What with the Mazda3, CX3 and CX5 winning awards all over the place (Best New Car Of The Year / Best SUV of The Year in 2016, etc, etc), it’s easy to forget that Mazda has a mid-size sedan in the form of the 6. Not one of the company’s top sellers, true, but a worthy contender in this once-dominant market.
A few specs. Available in three different trim packages, the Mazda6 is powered by a 2.5 litre four cylinder engine, featuring the company’s SkyActiv technology. In a nutshell, SkyActiv is a manufacturing premise adopted by Mazda in 2012, which seeks to incorporate all the building blocks of automobile manufacturing - engineering, performance, comfort, marketing, fuel economy, environmental friendliness etc - into one overriding philosophy. Sounds kind of high-falutin (or pretentious, depending upon your point of view), but in the company’s own words: “SkyActiv is part of what we call ‘jinba ittai’, which in Japanese means a oneness between car and driver. It covers every aspect of the automobile, and is a building block strategy for Mazda.”
Skyactiv - which is loosely defined as “the sky is the limit” - was also the first step in Mazda’s new approach to building automobiles and has been implemented incrementally over the last five years. Among other things, the plan was to improve corporate fuel economy by 30 per cent by 2015, and SkyActiv has been used throughout the company’s model line-up.
From a driver’s point of view, SkyActiv has meant less emphasis on power and performance, and more on fuel economy. Some of the engines developed during Mazda’s SkyActiv phase have been remarkable for their efficiency, but the price paid is a drop in performance. If you’re looking for a thrifty, clean-running drivetrain, no problem, but if you want to shred the pavement once in awhile, perhaps SkyActiv is not your cup of sake’.
But back to the Mazda6. My test GT model had a six-speed automatic gearbox, with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, but you can also get a six-speed manual on some models. When you consider that the industry as a whole seems to be moving away from stick shifts, this is noteworthy. I’m also happy to report that the Mazda6 does NOT have a CVT, which also puts it in my good books. “Well left alone” to Mazda for these two engineering features.
Behind the wheel, what strikes me more than anything is the top-notch assembly quality here. This is a well-made automobile, but excellent NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) suppression. With 184 horsepower on tap, you’re not going to burn up the roads with this one, but it’s a quiet, comfortable ride that feels more luxurious than it probably should.
Standard equipment on the GT includes blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, leather interior, dual-zone climate control, rearview cameras, and all the usual modcons that a mid-size four-door sedan should have. My car also came with satellite radio, radar cruise control, lane departure warning , lane keep assist (disabled ASAP), upgraded leather upholstery, and a raft of interior trim extras. All nicely put together. Trunk size, BTW, is 419 litres….an Accord has 447 litres, while a Camry has 436 litres….so the 6 is in the ball-park.
A word about pricing. The Mazda6 starts at $24,695 for the GS version and this includes the six-speed manual transmission. All things considered, I think this is the one that I’d plump for, were I in the market for a four-door sedan. It has everything you actually need in this market, and compares favourably with the Camry at $26,390 and the Accord, at $24,690. And for what it’s worth, the Mazda6 with the manual gearbox returns 9.8 L/100 km in town and 6.9 on the highway. The Accord is good for 10.4/7.4 respectively, while the Camry is good for 9.8 and 7.1L / 100 km.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.5 litre four cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 184 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 185 @ 3250 rpm
Price: $38,490 as tested.
Alternatives: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Chev Malibu, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata.