Not many years ago, a midsize sedan delivering top crash-protection scores, crisp handling, a hushed, composed ride, medium pricing and 40 miles per gallon seemed an impossible dream. And Mazda, a second-tier Japanese automaker, seemed a long-shot candidate to pull it off. But the 2016 Mazda6 does it all – and without resorting to things like diesel or gasoline-electric hybrid power.
A 5-passenger sedan that behaves more like a BMW than a conventional Japanese sedan, the Mazda6 is a blast to drive despite having modest power numbers: its inline Four boasts just 184 horsepower, and contrary to what the car’s badge seems to promise, 6-cylinder power is unavailable. Moreover, there is no electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries to boost acceleration. The engine and 6-speed automatic transmission team up to provide smooth, responsive, yet quiet acceleration. There’s nothing neck-snapping about the engine’s performance; its personality is confident and energetic, but not overbearing. Like BMW’s midsize and compact models, the car is perfectly balanced.
Our test car was a top-of-the-line Mazda6 i Grand Touring model that had a base price of $30,195. The Mazda6 Sport, with a 6-speed manual transmission, starts at just $21,495.
High fuel economy and remarkable crash-protection scores make the Mazda6 a sensible choice, but the driving experience is the main attraction. Other midsize sedans strive to isolate drivers and passengers from the road; the Mazda6 seems to enjoy taking on every challenge the road puts before it – whether it’s a sharp curve or inconsistent pavement. And consumers are noticing. Mazda6 sales are up 12.5 percent for the year through September, with 47,072 units sold in the United States.
Mazda extensively reworked the car’s interior for 2016. While some tall drivers and passengers found access and egress to the low-slung sedan to be challenging, the seats were accommodating, front and back. The trunk is large for the car’s class, at nearly 15 cubic feet, and the lid swings open wider than most.
The switchgear includes a BMW-like knob in the console to operate multiple systems – and Mazda did it right. Learning how to operate the audio, navigation and climate-control systems was a snap. Old-timers who took the wheel appreciated the presence of a conventional volume-control knob right next to the main system controller (“multi-function commander control”), which comes standard in Touring and Grand Touring trim.
For a little less than $34,000, our Soul Red Mazda6 had a long list of standard features plus the $2,000 GT Technology Package. It adds some desirable, high-tech safety features as well as the i-Eloop (intelligent energy loop) that helps boost the fuel economy to 32 mpg overall. Standard in Grand Touring versions are leather-trimmed sport seats, power front seats, heated front seats, rearview camera, 7-inch color display, LED headlights, power moonroof and more.
Past Mazda6 models have exhibited much better-than-average reliability, based on Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys. The 2016 model has been rated a Top Safety Pick Plus in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2016 Mazda6 i Grand Touring
Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four, 184 horsepower, 185 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,250 lb.
Suspension: 4-wheel independent
Wheels: 19×7.5-in. Painted alloy
Tires: P225/45R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 14.8 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 16.4 gallons
Fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 40 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline