Being in this group is no disgrace. It includes such standout cars as the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. Shoppers who don't bother doing serious snooping-around in this group do themselves a disservice.
The five-passenger, front-wheel-drive Mazda6 has been redesigned to the max for 2014. Its body has bold new musculature that looks good from every angle. The stylish, well-made interior of my tester, a top-of-the-line Grand Touring model, rivals that of some mid-luxury sedans. But even the interior of the least-expensive Mazda6 model looks almost as lush, certainly far from bare bones.
The 2014 Mazda6 incorporates SkyActiv Technology, Mazda's name for its suite of engine, transmission, body and chassis components that are performance-oriented and fuel-saving. SkyActiv Technology first appeared on the 2012 Mazda3 and is also found on the 2013 CX-5.
A lively 2.5-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder engine propels the new Mazda6. It generates 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, which is 8 percent more horsepower and almost 11 percent more torque than the engine used in the 2013 model, yet fuel economy is improved to an impressive 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway when equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, delivering 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.
My Grand Touring tester with automatic transmission befriended me by responding to acceleration demands pronto and with enthusiasm, shifting seamlessly, handling twists and turns without leaning in the least, providing a comfortable and reasonably quiet ride at freeway speeds, and having well-placed, easy to use controls. Its 5.8-inch touchscreen display could stand to be bigger, but we got by.
Good rear-seat legroom and a good-sized trunk were other appealing qualities.
There are three Mazda6 trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Base pricing, including a $795 destination charge, starts at $21,675 for the Sport; $25,290 for the Touring; and $30,290 for the Grand Touring.
Standard features on the Sport with manual transmission include push-button start, air conditioning with a pollen filter, power windows with a driver-side one-touch up/down feature, tilt-and-telescopic adjustable steering column, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise control functions, 17-inch alloy wheels, and USB connection ports. A Sport model equipped with the optional automatic transmission adds Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, a 5.8-inch color touchscreen display, rearview camera, HD radio, Pandora, Radio Broadcast Data System program information, SMS text message receipt/delivery, E911 automatic emergency notification and audio voice command.
The Grand Touring version practically groans with standard features, including everything on the other two models plus platinum silver 19-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, rear lip spoiler, bi-xenon HID headlights with auto leveling, heated front sport seats, eight-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, four-way power front passenger seat, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and Sirius satellite radio.
An optional Advanced Package available for second-half 2013 includes a lane departure warning system and i-Eloop, Mazda's capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system designed to deliver even better fuel efficiency.
Also due during second-half 2013 is the option of a 2.2-liter clean diesel engine. Pricing and specifications have not been announced yet.
The 2014 Mazda6 is built in Japan.
2014 Mazda Mazda6 Grand Touring
Base price, including destination charge: $30,290
Price as driven: $31,490
Mary Lowry is a freelance automotive writer who has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.
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