This is the golden age of the midsize sedan. The family car is the most competitive class in the auto industry, and consumers reap the benefits of this one-upmanship. The latest proof of this is the stylish all-new Mazda6.
Appearance: We love the new look, which presents itself as aerodynamic, with sensuous curves and, finally, an elegant front grille. Grilles have long been a design conundrum for Mazda (think "grin" or "smile") but this design is striking, accented by chrome trim integrated into the flanking headlights. Peter thinks you can really see the Japanese aesthetic at work here. The front fenders flare for a more aggressive look — one that is becoming a familiar design element for all manufacturers. Those fender creases flow nicely into the doors — Mazda calls this "soul of motion" — and a slight crease runs all the way to the rear of the car. The rear of the 6 also is nicely detailed with chrome trim, a deck-lid spoiler and elongated taillights. The twisted spokes of the 19-inch wheels really set off the Soul Red paint (an upgrade), which has deep hues that look stunning in the sun. Want a nondescript family hauler? This is not your car.
Performance: Hard to believe this is a 4-cylinder. The 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower Skyactiv-G engine has plenty of power and delivers it smoothly, even from a standstill. The 6-speed Skyactiv-drive sport automatic transmission, which comes with a manual mode, seems to always find the right gear. Like other Mazdas, we found the handling to be superb thanks to the sport suspension and precise steering. Despite its size, the car felt nimble and surefooted. The downside is that the ride is a bit stiff. The estimated mpg of 26/38 for an automatic is good for a midsize sedan.
Interior: The cabin is quiet, with minimal road noise, thanks partly to a sound system with ambient noise compensation technology. The sport seats in our tester's Grand Touring trim are comfortable and well-bolstered, holding you snug even in tight turns. The cabin features chrome trim and red accent stitching, which adds some needed pop to the somewhat dreary black color scheme. (Lyra's advice: Go for the tan interior.) Still, Peter couldn't shake the feeling that while attractive and nicely laid out, the cabin design and materials didn't quite rise to the level of some of the midsize competition. Our tester had lots of luxury features: dual-zone automatic climate, Bluetooth, backup camera, push-button start, driver seat memory, Bose surround sound system and navigation. The 5.8-inch LCD touch screen is inset into the dash to minimize glare, but the virtual buttons can be a reach for drivers. The new rotary Command Switch, which sits on the center between the front seats, makes onscreen selections easier. The rear seats are spacious with plenty of legroom.
Our 3 favorites
Grille: Mazda finally has gotten it right.
Wheels: The design is worthy of a sports car.
Zoom-zoom: It's more than an ad slogan.
Soul Red: Three-step painting process for a rich, brilliant hue. It's worth the extra fee ($300).
Aggressive and attractive: Front design — with chrome trim, halo headlights and flaring fenders — says "look at me."
Interior: Simple yet intuitive.
The bottom line: The Mazda6's new look, mpg and available features put it among the best of the newer midsize sedans. It should appeal to buyers who demand some sport and style in a family car.