Engine: 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 184 hp, 185 lb-ft
Transmission: six-speed manual; six-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy: 28 mpg city, 40 mpg hwy (automatic w/i-ELOOP)
Can Fuel Economy: 8.5 L/100 km city, 5.9 L/100 km hwy (automatic w/i-ELOOP)
US Price: $33,210 (as tested)
CAN Price: $37,390 (as tested)
Some people will tell you midsize sedans don’t sell anymore; that it’s a dying breed pushed aside by the popularity of the crossover.
Those people are what I like to call “wrong”. Sure, crossovers are a big deal these days, but midsize sedans are nothing to scoff at either, with close to three million sold in North America each year.
Still don’t believe me? Look no further than the dozen or so models on the market, almost all of which have been redesigned or refreshed over the last two model years.
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Which brings us to the 2016 Mazda6. It’s not the newest midsize sedan on the market, but it may still hold the title as the best looking — and one of the best in the business.
It’s rare that a design language translates so well to so many different forms, but Mazda has accomplished that with its current lineup. Park the 6 alongside any other model in Mazda’s stable and the family ties are immediately evident. The few character lines the sedan does have tie in nicely with its muscular shoulders to make the Mazda6 look longer than its 192.7 inches would suggest.
Little has been done to the exterior of Mazda’s flagship sedan for 2016, save for a revised grille design, while cars in GT trim, like our tester, add LED headlights, fog lights and grille illumination, but the changes only add to the aesthetic appeal of an already handsome sedan.
Of all the cars in the midsize segment, the Mazda6’s interior, at least in GT trim, comes closest to encroaching on premium car territory. And it’s inside where the most work has been done for this model year, with a host of changes made to improve the cabin’s feel and function.
Mazda’s Heads-Up Cockpit concept is executed to perfection here, with a driver-focused interior that puts all the controls well within view and reach.
The in-dash infotainment screen has been replaced with a freestanding unit a la Audi and Mercedes-Benz, lowering the height of the dash, while the move to an electronic parking brake, a first for Mazda, cuts down on console clutter and makes room for what matters. And what matters is the new infotainment control knob, which proves easy to use while driving, though its functionality is wisely — though at times frustratingly — limited while the vehicle is in motion.
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Unlike Audi and Mercedes, the infotainment screen, in this case an appropriately sized seven-inch unit, is touch-sensitive for those who would prefer a tablet-like experience.
Running the latest version of the Mazda Connect interface, the infotainment system is solid but not spectacular, and looks a little outdated compared to the competition — particularly those with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The interior is exceptionally quiet, the Bose 11-speaker sound system is spot-on, and the materials definitely have an upmarket feel. Satin chrome and piano black accents are strewn throughout the cabin, while the seats and other surfaces can be had in the choice of black or white leather. Mazda wisely went with the former for our tester.
Headroom isn’t the worst in the class, but it’s also not the best, with a high hip point combining with the GT model’s standard sunroof leaving the cabin feeling a little on the claustrophobic side for yours truly in either of the front seats. Likewise, rear legroom isn’t horrible, but it can feel cramped with anyone over six feet tall sitting up front.
To describe the Mazda6’s drive as engaging tells only part of the story. The chassis is nice and stiff and the suspension borders on sporty, but it’s pliable enough to make for a comfortable ride. The same goes for the steering, which is sharp in a typically Mazda way, though it can feel a touch delicate at times. It all comes together quite nicely, absorbing and responding to road imperfections with a level of composure atypical of a car in this class.
The only engine available is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which is a bit disappointing considering what the 6 could be with a larger engine — and considering the class-leading Honda Accord is available with a V6 available under the hood. With 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque on tap, the direct-injected engine can be mated to the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, which puts it in rare company as one of the only midsize sedans still available with three pedals.
ALSO SEE: 2016 Honda Accord Review
Our tester came fitted with the automatic, which combined with the engine for a mixed bag of driving pleasure. Engine response is a bit sluggish until you really put your foot into it, and the car feels heavier than its 3,250-lb curb weight would suggest, which makes the four-cylinder seem unwilling, or unable, to handle the perceived heft of the car at times. On the other hand, it barely breaks a sweat on the highway, with a ridiculously low engine speed of 2,000 rpm at 70 mph.
Leaving the transmission’s sport mode alone means short runs through the gears in the name of efficiency, while putting it in sport holds the gears a touch too long in many situations. The sweet spot is taking care of changes yourself using the paddle shifters, which are among the best executed in a non-sports car on the market. But then that kind of defeats the purpose of buying an automatic in the first place.
And then there are the regenerative brakes. Dubbed i-ELOOP, the regen system is part of the available Technology Package, and converts the kinetic energy generated while braking into electricity. It’s definitely a cool feature to have in a non-hybrid or electric car, and frees up the engine to focus less on running components like the lights and climate control and more on powering the wheels. But unlike a traditional regen setup, the brakes on the Mazda6 feel like they’re working awfully hard. Even at low speeds, hitting the brake pedal can make it feel like you’re trying to stop a Mack truck with the brakes from a Yugo.
Other goodies in the Technology Package include radar cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and automated braking. The whole package is buttoned up pretty nicely, and doesn’t flash and beep like a bank of slot machines when you drift too closely to lane markings.
The Verdict: 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring
Sure, crossovers are popular these days, but there’s nothing wrong with a tried and true sedan. And when it comes to the Mazda6 Grand Touring, it hits all the marks that are sure to keep this segment rolling along for years to come.