At an event held by the automaker in Austin, Texas, I tested both manual- and automatic-transmission versions of the 2014 Mazda6. The base Sport trim with a six-speed manual transmission starts at $21,675 (all Mazda6 prices cited include a $795 destination charge). The as-tested prices of the models I drove — a six-speed manual Sport and a top-level Grand Touring with a six-speed automatic — were $21,675 and $31,490, respectively. To see the Mazda6's specs compared with the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, click here.
The New Face of Mazda
The 2014 Mazda6 adopts a shieldlike grille that's tamer than some of the brand's recent designs. It works to good effect, giving the sedan a certain pugnaciousness. For many brands, grille design has become a way to both distinguish models and maintain a family resemblance, and the new face of Mazda accomplishes that on the Mazda6 and other models like the CX-5 small crossover.
Some of the Mazda6's prior styling cues, like the bulging front fenders, have been retained, but one of the car's prettiest aspects is its rear styling. Some cars' tails don't look like they've received much design attention. Not so with the Mazda6, which gets an intricate trunk lid, wraparound taillights with smoked lenses and a tidy chrome strip running the width of the car. It's a design that wouldn't be out of place on the back of a luxury sedan.
Ride & Handling
The Mazda6's suspension tuning keeps with Mazda's sporty focus. The result is a taut ride that reveals many details about the road — and whether it's well-maintained or not. The car also exhibits admirable body control, with limited body roll during hard cornering. Beyond that, the Mazda6 feels like a smaller car than it truly is — in a good way — and this goes a long way toward establishing its nimbleness.
The biggest area for improvement, though, is the steering. While nicely weighted and responsive, the system fails to deliver the kind of feedback you get when driving the compact Mazda3 — a revelation compared with many other models in its class. The new Mazda6 does get a smaller steering wheel and a quicker steering ratio, but the lack of road feel stands out in a sedan that's otherwise engaging for the driver.
The 2014 Mazda6 is the second Mazda model to get the full suite of technologies termed SkyActiv, which aim to reduce fuel consumption without compromising how the car drives. SkyActiv touches important vehicle systems such as the body structure, suspension, transmission and engine. Mazda says SkyActiv will also encompass alternative powertrains for future fuel-economy gains. One such powertrain — a clean-diesel engine — will be offered in the Mazda6 in the second half of 2013.