an approach that you don't see all that often anymore for a car built with a low price in mind like the 6. But all of these parts come together to form something really excellent. Everyone else should take note.

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

When I drove the Fusion, I said that I wanted to make tender love to it. That's how beautiful I think it is. I also didn't think anyone else in the midsize game would be able to outdo it.

Mazda is damn close.

The taut lines, long hood, cool LED accents in the lights, and aggressive grille all add up to make a car that is decidedly more butch than the 6 it replaces as well as more masculine than the elegant and nearly effeminate Fusion. I do find that there is a bit too much chrome for my taste and am not too sure about the line from the wheel arches into the front door, it makes the front fenders appear a bit too massive. It also looks a little unbalanced with wheels under 19-inches in size. That means your car needs to be a more expensive Touring or Grand Touring model to get the look you want.

INTERIOR (7/10)

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

Everyone these days talks about "soft touch" materials in their cars. Everything needs to be soft, God forbid we touch anything hard ever.

Well, Mazda heard what people were saying, but they might have heard it a little too well. The top of the dash is like a soft rubber that's actually pliable. I kind of thought I could leave a handprint in the dash, like a memory foam mattress. I was also a little put off by the wheel, which felt a tad cheap.

Those points aside, the seats are really comfortable and supportive (although the passenger doesn't get height adjustment), buttons and switches are laid out logically and fall easily to hand, and I didn't feel cramped at all. I preferred the layout of the interior to other cars in the class, including the Fusion with its MyFordTouch interface. It's a comfortable, nice place to spend a lot of time.

ACCELERATION (5/10)

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

The 6 isn't all that powerful, but it is a plucky little car. It has 184 horsepower and 185 pound feet of torque from the 2.5 liter I4 under the hood. Power delivery is linear across the rev range, there just isn't an incredible amount of it.

In sixth at cruising speeds, around 60, you do need to downshift once or twice in order to accelerate. Otherwise, you'll be sitting there with your foot flat to the floor, cursing that you aren't going any faster.

But you will be getting great economy. The 6 gets 38 MPG on the highway and our backroad jaunt returned 26 MPG average. Not. Too. Shabby.

BRAKING (5/10)

Braking is linear and pedal feel is pretty good. They aren't the most aggressive of brakes, and a couple of time I found myself not braking as much as I thought I was, which resulted in more pressure and a bit of a jerky stop.

However, when braking and downshifting in the automatic model, I noticed something a little strange. A slight vibration was present in the pedal when the car downshifted. It didn't impact the braking performance at all and once I got used to it I barely noticed, but it isn't the most confidence inspiring trait in the world.

RIDE (7/10)

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

As you'd expect in a car of this class, the 6 is tuned decidedly more towards the comfortable side. The electric steering is also a little lighter and more overboosted than I'd like.

What's good is that the 6 is comfortable without being uncommunicative. By building the car from the ground up, the Skyactiv chassis can be stiffer while the suspension can be softer. It's a great mix, and it's nice that a company didn't have to overcompensate with rock hard springs in order to make up for deficiencies in the chassis department.

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Skyactiv I4
  • Power: 184 HP at 5,700 RPM/185 LB-FT at 3,250 RPM
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic
  • 0-60 Time: N/A
  • Top Speed: N/A
  • Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
  • Curb Weight: 3,183 (Manual); 3,232 (Automatic)
  • Seating: 5
  • MPG (cty/hwy/cbn): 25/37/29 (Manual); 26/38/30 (Auto)
  • MSRP: $20,880 (Sport), $24,495 (Touring), $29,495 (Grand Touring)
HANDLING (7/10)

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

This is a Mazda. The company that gave us the RX7. The company that gave us the Miata. Zoom Zoom, AMIRITE?! You're expecting a fun handling experience. For a midsize sedan it actually delivers.

