The 2017 Mazda6 is an affordable midsize car for those seeking something better. A car with premium handling, design and cabin feel. Yet with pricing that undercuts its spiritual Audi and BMW rivals by tens of thousands.
We’ve been a big fan of the Mazda6 for years now. Our reco of the car has even led more than a few friends and neighbors to buy one.
And for most of those people, the car was not even on their radar.
So to answer the question of ‘Why don’t more people buy the Mazda6?‘ the answer is a lack of consideration. For if more people drove this balanced and classy machine, it would take a huge chunk of Camry and Accord sales. It really is that good, and tops our midsize sedan list along with the Subaru Legacy.
Let’s take a deep dive into the Mazda6’s 2017 modelyear updates — at high speed! — in the performance drive video below to kick things off. Then a walkaround video and standard headers of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Price.
HD Drive Video
Light upgrades for the Mazda6’s sexy exterior design for the new model-year. New colors and dark wheels for the top Grand Touring tester are the only changes.
It honestly does not need much, as it looks a world more modern than the redesigned Chevy Malibu or Ford Fusion. The core elements of low, long and wide proportions for the Mazda6 help its three-year-old design stay extremely evergreen.
Mazda6 is the first and main front-drive sedan to adopt the premium, short-overhang looks of the best luxury cars. This means the front axle is pushed far forward, the front overhang is minimized, and the base of the windshield is moved rearward. All in, the car looks athletic and nimble even when parked.
HD Walkaround Video
From dead ahead, the Mazda6 looks pretty stellar and unique. Clear LED lightblocks form a cup of white light around the bi-LED projector beams, while a line of white DRL also lines the top edge of the lamp. The design is meant to extend the grille’s flared edge through the light unit and around the bodysides. Surprise and delight? There is also a line of LED light beneath the grille itself.
This links to the legendary design of the Furai racecar concept from years past.
Inside and below the grille live horizontal slats to widen the appearance visually. A fairly sharp and sporty chin splitter piece helps aero smoothness and style, while the slim chrome slashes in the outer bumpers form a nice indent for the LED foglamps. In all, it is
The flowing double carving for the hood/front fenders melds cleanly into the bodysides. The modern surfacing of the door panels is quite premium indeed: looks that have been adopted by Infiniti since this car launched.
The Mazda6 in profile is a masterclass. It looks like $50k, easy, and has an awesomely chopped rear roofline. No impact on headroom back there — just major style points.
The tail is similarly clean and elegant, with slimline LED brake lights with a similar slash/cup of light pipes mirroring the look from up front. Lastly, dual exhaust pipes are a nice touch — even if the 2.5-liter SkyActiv engine is not quite powerful enough to justify the performance look.
Our only other gripe on the exterior? A bit too much bright chrome for our tastes, and no way to have the LED DRLs on when parked. To coax out a photo of them in their bright, daytime setting, we had to get very clever and have car in Drive with electronic parking brake off. Detail thing for auto journalists, perhaps. But also: It would be easier to sell this car on showroom lots of these were shining brightly during the walkaround.
If the Mazda6 looks premium outside, surely it is let down by cheap materials and boring design inside. Something has to give to get pricing into the low 20s to start!
Something might, but it’s not the cabin quality or design.
The low-dash look is calming and handsome. It makes the cabin feel huge and airy up front versus cars with a tall center stack and dashboard. The slightly less-raked windshield versus Camry and Accord also gives outstanding corner visibility. You can see the long hood from the driver seat — which is pretty rare in midsize sedans from other brands.
The core elements of the Mazda6 cabin are sporty and enticing. Things like the seat adjustment letting you sit super low, with the wheel telescoping out to meet you. A class-best drive position sets a great tone from minute one. Admirable support in corners and long-drive comfort are standard — and standard-setting — for this segment. The seats are actually a thing of beauty in themselves: look at the way the contrast grey piping/stitching flows around the basic chair shape! Even this banal detail shows how much harder Mazda is trying for cabin premiumness versus Toyota or Honda.
On our Grand Touring trimlevel with the extra GT option package at $2500, extra luxury features start to really justify the 2017 option package. Things like heated seats in the back, heated steering wheel with contrast stitching, black headliner and metal-feel buttons for most cabin controls and buttons. The white cabin leather of the tester is also a highlight with the GT Premium’s open-pore Nappa leather. This is the same ultrasoft hide that takes two option packages to get in cars like the BMW X6. The same white leather wraps the lower dash and center console edges in a delightful way.
The 7-inch touchscreen with secondary knob controls is slightly unusual for some small things. Radio presets, for example, are needlessly tricky to find. Some other quirks like the zoom controls for the nav are also not intuitive for first-time drivers. Finally, we lack Apple CarPlay or Android Auto that are rapidly becoming must-haves for some owners.
Quirks can be endearing, however. The Heads-Up Display is a great example: instead of projecting the speed/nav/speedlimits on the windshield glass, this info lives in a clear panel that motors into position when you tap the start button. Simple and cool.
Same goes for the extensive mid-cluster displays and tactile shift paddles. A class above, indeed, versus the generic and cheesy look/feel of the top Camry XSE in particular.
The back seat has great seats as well, with extended thigh support for the outer positions and back windows that actually roll all the way down. Detail stuff, yes, but important nonetheless.
The performance of the Mazda6 is outstanding versus any four-cylinder rival. It is quick for its 184HP and gives snappy shifts thanks to a torque-converter automatic that beats any CVT all day long. The second huge strength of the Mazda6’s drive manners? Its handling.
Mazda’s tagline these days in Driving Matters. This makes perfect sense after your first block in the Mazda6. The steering is pure and feelsome, the chassis is rigid and the suspension comfy yet taut. A tremendously well-tuned and well-engineered chassis that wants to be a 3 series BMW. Despite being front-drive, the Mazda6 carves corners like a pro.
This trait is amped up for 2017 with a new tech standard called G-Vectoring Control. GVC essentially tweaks the drivetrain on corner entry to balance the car front/rear and totally eliminate understeer. See drive video for this demonstrated in detail!
GVC definitely works. The Mazda6 feels more nimble than ever in 2017 and a huge improvement over Camry/Accord and their nose-heavy corner feel. Easy and unwanted understeer and loss of traction in Camry is a big irritant — Mazda6 is a charmer for being so, so much better. This is a car that genuinely enjoys 10/10ths driving. Push it to its limit and it giggles and demands more.
THe brakes stayed strong on our little road coarse, where we also noticed something we think needs improvement.
That would be the engine noise/engine note. Yes, Mazda6 is still spookily silent at cruising speed. But when pushed hard, the SkyActiv engine’s gruff note is not very rewarding. It sounds somewhat industrial and passionless as you zing to redline or paddle-shift down.
It is odd to say, but true: this engine is actually the weak link in the Mazda6 GT of 2017. Its 186 pound-feet of torque also underwhelms in terms of sheer pace.
EVen so, the Sport drive mode engages extra oomph pretty easily. For most buyers, the power and refinement will be plenty good.
As a whole, the Mazda6 drives cleanly and works all four wheels around corners to keep the car feeling fun. Most front-drive rivals just plow ahead front-first and let the tail drag along eventually. This makes them feel soggy and unfun in fast corners.
Subaru Legacy shows similar corner balance but a much, much softer suspension that has big body roll versus the planted Mazda.
The Mazda6 starts its pricing from about $22,000 for the Sport model, but our Grand Touring 6 kicks off from about $31,000. The Grand Touring trim brings the big 19s, full LED lighting all around and a deep active safety tech suite. Lane-keep, adaptive cruise, adaptive cornering headlights, auto highbeams, auto emergency braking, blind spot and even traffic sign recognition are all standard on the Grand Touring. Along with much more — shown on window sticker here.
Our tester adds the $300 Machine Grey paintwork, cargo mat and GT Premium pack are our major options. This GT Premium pack is convincing and something that really confirms Audi-level cabin feel. This option brings i-ELOOP passive hybrid regen braking, active grille shutters and numerous cabin tweaks noted above. Super soft leather, metallic buttons/trim, LED accent lights inside and black headliner are the major mods. 35MPG highway is your reward for Mazda’s holistic SkyActiv design philosophy. For a car the size of a 5 series, that is stunning efficiency.
All in, this loaded Mazda6 tallies $34,530. This is right on par with loaded 4-cylinder Camrys and about $3k less than a loaded V6 Camry or Accord.
If Mazda is not top-of-mind for buyers, then it has to be BETTER in every way to earn its keep. And so it is.
In truth, the Mazda6 is the only real sport sedan in its competitive set. It drives with the fun of a 328i, value of a 320i and space of a 530i.
Slightly too much BMW comparison, perhaps. But BMW is the target drive experience Mazda brings to the masses. Perfect drive manners, deeply handsome exterior design and premium cabin!? What is not to love!
Even without the extra power we crave in almost all cars, the Mazda6 is actually the midsize sedan we’d personally buy and own. Much as the Legacy appeals for its AWD grip/balance, it is too soft and too floaty and Accord-like to make the grade.
In all the car reviews we’ve published here on Car Revs Daily, this is the first time we’ve given a car this much of an endorsement.
So, what is Mazda6? A must-drive and a should-buy sport sedan.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.