After debuting to much hullaballoo from enthusiasts, the Mazda6 sedan has soldiered on in near anonymity in its current generation – I see oodles of 3’s on the road but it’s rare to see a 6 around here, and that’s a darn shame because the 6 is pretty well everything the 3 is, but bigger (though no hatchback or V6, alas).
Despite having no hatch or V6, the Mazda6 is a fine car. In fact, it was named the 2014 Canadian Car of the Year after competing in the Automobile Journalists of Canada Canadian Car of the Year TestFest. And it was a deserving winner.
The only real drawback to the 6 as compared to the 3 is that, since it’s bigger and heavier than the 3, it doesn’t have quite the get up and go of the 3 when it’s equipped with the 2.5 litre Skyactiv engine that’s shared with the 6. But it isn’t too bad, and if you can live with 184 horses @ 5700 rpm and 185 torquey things @ 3250 rpm (and as much as I like oomph it would be easy to live with this car), you’ll have no issues. And to be fair, those specs aren’t out of the mainstream if you take a look at what’s in the four cylinder versions of the competition.
I took Mazda Canada’s sample into the Rocky Mountains to test its four cylinder mettle and found that going up hills tended to cause the engine – and its six speed automatic transmission – to hunt and peck on inclines (I guess it’s inclined to do that…). It wasn’t as bad as some of the cars I’ve taken on that route, though, so no big deal. And as much as I liked the automatic – Mazda’s sample also had paddle shifters and the manual mode is decent – I’d have loved to have tried the standard six speed manual, which if it shifts like the six speeds I’ve experienced in other Mazdas, would probably be a blast.
Sport mode makes the car even more interesting, though I missed having it available when you’re in cruise control, which might seem like an oxymoron except that the higher revving setting helped eliminate some of the hunting and pecking that was more in evidence when the cruise control was activated.
For 2016, Mazda has given the 6 an interior that more closely resembles the CX-3 and 3’s, and that’s not a bad thing at all. This includes a console-mounted volume control to accompany its console-mounted “cursor controller” as well as the centre stack-topping LCD screen.
But that isn’t all. There’ve been some other tweaks, though nothing major. Changes include a new front grille and new LED headlamps. There’s also improved sound insulation throughout the body and improved front and rear seats. Mazda says the changes mean a quieter and more comfortable riding experience as befits their flagship.
Changes to the interior include a new shape for the instrument panel and console, new leather colours, an electronic parking brake and an Active Driving Display that gives you information such as vehicle speed etc. You can also get a Mazda Connect system that, when paired with a smartphone, supposedly makes it easier to take advantage of vital functions such as the social networking services you shouldn’t be messing with while behind the wheel (perhaps it’s meant more for the front seat passengers). The 6 also gets heated rear seats as standard equipment, which Mazda says is a first for the Canadian market.
It all adds up to an even nicer package that what was already a fine vehicle – though Mazda’s sample wasn’t without its issues. The first problem happened when I had my smart phone plugged into one of the 6’s USB connectors (there are two) and would see the entertainment system arbitrarily reboot strangely. This happened multiple times on my way to and from Lake Louise and it was quite annoying and confusing. Strangely, it didn’t happen if the phone wasn’t plugged into the USB. What was weirdest was that I wasn’t even trying to stream my tunes via the USB (which wouldn’t work with my phone anyway); I was only plugging the phone in that way to keep it charged while I streamed via Bluetooth. The reboot would take a few minutes, just long enough to put me into tune withdrawal – and of course it always happened during a favourite song…
I also had an issue with the tire pressure monitoring system, which decided when I was in the middle of nowhere that one of the tires was soft. So I pulled into a gas station and paid a dollar to use their air thingy, only to find that the pressures were just fine. And doesn’t that just figure?
These glitches were annoying, but in the grand scheme of things quite minor and would undoubtedly be fixed easily under warranty.
So the Mazda6 soldiers on as an updated and even nicer family sedan than it was already and I don’t understand why it doesn’t sell more. Maybe it’s getting lost in the shuffle, competing as it does with the four cylinder versions of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, VW Passat, Ford Fusion and many others. But if so, that’s too bad; the Mazda6 is a fine car and well worth your test driving time.
The Mazda6 starts at $24,495 for the base version with manual transmission. The fully loaded 6 GT with the six speed automatic and the technology package starts at $35,095.
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray