published Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Test Drive: Mazda 6 for 2014 has a curvaceous new look

Mazda says the new 6's new, back-weighted body style looks like an animal waiting to pounce. 
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
Mazda says the new 6's new, back-weighted body style looks like an animal waiting to pounce. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

Model: 2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring

Exterior color: Liquid Silver

Interior color: Black

Engine: 2.5-liter, four cylinder

Horsepower: 184

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 38 mpg highway, 26 mpg city

Dealer: Edd Kirby's Adventure Mazda

Price (as tested): $31,190

On a visit to test drive the redesigned Mazda 6 earlier this week, I encountered two young customers — a man and a woman — checking out the car in the Edd Kirby's Adventure Mazda showroom.

They were circling the midsized sedan, taking in all its lines -- its sculpted rear end, aggressive front fenders and stylish rims. When a salesman popped open the driver's-side door, the pair peeked inside to inspect the handsome leather seat surfaces and sculpted dash.

"It looks like my mom's Mercedes," said the young man.

"Well," I thought, "that might be a bit of a stretch, although the dash does remind me of the inside of an Audi A4."

The Mazda 6, which competes in the same heavyweight segment with the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry, has to become a shiny object to earn more looks from mainstream sedan customers.

After spending some time in the new car, I'd say its combination of elegant good looks, great fuel economy and sporty driving dynamics might just do the trick.

STYLING AND COMFORT

Our test car, in Grand Touring trim, was a Liquid Silver model with black leather interior. Like the new Toyota Avalon, reviewed in this space a couple of weeks ago, the Mazda 6 is on the cutting edge of a trend -- it has a rear-weighted design that moves away from the cab-forward, cookie-cutter style of most modern cars. Mazda says the new look is inspired by the movement of wild animals.

"When you look at the exterior, it seems like it's moving even when it's standing still," Mazda designer Koji Miyamoto, said in a news release. Indeed, arched character lines emerge from the back-swept headlights and shoot across the front doors like the tails of comets.

A new grille gives the Mazda 6 a more elegant and distinctive face, and 10-spoke alloy wheels would look right at home on a luxury car. The rear tail-lights are bridged by what one car magazine whimsically calls a "chrome mustache."

Inside, the sensation of motion continues, with interesting sculpted lines that make the dash, doors and center stack appear to be carved out of one piece. Our test car's interior is all black, with perforated leather seats and only an few metal accents to break up the monochromatic look.

Our tester also included several comfort features such as heated front seats, eight-way power controls on the driver's seat and a power moonroof.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The Mazda 6 is powered by a smooth, four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower. At this point, there is no six-cylinder variant, although a turbo-diesel is in the pipeline.

In a test drive on U.S. Highway 27, the Mazda 6 had plenty of power for a four-cylinder. The car handles well -- you could even say it's light on its feet -- and avoids the numb steering that often afflicts cars in this class.

All newer Mazdas benefit from the company's highly-touted Skyactiv design theories, which work together to enhance the driving experience and to squeeze every penny out of your fuel dollar. The Mazda 6, for example, turns in 38 miles per gallon in highway driving. A few years ago, you would have paid thousands more for a gas-electric hybrid to achieve that number from a midsize sedan.

The Skyactiv engine is designed with a lofty compression ratio of 13-1, and achieves this with regular (not premium) gas. The Mazda 6 Skyactiv also includes a regenerative braking system that recovers power, so the alternator is less of a drag on the powerplant. This feature alone is said to boost fuel economy by 5 percent. A fuel-saving transmission and light-weight steel and suspension parts complete the package.

BOTTOM LINE

The redesigned Mazda 6 is truly a car to get excited about. It looks good and drives well. Our tester stickers for $31,190, and includes many top-of-the-line options. Less expensive trims are available.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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