When I wasn't stuck in traffic, I got a chance to throw it into a couple corners. I was greeted by mild understeer, which you'd expect from a front driver. The steering is light, but I also felt that it was communicative compared to a lot of the crap that is out there these days. No, it's no Miata, but for a midsizer it's great.

If these cars were CSPAN programming, the Camry would be a BOOK TV episode about cholera and the new 6 would be two senators wrestling in the middle of a committee hearing.

GEARBOX (8/10)

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

Two gearboxes will be offered in the new car. There is a six-speed automatic as well as a six-speed manual. The manual gearbox is brand new for 2014 and it is excellent. Throws are short and the gates are excellently defined. I didn't care for the clutch, which had a fairly low engagement point that I just couldn't get used to.

Then there is the automatic. It's actually a hybrid of a traditional torque converter and a dual clutch, and it's brilliant. A small torque converter is used at low speeds to make around town driving smooth, a weak point of dual clutch gearboxes. At higher speeds, it switches to wet clutches, which makes for quick and sporty shifts. I have to say, it's a fantastic idea. Downshifts are also rev matched and quick, with an immediate response from the paddles. If you're in automatic mode, it can downshift three gears at once with no problem. I think this is the gearbox of the future for cars like this. It isn't as engaging as the manual, but it is damn good at what it does.

AUDIO (7/10)

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

The 2.5-liter engine lets out a nice throaty little growl, something you don't expect from a midsize car. It's not particularly loud, but it lets you know it's there. I liked that little reminder, but would like to hear from it a little more.

The optional Bose stereo adds to those good sounds from the engine. An afternoon of '90s grunge actually sounded really good.

TOYS (8/10)

Mazda has put more acronyms in the 6 than I have seen this side of a Mercedes. A fully loaded Grand Touring model has blind spot monitoring, a city brake assist, radar cruise control, bluetooth, iPod connectivity, lane departure warning, forward obstruction warning, rearview camera, and a 'rear cross traffic alert,' which warns the driver when a car is crossing from behind. There's the excellent Bose stereo and a Tom Tom nav system that can use customized voices as well. Later in 2013 there will also be a brake regen feature called i-ELOOP, which will use brake energy to charge a capacitor in order to increase fuel economy.

The amount of premium features in the 6 is pretty staggering for a car of this class. Most of the features are seen in BMWs, Mercedeses (how do you make Mercedes plural?), and Audis. It brings nearly every premium feature found in those cars down to an attainable price point. That's great stuff.

There is one issue I had. The optional navigation system is supplied by Tom Tom and runs on a 5.8 inch touch screen. It works properly, but the unit itself doesn't look well integrated. And it's a touch screen with redundant button controls on the outside of it, as well as an iDrive-style controller on the dash. It's too many controls. If they got rid of the buttons around the unit, the screen could grow in size and it would look like it belonged in the car and not an afterthought.

VALUE (8/10)

2014 Mazda6: The Jalopnik Review

The base Mazda6 Sport with a manual transmission starts at $20,880. A top-of-the-line Grand Touring starts at $29,495. Fully equipped you'll be looking at a price of around $32,000. For the features you're getting, I think this is a steal.

But the car to get is the mid-range Touring model with the manual transmission. Starting around $24,000, you get a well-equipped mid-size car with a manual transmission. The Fusion offers a manual too, but it isn't on a model that is this well equipped. The manual Touring will start rolling off the assembly line in March. It's a tasty slice.

When we drove the Fusion, we said you'd be an idiot if you didn't buy one. It's true, you would be an idiot not to buy a Fusion, but you'd be an even bigger idiot if you didn't at least try the Mazda6. I think it's the best car in the class. Go buy it. Now.

69/100
EXTERIOR (7/10)
INTERIOR (7/10)
ACCELERATION (5/10)
BRAKING (5/10)
RIDE (7/10)
HANDLING (7/10)
GEARBOX (8/10)
AUDIO (7/10)
TOYS (8/10)
VALUE (8/10)
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