Friday, July 12, 2013

New Mazda6 sedan: Where good gets better

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at www.sacbee.com/business

This review originally appeared in the June 2013 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Let’s get started on 2014, shall we?  And let’s start with the 2014 Mazda6, a midsize sedan that years ago set the standard for producing multiple vehicles off a universal platform.

Flash-forward to this early-intro 2014 Mazda6.  This extensively reworked model now provides a very convincing argument for: Should I get the Mazda6 instead of the Toyota/Honda equivalents?  For my money, the Mazda should be on your test-drive list.

My tester was the relatively pricey Mazda6 i Grand Touring edition, starting at around $29,500 and dressed up for a sticker bottom line of $31,490.  Keep in mind that a basic 2014 Mazda6 with a manual transmission starts at around $21,000.

But oh, my ride was absolutely stuffed with standard goodies: heated front seats, paddle shifters, rearview camera, monster 11-speaker Bose sound system and on and on and on … Felt like a mini-Lexus.

The past design of the Mazda6 did little to turn my head, but the tweaks on this new arrival got my attention.   Pronounced fenders, big mouth street-racer grille, eagle-eye-shaped headlamps and a decidedly spread-out look at the four wheels that all but screamed midsize sportiness.  It certainly didn’t hurt that my ride’s exterior color was “Soul Red,” an appropriate label for the rich color that gleamed in the sunlight.

On-the-roll performance was comparatively understated.  Don’t get me wrong, the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 184-horsepower Mazda6 will handle the urban jungle and freeways just fine, but serious power is more subtle and gradual as opposed to being dished up with a hammer.

The byproduct of the subtle power plant is mileage ratings of 26 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway -- pretty impressive from even a four-cylinder front-driver in this day and age.

Casual Mazda watchers undoubtedly want to ask what the touted SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is all about on these cars.  For me, it’s a fancy marketing term to state the obvious: the Mazda engineers worked their tails off to get a nice mix or engine oomph, good fuel mileage and air-splitting aerodynamics without gutting the whole driving experience.

My advice is to forget the SKYACTIV part and just enjoy the ride, giving a mental nod to Mazda’s tireless engineers.

Passengers can also enjoy the experience with good room for five all around, including the back seats.  Interior quietness was good, and gauges were easy to reach and to use.  My Mazda6 had most of the audio/communications bells and whistles.

I had some all-around vision problems from the cockpit, but this was pretty much fixed with some tweaking of the mirrors.

The previous-generation Mazda6 was already a pretty good car amid an outrageously competitive field of midsize players.  The Mazda6 is even better now.  It will be interesting to see how it does against the big boys.

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