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2016 Mazda6: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader June 2015

If you're seeking a midsize sedan that stands apart from all others, check out the 2016 Mazda6. Priced in line with the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion, the 5-passenger Mazda6 shuns the somewhat generic design of its competitors with a sleek and sophisticated body, outstanding driving dynamics and an interior that is technologically savvy without being overly complicated. Best of all, the Mazda6 achieves impressive fuel economy and power from its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder SKYACTIV engine.

If there is a weak spot in the Mazda6's roster of goodies, it's the lack of a V6 or turbocharged engine. We've all but given up on the promise of a diesel Mazda6, meaning that despite its impressive fuel economy, the Mazda6 can't compete with the mileage figures posted by the Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry hybrids. On the plus side, the Mazda6 still offers a manual transmission, an option we know few buyers will opt for but enthusiasts will love.

What's New for 2016?

The Grand Touring trim receives revised front and rear styling and new LED headlights (optional on Touring trims). All models but the manual Sport receive a larger 7-inch color touchscreen, as well as a new electronic parking brake and a revised dash console. Also new is the Active Driving Display information screen and the Mazda Connect in-car connectivity system.

What We Like

Sporty handling; strong fuel economy; expressive styling both in and out; long list of tech features; ample rear-seat room; simple navigation upgrade with available SD card

What We Don't

Choppy ride quality with 19-in wheels; manual models shut out from more desirable audio and navigation options; small trunk; no hybrid or V6 options

How Much?

$22,135-$34,500

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Mazda6 offers only one powertrain: a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Efficiency-minded shoppers won't be clamoring for a V6 because the 4-cylinder returns impressive fuel economy thanks to SKYACTIV technology, which saves weight and boosts efficiency. Once again, the automatic is the best bet, returning 26 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway for a combined 30 mpg. When teamed with the i-ELOOP option, fuel economy jumps to 28 mpg city/40 mpg hwy for a combined 32 mpg. Manual models return 25 mpg city/37 mpg hwy for 29 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Mazda6 is offered in three trim levels: i Sport, i Touring and i Grand Touring. The Sport and Touring trims offer a choice between a manual or automatic transmission, while the Grand Touring comes equipped only with an automatic.

The Mazda6 Sport ($20,315) comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, push-button starting, an AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and a USB audio input, Bluetooth phone connectivity, 17-in alloy wheels, dual power mirrors, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a 6-way manual driver's seat with manual lumbar support, a manual passenger-seat lifter, an electronic parking brake, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel. Add an extra $1,705 to get the automatic transmission, and you'll also gain a sport-mode button, a rearview camera, a 7-in color touchscreen, the Mazda Connect infotainment system, Pandora Internet Radio, audio-menu voice command and HD Radio.

There are no option packages for the Sport, although some dealer-installed options include rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and front fog lights. Vehicles equipped with Mazda Connect and the 7-in touchscreen can be updated to include navigation by purchasing a simple SD navigation-upgrade card from your Mazda dealer.

The Mazda6 i Touring ($24,765) has all the features found on the automatic-equipped Sport trim, plus dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a blind spot monitoring system and a power driver's seat. The Mazda6 Touring also boasts leatherette seats, Advanced Key keyless entry and start, handsome 19-in alloy wheels and rear cross-traffic alert safety technology.

Touring models equipped with the automatic transmission have two choices for options packages. The Moonroof/Bose/Satellite Radio package ($1,325) is self-explanatory, while the Touring Technology package ($1,675) adds auto on/off LED headlights with auto leveling, adaptive front lighting, heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming driver's-side mirror, heated front seats, Smart City Brake Support and rain-sensing wipers (must be ordered in conjunction with the Moonroof/Bose/Satellite package).

The Mazda6 i Grand Touring ($31,015) includes all the equipment found in the two optional Touring trim packages, plus an automatic transmission, leather seats, auto on/off LED headlights with auto leveling, LED fog lights, an 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, a 6-way power passenger seat, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, Active Driving Display, navigation and adaptive front headlights.

The Grand Touring Technology package ($2,180) adds radar cruise control, forward-obstruction warning and lane-departure warning, along with automatic high-beam control and i-ELOOP active grille shutters.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2016 Mazda6 a 5-star overall safety score, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) bestows its highest score of Good in all crash tests, including the small-overlap front test (last year's car earned only an Acceptable rating). IIHS also lists the Mazda6 as a Top Safety Pick.

The Mazda6 comes standard with stability control, traction control and eight airbags. All models except the manual-equipped Sport include a rearview camera. The Mazda6's Bluetooth technology displays text messages on the sedan's center screen and even reads them aloud so drivers won't be distracted by their cellphones.

Behind the Wheel

There's no doubt that the Mazda6 is aimed at shoppers eager to occasionally test their car's limits on a curvy road, but that's not to say that traditional midsize-sedan buyers won't like the Mazda6.

The 2.5-liter engine is powerful enough for most driving situations, especially when paired with the brand's SKYACTIV-Drive automatic, which boasts crisp shifts that Mazda says are quicker than dual-clutch transmissions in competitors. Of course, in true Mazda fashion, the 6-speed stick is also a joy thanks to short throws and a predictable clutch. In Touring and Grand Touring trims, the larger wheel-and-tire combo can deliver a rather stiff ride. Those who enjoy the driving experience won't mind sacrificing ride quality, but for the comfort-minded, there's no shame in choosing a more pliant rival.

As for the Mazda6's technology features, they definitely enhance the driving experience. The radar cruise control, for instance, works with a simple steering-wheel stalk. In our tests, it was always easy to program and kept a predictable following distance. The same is true for Mazda's blind spot monitoring system, which warns drivers if a vehicle is in a blind spot. A chime sounds if drivers try to signal toward that vehicle.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Ford Fusion -- The Ford Fusion possesses an impressive interior, a wide array of powertrains, excellent gas mileage and competitive pricing. There's also a hybrid and all-wheel-drive model.

2015 Honda Accord -- Honda's latest Accord also offers new styling, strong fuel economy and driver-focused dynamics that will rival the Mazda6, although the styling isn't as bold.

2015 Toyota Camry -- The Camry appeals to shoppers who need a practical, midsize sedan but don't want the sporty feel or choppy ride offered by the Mazda6.

Used Audi A4 -- A 2010-2014 Audi A4 will give you more luxury, more power and better traction when equipped with quattro all-wheel drive.

Autotrader's Advice

While we're impressed by the wide array of electronics on the upscale Grand Touring model, a midlevel Mazda6 Touring with the Moonroof/Bose/Satellite Radio package is fine with us. It includes everything you need without going overboard. And unless you just have to have a manual transmission, we suggest the faster, more efficient 6-speed automatic. It will be easier to resell, too.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Mazda6: New Car Review - Autotrader