Sensible, yet stylish: the 2017 Mazda6

Sensible sedans abound in today’s marketplace. To stand out from the crowd takes a mix of understated good looks, interior comfort and a balance between power and fuel economy. That seems to be the philosophy behind the 2017 Mazda6.

First impressions

This 6 is a refinement of the one introduced in 2013, around the same time SKYACTIV technologies (better performance and fuel economy) and Kodo Soul of Motion design (which has resulted in head-turning Mazdas) spread throughout the lineup.

The subtly handsome look of my Snowflake White Pearl 6 doesn’t seem to get old. Swooping lines along the sides lead to a huge vertical front grill and a short trunk lid that gives little indication of the massive trunk in this car.

Interior

Sliding into the 6’s 8-way power adjustable leather driver’s seat was easy enough. All the adjustments did what I needed them to, save one. I wished the seat lowered a little more. Eliminating the moonroof would have created an extra 25 mm of space. My not being 6’5” would help as well. C’est la vie. So I reclined the seat a little more than I usually would and left in comfortfor a lengthy trip.

For my griping in the paragraph above, I did enjoy the sunroof on occasion. image courtesy Mazda

A redesigned thick, heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel offers all the usual controls. Other controls are easy to reach and logically enough designed to help you minimize the amount of time you spend with your eyes off the road.

image courtesy Mazda

Rear seats are comfortable, with headroom almost at the level of what it is in front.

Heated seats as well as cupholders for rear-seat passengers come standard on each Mazda6. image courtesy Mazda

You can upgrade the GT’s interior to the Premium Package, which adds cushy touches like Nappa leather upholstery, premium stitching detail on the steering wheel, satin chrome-plated power seat switches and a satin chrome-plated glove box lever.

Hockey bag test

I didn’t put the bag in the trunk of the 6. That said, 419L in this deep trunk goes a long, LONG way. Fold down the rear seats and I dare say you ought to be able to slide an adult-sized bicycle into the 6.

In-cabin technology

In my view, two USB ports are the minimum any of today’s cars ought to have. Mazda stows them under the centre armrest so you can leave your phone-sized devices and cables hidden from prying eyes. That’s where I left my phone as I pipes tunes through the 11-speaker BOSE audio system.

You control that system using Mazda’s centre-mounted 7” colour touchscreen and the HMI Controller that sits between the driver and passenger seats. They’ve been in Mazda cockpits since at least 2013, and there’s no need to change this setup.

HMI Commander and related controls. image courtesy Mazda

The large dial functions as a button and joystick as well as a dial. Experimenting with the different gestures quickly yields the results you want as you navigate through the intuitively organized array of features. The on-screen options are about as easy to use as the on/off/volume dial next to the controller and the five buttons that surround it.

The instrument cluster contains a screen and analog gauges. It’s made largely redundant by Mazda’s Active Driving Display, which results in an unfortunate acronym for this heads-up display (HUD).

image courtesy Mazda

This transparent screen folds up on top of the dash in front of you when you start the 6. It shows speed, navigation instructions, upcoming traffic signs, posted speed limits, cruise control settings and a few other things. Some of these things appear in colour, a nice change from the previous display.

On cars with adaptive cruise control, this display also shows the distance you choose to maintain behind the vehicle in front of you. It changes colour when you get a little too close. The vehicle then slows down to increase the gap to your preference.

Use one of the seat memory settings for yourself and the 6 adjusts this display as well. Smart.

Driving

The SKYACTIV-G 2.5L inline 4 puts out 184 peak hp and 185 lb-ft of peak torque to the front wheels of every 6 in the current lineup.
This engine provides enough get-up-and-go, though passing on the highway might call for a downshift to get more grunt out of the engine. That was easy enough to do using the smooth 6-speed manual transmission in my tester. (Thank you Mazda for continuing to cater to manual transmission enthusiasts!)

While power might not be the 6’s strong suit, ride quality is phenomenal. The ride is what you’d expect in a car costing tens of thousands more than a 6. Mazda lowered noise, vibration and harshness levels from the previous already comfy 6. Noise-insulating glass certainly helps. The rubber-meets-the-road part benefits from the full SKYACTIV package, from body and chassis to engine and transmission. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control also contributes to the 6’s civilized feel. The car offers a sense of connectedness to the road while coddling all occupants.

Active safety features continue to spread throughout the whole lineup. Standard active safety features include a wide-angle rearview camera, dynamic stability control, a traction control system and hill launch assist. Smart City Brake Support, standard on the GT, ought to help drivers avoid low-speed collisions.

My six-speed manual didn’t ship with Mazda’s technology package, but I’ve driven another Mazda that did. It’s worth a look for the i-ELOOP Regenerative Braking System, Mazda Radar Cruise Control and the Lane Departure Warning System, which I set to make the steering wheel vibrate each time a tire hit a lane marker without my having indicated a lane change.

Fuel Economy

Mazda publishes L/100 km numbers of 9.8 in city driving and 6.9 on the highway. On the lengthy drive I mentioned, I managed a consistent 6.5, a great number for a sedan this size.

The 6 slowly sips regular unleaded from its 62L tank.

Pricing

MSRP plus $200 for the Snowflake White Pearl paint, freight and PDE brought the price of my tester to $34,790. The base GX starts at $24,695 and the mid-level GS at $30,295.

 

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