I drove two Mazdas back to back, from the tiny MX-5 Miata to the substantial Mazda6 sedan, so you’re getting a twofer today. Here goes:
2018 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA
A non-car guy once asked me, with derision in his voice, “What does ‘fun to drive’ mean?” He was implying that the term, which I use all the time, is stupid and vague. If only I could have handed him the key to a Mazda MX-5 Miata and said, “Here. Get in. Go for a drive. When you return you’ll be a person who knows exactly what ‘fun to drive’ means.”
The very fun-to-drive Mazda MX-5 Miata was fully redesigned in 2016 to create a new version that weighs less, goes faster and has a more refined interior than the outgoing model. For 2017, standard blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert were added to one of the trim levels. The 2018 model is a carryover, although some optional features are newly available.
My tester was the Club trim with a soft convertible top that is manually operated. Dropping the top and pulling it back up takes little to no effort. Someone with a long enough reach can operate it single-handedly while seated inside the car.
The MX-5’s zesty 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. For those who don’t mind missing out on all the extra fun provided by the six-speed manual transmission, an optional six-speed automatic is available. But that seems like such a travesty, a diminishing of this little roadster’s lively spirit.
Fuel economy ratings are good: 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway with a manual transmission, and 26/35 mpg with an automatic.
Several inches of snow fell and stayed around in East Snohomish County during my test week, and the MX-5 Miata with its front-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration would have had an interesting time trying to get up my long uphill driveway. Except for one thing: Bridgestone Blizzak tires. Those tires couldn’t have provided more traction if they were throwing sand in front of themselves as they rolled along.
The Blizzaks do affect steering feel, road noise and fuel economy, but not by much, and when the option might be not driving the fun-to-drive Miata, those effects are a nonissue.
2018 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA CLUB
Base price, including destination charge: $30,045
Price as driven: $35,240
2017 MAZDA MAZDA6
The Mazda6 is a midsize sedan with comfortable seating for up to five people. There are three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring.
My tester was the Grand Touring model, whose power comes from a 184-horsepower four-cylinder engine producing 185 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and the two make a slick pair. Acceleration is swift and smooth, gear changes imperceptible.
Fuel economy is another boon: 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined.
Nice things inside the Mazda6 Grand Touring’s spacious and quiet cabin include an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar, a six-way power seat for the front passenger (both seats are heatable), a 7-inch touchscreen display, 11-speaker Bose audio system with HD and satellite radio, and meticulous construction using quality materials.
Exterior lights are LED and fog lights are included among the Grand Touring’s standard equipment.
Blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist are on the long list of standard safety features.
The infotainment system is blessedly designed with a control dial in the center console for people like you-know-who, who are not enamored of touchscreens. The touchscreen nuts can avoid the control dial and just poke away at the screen if that makes them happy.
Trunk size is just shy of 15 cubic feet, with a big opening that makes the loading and unloading of large objects a snap.
An optional Grand Touring Premium Package on my tester adds heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, bright interior trim and more.
The Mazda6 sedan has a luxury-like ride on the highway without being a big snooze on winding roads. Good on Mazda for pulling that off so well.
By the way, it also snowed while I had the Mazda6 but it too was equipped with those Bridgestone Blizzaks and their miracle traction. So, I was just sorry it didn’t snow harder because I do love the cold white stuff and wish we had it more often around here.
2017 MAZDA MAZDA6 GRAND TOURING
Base price, including destination charge: $31,570
Price as driven: $34,695
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president 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.