2017 Mazda6 GT
A midsize that just wants to have fun
Words by: Adam Allen
Oh look! A manual gearbox in a family sedan!
Yes, we can save you the trouble of scrolling down to the photo gallery to see what gear lever lurks in the console of our tester and tell you that our 6 was equipped with a transmission that requires the driver to perform shifting duties and not the other way around. As hardcore Save the Manuals evangelists, we think that makes the 6 a shoo-in for the top of any enthusiast’s shopping list if they find themselves perusing the choices within this segment. Since our last go-around with Mazda’s midsize offering Ford has quietly shelved the manual option for the Fusion, leaving Mazda to soldier on as the only manufacturer who offer the anachronistically lovely gearbox option (Honda does offer one on 4-cylinder Accords, although its not clear if that will be the case for the redesigned model landing in a few months.) We have to wonder who might care other than fanboys like us- the midsize sedan is a genre receding from the radar of families who need transportation as they (sigh) flock to crossovers for their automotive mobility needs.
Drivers who’ve outgrown their sports cars, take note: You’ll want to take a look at this car.
Since we drove the current generation M6 a few years ago, we haven’t been able to stop talking about how this is one book that can easily be judged by its cover. Because the Mazda is not actually a book, what we mean is that the Mazda’s exterior styling which conveys a sense of sinewy agility and vigor that fully translates into the driving experience. First off, the manual’s three pedals are perfectly positioned to pursue heel-and-toe downshifts even when doing something as mundane as pulling up to suburban four-way stop signs. The brakes respond with a pleasing bite and linearity, and the 2.5 litre naturally aspirated four cylinder engine has excellent throttle response. It also helps that the suspension is perfectly balances firm with compliance and the steering, despite being an electronically assisted system, responds to inputs with impressive precision. It also has G-Vector Control technology which subtly helps you carve the line you intended throughout corners. All of this is packed into a car that resides on the featherweight area of the midsize curb weight spectrum- credit Mazda’s relentless commitment to keeping extraneous poundage at bay, affectionately known as their ‘Gram strategy.’ Flog a Mazda6 on some of the nearby twisties where you live and you’ll understand.
What’s it like inside?
We are in perpetual awe that Mazda, one of the smaller companies competing within the vast automotive industry is capable of executing not only cutting edge styling and rewarding driving dynamics but also interiors that are pleasing to the eye and are finished with obsessive attention to detail. Our tester was outfitted to GT spec which means that the only option it lacked was the automatic gearbox, exactly how we’d spec ours if we were buying one. That means it had stuff like a bevy of driver assistance aids, comfortable leather trimmed seats and Mazda’s excellent HMI Commander infotainment system that doesn’t wow with sharp graphics but does a perfect job of allowing occupants to breezily navigate around its functions. Mazda specified the use of quality materials, and while the interior mostly measures up to that mandate it’s the assembly quality that will really impress- there isn’t a surface that looks out of place nor is there an offending panel gap to be found. The scrupulousness that Mazda approached the 6’s interior can be summed up whenever your hand reaches for the volume knob. In an unabashed appreciation for the minutiae, using this simple control allows you to feel not only the quality of the knob itself, but also the way it moves throughout the detents with slick precision.
What might go wrong?
There isn’t much to gripe about here, but we’ll start with noise- as in, there’s too much of it. On a cold morning, the Skyactiv four banger makes a cacophonous racket until it gets up to temperature. When you’re cruising on the highway, you become acutely aware of the road, wind and tire noise that permeates the cabin. Mazda has made strides here- it’s better than 6’s we’ve driven in the past- but remember that their uncompromising dedication to keeping the weight down means that sound deadening is an easy place to start when you need to shed pounds. It may sound a little obtuse to complain about the heads-up display (HUD) readout that stays up even of you’ve turned the system off, but we’re going to anyhow. Lastly, although the 6 never feels slow, we’d like to see more power available, or (fingers crossed!) even a Mazdaspeed model to satiate horsepower junkies.
Should I buy a Mazda6?
We’re often asked by friends and family about what car they should buy, and if the discussion centres around midsize sedans we inevitably mention the 6 in the top tier of our recommendations. It is comfortable and well equipped, has good value, is commendably efficient, and most importantly, is fun to drive. If it has all of these virtues, why does hardly anyone buy this car? Mazda sold 2,053 of them last year; in the same timeframe, Ford moved 14,424 Fusions. Now, the Fusion isn’t a bad car by any means, but it lacks the joie de vivre that’s so redolent in the Mazda. The last time we drove the Mazda6, we proclaimed that “If you have even a shred of automotive enthusiasm in your DNA, you’ll want to go with the 6.” We stand by that today, and urge you to take one for a spin.
2017 Mazda6 GT- Specifications
- Price as tested: $34,790
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.5-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 184 @ 5,700 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 185 @ 3,250 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,468 kg (3,236 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 9.2/100km (25 mpg)