Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring: A Distinctive And Sporty Family Sedan

Highlight: This is the only vehicle in the segment that uses a rotary dial system similar to what can be found in BMW and the Hyundai Genesis sedan to control the infotainment system.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $33,395 (base model $22,315)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: air bags; a traction control system; a hill launch assist system; rain-sensing windshield wipers; heated side mirrors; an automatic dimming driver’s side mirror; a rearview camera; an electronic parking brake; automatic headlights; LED foglights; and LED taillights

Standard Equipment (Grand Touring): 19-inch wheels; a push button keyless starter system; a keyless entry system; a 7-inch touchscreen; a rear lip spoiler; leather seats; power heated front seats with driver’s memory setting; paddle shifters; power moonroof; and a dual zone ventilation system

Options: a navigation system; a satellite audio system; a radar-activated cruise control system; automated highbeam headlamps; and a lane departure warning systems



Suspension System:  independent (front); independent (rear)

Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: an 11-speaker Bose AM/FM/HD/CD

Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 3 years or 36,000-mile warranty

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000-mile warranty

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder/184-hp

Recommended Fuel: Regular

Standard Fuel Mileage: 28-city/40-hwy (automatic)

What’s New: The Mazda6 just went through a relatively extensive mid-cycle update for the 2016 model year, adding a new grille, LED lights, a larger 7-inch infotainment screen, an electronic parking brake and two new exterior colors.

Pros: Pricing for the entry sport model is about $300 less than the outgoing 2015 model it replaced. And unlike a lot of non turbo 4-cylinders in the midsize segments, we found that the brand’s signature SKYACTV engine to be quite peppy. In fact, the 2.5-liter engine, with the automatic gasoline transmission, delivers the highest miles per gallon (mpg) in the class. On a tank of gas one can expect a driving range crossing over the 500 mark. In our eyes, that’s remarkable for a midsize sedan.

In addition to the mileage, the sporty Mazda6 is available in a variety trims: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. We had an opportunity to review the top of the line Grand Touring model. The Mazda6 we reviewed was close to being an autonomous vehicle, when equipped with such features as an electronic blind spot monitoring system with rear traffic alert, a lane departure system and a forward collision braking system.

Moreover, this is also one of the few vehicles in the segment, offering a manual transmission. It’s available with both the Sport and Touring trims.

Added to that, the Mazda6 center stack, which houses the navigation system, the audio system and the rotary dial infotainment system controls, have been updated. Mazda has dropped the traditional audio control buttons and enlarged what once seen as the tiniest infotainment screen in a midsize sedan. The screen has been enlarged to a respectable 7 inches, making it easier on the eyes.

Lastly, the engineers have added more padding to the center console, the front center armrest and the dashboard, giving the vehicle more of a premium feel and look.

Cons: One of our major drawbacks is that there is only one engine available in this sleek and sporty looking sedan. Competitors in the segment offer 4-cylinder turbos, 6 cylinders, hybrids and even a diesel. A brand with a history of performance needs to have an engine that matches up to the claim, producing more horses. Yes, we realize that we’ll sacrifice mpg, but it’s worth it!

Another drawback of the Mazda6 is that the interior cabin doesn’t make the vehicle feel like a family sedan. The Mazda6 is the only family sedan that sits relatively low to the ground, making it feel more like a sports car. In fact, the front seats don’t offer much support. And the interior of the cabin isn’t quite as roomy as many of its competitors.

Furthermore, with the vehicle’s new layout of controls, which are used to operate both the audio system and the navigation system, we found that there were additional steps that were required to make simple changes like finding a station, seeing that everything is controlled by the rotary dial knob. Personally, we prefer radio knobs, which seem to be more efficient, as opposed to the central rotary dial.

Lastly, the new optional HUD (Heads Up Display) screen looks like a piece of stationary clear film paper. While some drivers welcome this feature, we would have preferred having the option to hide the clear screen, when it was not in use.

Verdict: In a segment filled with family sedans, the Mazda6 manages to standout as a stylish, low volume, four door vehicle. With the low seating height, occupants feel more like they’re cruising in a sports sedan, as opposed to a floating family car. Although once behind the steering wheel, because of the lack of a 4-cylinder turbo (or even a 6-cylinder for that matter), the Mazda6 just doesn’t have the power of a performance vehicle.

Besides the styling, the Mazda6 also sets itself apart from the class, offering a ride and handling characteristic that differs from its competitors, making it feel quite nimble.

Overall even with the price of the Sport model dropping approximately $300, buyers can expect to pay between $1,500 to $2,000 more for a comparably equipped loaded to the max Mazda6 like the one we reviewed, when placed up against the segment sales leaders: the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.

Competition: Chevy Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry and VW Passa  

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