EDITOR WES RAYNAL: What a delightful car this 2015 Mazda 6i Grand Touring is. I can’t think of anything I don’t like about it. That’s rare for me to say about a car -- at any price.
The exterior looks terrific, swoopy for a midsize sedan (of course it could be the other entries in this class are so dull) and just the right amount of chrome in the right places. Ditto the interior. It looks good, the materials are good (huge improvement over the old 6) and are well assembled, and the controls are intuitive and easy to use.
There’s enough oomph from the smooth and responsive four-cylinder to keep things interesting (above 3,000 rpm). When the car is at a stop light it feels and sounds like the engine shut off. It idles that smoothly.
I like the automatic transmission, too.
The chassis is among the best front-driver on the market. Ride/handling is taut, cornering is flat and body control excellent. The steering is for the most part accurate -- it wanders a tiny bit on center, not much. The harder you drive it, the more you fling it around, the better it is. It is a precise car.
The more I think about it, the Mazda 6 is my favorite non-German/Cadillac ATS midsize sedan. It’s very hard to beat for the money. In Europe I saw a few Mazda 6 wagons. Love those. We also keep hearing chatter about a diesel-powered 6 coming here, but it keeps on getting delayed. Wonder if it will ever get here.
The interior of the 2015 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring is a huge improvement over the old Mazda 6.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: There’s not much to hate about the latest Mazda 6, except for the darn radio that messed up my Apple iPod. Why can’t it just jump right to playing what I was already playing when I plugged it in? I guess I should stop complaining about how cars connect to the phone considering everyone just buys a car and it works or it doesn’t.
Anyways, I like this car so much I forced my wife to lease one. Styling is spot on, not too busy, not too plain.
Power is sufficient, but nowhere near exciting. The transmission doesn’t really shift quickly, even in sport, and redlining it doesn’t do much to increase the fun quotient.
It does steer and handle bumps well. That’s always one of the high points of a Mazda. This one seems a little pricey at $33K, though.
Still, the Mazda 6 is in my top-five “regular” cars list.
The 2015 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring is equipped with a 2.5-liter I4 mated with a six-speed automatic.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: When I saw the Mazda Takeri concept car at the 2011 Tokyo motor show I thought, “Hey, that’s a really nice take on a midsized sedan, but not so far out that it’s unbuildable, I bet they can produce it just as it is.” And they did. So if you find yourself wading into the celebration of the bland that is the midsized sedan segment, don’t despair. You may be forced by circumstance to buy a car of these dimensions and costs, but you don’t have to sacrifice sculptural automotive design to get it.
Likewise, you don’t have to give up practicality to get it, either. Heck, you don’t even have to give up a manual transmission. We all drove what may be the budget enthusiast’s last best hope in this, the biggest car segment in America – the Mazda6 i Touring.
Let’s start by praising that manual transmission. As near as I could tell from plowing through spec sheets, the only other thing in this class that even offers a manual is the Honda Accord. I just drove one of those and liked it a lot, too. The actual shifter may have been sportier in the Accord. Nonetheless the Mazda’s shifter is real easy to use and engage. The throws are not as short as those on the Accord manual but they’re still short enough. Engagement of each gear has some weight behind it. It’s very easy to drive for a manual.
(Spouse can’t drive a manual, you say? Then you had better do some deep soul-searching about why you married such a person. Really, dude, he/she can’t drive a manual? Didn’t this person see your stack of Autoweeks in your former bachelor pad? Sheesh.)
Our test car had the Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter dohc naturally aspirated four. Don’t just assume all that Skyactiv stuff is marketing hoopla like, say, Dynaride. Engineers sorted through the entire powertrain to maximize efficiencies when they introduced the technology several years ago. What they got was improvements in power and in the transfer of that power to the wheels. At least that’s what I wrote when Mazda first introduced Skyactiv, so it must be true. The engine pulls well enough from as low as 2,500 rpm and pulls strongly from 3,000 revs on up. It can launch well, too. Switch off the traction control and rev the engine to about 3,000 or 3,500 rpm then engage the clutch, modulate the pedal to just before the point at which you get axle tramp and zoom-zoom, off you go. It’s easy to launch quickly. You could race Accord manuals on the way to the Montessori drop-off point. The Accord manual has more horsepower than the Mazda6, but only one more. And the Mazda has 4 lb-ft more torque. So performance between the last two manuals in the midsize sedan segment may be a wash.
Otherwise it does everything a midsize sedan is supposed to do: It’s quiet at speed but gives enough engine sound at launch to let you know when to shift gears by listening instead of having to look at the tach. The interior is plenty roomy. The seats are firm and snug with lumbar support, though there was no adjustable lumbar in our test car. The infotainment system offers Bluetooth, Pandora and NAV but no satellite radio, at least not in the car I drove. EPA mileage is 25 city/37 hwy/29 combined - that's good gas mileage. I ran one tank 324.8 miles, using up 12.297 gallons for 26.4 mpg. The onboard indash computer said 27.8 mpg.
For $24,840 as tested you'd get a fun-to-drive practical car that you could hold onto forever.
Which one felt sportier behind the wheel? Both the Honda Accord and Mazda6 felt about as sporty as you figure a mass-manufacturer could get away with and still sell a bunch of cars. So drive both, then decide for yourself.
Most other makers in this segment offer automatics-only, and a few offer CVTs. Shudder. So it is our moral duty as the last remaining car people on Earth to support carmakers that still offer manuals by voting with our credit ratings and purchasing one of these. Before it’s too late.
Options: GT technology package including Mazda radar cruise control, i-Eloop regenerative engine braking system, high beam control, forward obstruction warning, lane departure warning system, active grille shutters ($2,080); pearl white paint ($200); door sill trim plates ($125); clear film rear bumper paint protection ($75); cargo mat ($75)
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