Review: 2016 Mazda6 I Grand Touring

The all-new Mazda6 joins the Lexus IS 250 and 350 as vehicles designed to look fast standing still. The sporty exterior gives way to an interior filled with technology that is uniquely Mazda. Sure, it looks sporty but does it drive? Does it comfortably seat four?  

Under the Hood

The Mazda6 comes standard with the SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The engine is mated to the SKYACTIV-DRIVE 6-Speed Sport automatic transmission and sends 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels.

The electrical system in the Mazda6 features what Mazda calls the i-ELOOP system. The system is made up of a capacitor which temporarily stores electricity generated from acceleration and braking to send to electrical systems throughout the vehicle. Mazda estimates the system improves fuel economy by 10%. Apart from the positive effect fuel efficiency, the i-ELOOP never impacted our drive.

Mazda6 Front ViewExterior

The design of the Mazda6 is in keeping with their KODO – Soul of Motion design aesthetic. The goal is to communicate stored energy in a wild animal prepared to pounce—“the tension that presages movement.” Some of the Mazda line, including the Mazda6, look as if they are going 100mph while they are sitting still. Every design element of the Mazda6’s exterior makes the car look like it cannot wait to take off. While the Mazda6 looks so much like the other vehicles in the Mazda lineup, it is still a unique, good looking car.

Beefy flared fenders over the standard 19” wheels make the Mazda6 look aggressive and sporty. Hood creases and flowing lines give the car a stretched look that contributes to the feeling of speed. More than once we caught ourselves stopping to look at and admire the Mazda6 on our way into it or out of it.

Our tester was a color Mazda calls Blue Reflex, which is new for 2016. The color is a light blue, slate-like color which gives the aggressive lines and shapes of the Mazda6 a level of refinement in its appearance.

New for the 2016 model are optional LED headlights in the Grand Touring package. Aimed perfectly, the Mazda6’s headlights are one of its best features. Plus, they make the car look ever sportier at night.

Mazda6 InteriorInterior

The interior of the Mazda6 is equally as refined as the exterior is aggressive. The design was made up of clean lines and materials with a premium feel. Fit and finish were appropriate for the quality feel of the materials.

The leather trimmed sport seats in the front were comfortable and supportive. The driver’s seat is 8-way power adjustable and the front passenger seat is 6-way adjustable. Our testers were split on the driver’s area—one felt the leg well was a little tight while the other (the smaller of us) had no issue. Rear seats were almost as comfortable as the front and provided plenty of legroom and headroom.

Thousands of hours of research and design went into the layout of controls and components of the center stack and console which we found to be a very clean and modern design. One item overlooked was front seat cup holders. They were toward the rear of the console just behind the control knob for the infotainment system. Reaching the knob while we had cups in position required contortions we seemed incapable of managing.

Then there’s the Klieg lights. Imagine driving home after a long day. It’s dark, you were at work way longer than you wanted to be, and you can’t wait to get inside your home and take your shoes off. You park your Mazda6, grab your phone, and open the door only to be blinded by ridiculously luminescent Klieg lights overhead. Okay, blinded may be an overstatement but lighted up brighter than an airport runway would not be.

Mazda6 InfotainmentInfotainment

The infotainment system benefitted from the hours of research put in to the other interior elements. The 7” touchscreen display sprouts from the dash above the center stack like the infotainment screens of other manufacturers, but manages to somehow look a little awkward in the Mazda6. Awkwardness aside, the system is one of the easiest to use, and most useful of all systems we have used. The screen is a touchscreen requiring just the right amount of touch without being too sensitive and its touch scrolling feature works fantastically.

The system can also be controlled via a console mounted knob and steering wheel controls. The control knob allows the driver and passenger to easily toggle and scroll through options on the screen. The options on the screen are easy to understand, and intuitive to control. Steering wheel mounted controls are equally as easy to use.

One of our favorite features was the instrument cluster. Simple white on black dials, numbers, and letters give the panel a look that manages to be classic and modern at the same time. One minor gripe was with the digital fuel gauge to the right of the cluster. It appeared flat and out of place relative to the other dials.

The Mazda6 features a heads-up display they call the Active Driving Display. The display is made up of a small gray piece of clear plastic mounted on the cowl over the steering wheel. The HUD proved useful with information regarding speed and cruise control. The display was easily angled to accommodate drivers of all sizes via a screen in the infotainment system. One complaint was the plastic, while small and relatively unobtrusive, was cheap looking. It looked almost like an aftermarket add-on.

The Mazda6’s speed sensitive volume control was a blessing because of engine noise (more on that later) but once the volume level got up to 20 or higher (1/3 of the system’s sound level), the interior of the doors vibrated with each note making an experience more jostling than enjoyable for a driver who lets their knee rest on the door. Turning the bass down below standard settings did help but then the tonal balance was off.

Mazda6 Nighttime DrivingOne of the best features of the Mazda6 is that it feels endlessly customizable. From HUD alignment to dimming and auto-lock functions, to programming seating by which member of your household’s key fob is used.

The Drive

We had relatively few complaints with the overall driving experience of the Mazda6. The engine was loud under acceleration like the firewall needed a bit more insulation. The ride was a bit rougher than we expected too. It was more like the ride you would expect in a much sportier vehicle. The noise level and ride were not to the point of being unacceptable; we would just prefer the reward of extra horsepower and sportiness to go along with them.

Driving the Mazda6 in Sport mode gives the vehicle the handling and stiffness combination that we craved when it was in “regular” mode. It is almost as if the vehicle engineers always wanted you to drive it in that mode but were told they by the marketing department that had to develop a “regular” mode to attract more customers.

Our tester was equipped with the GT Technology Package which features among other things Radar Cruise Control. We have spent our fair share of time in other vehicles with this feature cursing the range of the radar and pouring over owner’s manuals to find how to adjust the range or just turn it off. Not so in the Mazda6.

The range was easy to adjust—we set it to its minimum—and easy to live with. Other systems are difficult to adjust and have poor eyesight. They read curves and median walls as obstructions and respond with dramatic decreases in speed when they are detected and dramatic increases in speed when the path is clear. The Mazda6’s cruise control was a dream. Reasonable slowing and speeding up made using the system enjoyable. The only obstructions the system read and responded to were vehicles ahead of us in our lane.

Important Numbers for Families

  • 28 / 40 / 32 – EPA estimated miles per gallon for city, highway, and combined driving held true to what we experienced. On one stretch of 20 miles of straight highway driving with very few hills we got up to 46 mpg and as low as 26 mpg while running errands around town.
  • 8 – With one bottle holder per door and two regular sized cup holders in the front and two in the back, there is plenty of space to store your drinks on the go.

Family 5 Test

  1. Car Seats –  Though built for sport, the Mazda6 is also built for families with ample backseat room allowing for car seats to comfortably sit beside adults. Two car seats with an adult in the middle is even a reasonable option for short trips.
  2. Coffee Cups – By themselves the cup holders in the Mazda6 are standard and that’s more than alright. Their positioning, however, is puzzling. When you have anything filling the cup holders, it makes using the infotainment selector nob awkward. If you avoid the center console cupholders and instead go with the bottle holder the problem is solved, unless you have anything other than a bottle to drink from then it will just spill all over the door.
  3. Luggage –  If you’re going on a road trip in the Madzda6, you won’t have to worry about packing light. There’s enough room for a family of four to comfortably fit all their luggage in the trunk plus some room for kid necessities like a pack ‘n play.
  4. Golf Clubs – The surprisingly spacious Mazda6 trunk has plenty of room for a few sets of clubs, your golf shoes, and a change of clothes to take into the club house with you.
  5. Groceries – We fit 15 full sized paper Whole Foods Market grocery bags into the trunk of the Mazda6 with no problem. 15! And, there was still room for more.

Bottom Line

The 2016 Mazda6 is a study in contrasts. The overall design is modern and sporty. The heads-up display and sleek infotainment speak to that modern design with more tech than we could hope for. The exterior lines and creases and 19″ wheels scream sporty, but the noisy underpowered engine and rough ride left us wanting.

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To see more pictures and video from this vehicle test and future tests, follow Drive My Family on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Vine (@DriveMyFamily).

images courtesy of Mazda

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