2014 Mazda MAZDA6

I Sport FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4 man trans

2014 mazda mazda6 Reviews and News

Mazda6 Diesel Racecar Front Three Quarter In Motion
The diesel-powered Mazda 6 is Mazda’s stealth vehicle. You can’t hear it on the racetrack, and you can’t see it in North American showrooms. At least, not yet.
Although the Skyactiv-D version of Mazda’s four-door sedan is sold just about everywhere else in the world, it isn’t yet offered in the United States. The engine can’t meet California’s demanding emissions standards while maintaining the level of performance that the company’s brand image demands, so Mazda is waiting until further engineering developments enable the car’s introduction.
But Mazda hasn’t jumped off the diesel bandwagon. “We’re still committed to bringing diesel to North America,” says Robert Davis, senior vice president, Mazda US Operations. “It separates us from the other Japanese manufacturers and it allows us to compete with Germany near-luxury cars.”

Imagine the stealth-fighter edition of the Mazda 6

Not so long ago at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Southern California, I got a chance to sample the future by racing an example of the forthcoming Mazda 6 Skyactiv-D. It looked spectacular, accelerated like a turbine, made amazing fuel mileage and was so quiet that all I heard throughout the race was voices on my radio intercom with the pits and the snarl of the other, conventionally powered race cars around me.
Spiritually, the Mazda 6 diesel is the outgrowth of a program that Mazda began with SpeedSource Race Engineering, its longtime motorsports partner. Last year, a jointly developed Skyactiv-D motor powered a Mazda 6 to a championship in the GX class in IMSA’s Grand-Am (albeit, not a class overrun with competitors).
This year, the SpeedSource team has moved up to the top-tier prototype class in IMSA’s new United SportsCar Championship. The Mazda-powered Lola prototypes have been way down on power and speed in the opening races at Daytona, Sebring and Long Beach, and it’s going to be a long season for them.
But just to show that Mazda remains committed to diesel on the street even as it awaits the readiness of the Mazda 6 Skyactive-D, Robert Davis decided last fall to build a trio of production-based diesel-powered Mazda 6s for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, an amateur-level racing event sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association (NASA).

It’s mostly stock, so it should be easy to build, right?

Just nine weeks before the race last December, three Russian-spec Mazda 6 diesels were imported to the U.S. Although the protective rollover cages were installed by AWR Racing in Vista, California, virtually everything else to prepare the cars for competition was done by a dozen or so Mazda volunteers working nights and weekends at Mazda Research & Development in Irvine, California. “It was a LOT of work,” says Nathan Edwards, a manager of field technical operations for Mazda who also drove one of the cars in the 25 Hour.
Virtually nothing, however, was done to the Mazda diesel engine in each car. It’s straight off the assembly line, a turbocharged 2.2-liter inline-4 that makes 165 horsepower and an impressive 300 ft-lb of torque at a measly 2400 rpm. The only major change to the drivetrain was the replacement of the stock open differential with a custom-made limited-slip item from Wavetrac.
On the suspension front, Koni dampers, Hypercoil springs and a custom-made rear anti-roll bar from ProParts USA were added. Under the fenders, 245/40R-17 BFGoodrich g-Force R1 tires went on 17-inch Enkei wheels. Big brake rotors and four-piston STR-40 calipers from StopTech were added up front, while stock brakes with Cobalt Friction pads were used in the rear. As a result, Mazda public relations director (and diesel racer) Jeremy Barnes says, “One car did the whole 25 Hour without changing pads.”
At Thunderhill, the Mazda 6 diesels finished 3rd, 4th and 6th in class despite competing against much more radically modified cars. The diesel engines were so fuel efficient that a full tank enabled nearly four hours of driving under racing conditions.

It might be a diesel, but it makes you look like a hero

As I walked up the Mazda 6 Skyactiv-D at Buttonwillow, it looked great. With the strip of LEDs in the light bar across the hood, the big wheels and tires, and a dramatic graphics package created by Mazda design manager Ken Saward (yet another Mazda employee who is a racer), this car was positively bad-ass.
Thanks to all the Sparco safety gear inside the cockpit, the 6 also felt like a proper race car to me. But when I punched the starter button, I had an unnerving electric-car moment. That is, I wasn’t sure if the car was running or not. With radio earpieces in and a helmet on, the engine became effectively silent. This was unnerving on the track, where other cars seemed unnaturally loud. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure where the noise was coming from, and I found myself frantically checking my mirrors for traffic.
And there was a lot of checking of mirrors. Thanks to a modest power-to-weight ratio, this 3200-pound Mazda 6 and its two identical partners were among the slowest cars in the race. The car’s handling, though, was surprisingly benign. Because it’s a front-wheel-drive car with scads of torque, I was expecting a ton of understeer. In fact, the rear anti-roll bar had been made stiff enough to produce plenty of lift-throttle oversteer to help the car rotate its nose toward the apex while entering corners.

Just like driving to the store

In my case, the Mazda 6 diesel rotated a little too well on a couple of occasions, but this was a running-out-of-talent issue rather than a flaw in the handling dynamics. Otherwise, the Mazda 6 diesel rarely exhibited any of the deficiencies associated with front-wheel drive -- torque-steer, aggravating push, etc. -- and it was a pleasure to drive on the track.
The brakes were another surprise. Despite the car’s mass, the car stopped so well that I could drive deeper into the brake zones than lighter cars. The diesel was also stout coming off corners, where the luxury of 300 lb-ft of torque allowed me to out-drag more powerful cars, at least until their engines were fully wound up. (With a compression ratio of 14:1 -- low by diesel standards -- the Skyactiv-D revved to 5200 rpm, but it ran out of steam long before then.)
Just as Barnes had told me beforehand, I found myself changing my style when it came time to use the gear lever. In general, the corners could be easily taken a full ratio taller than you’d expect. The Mazda people engineered a system of lights to help you keep track of the engine rpm and the recommended shift points, and I found myself shifting very early and just riding the steeply increasing wave of torque as the engine wound up. No red mist was required.
The success or failure of diesels in racing depends as much on the whims of the rules-makers as it does on the ingenuity of the engineers, much as Mazda has discovered with its IMSA prototype. But if my experience at Buttonwillow with the Mazda 6 Skyactiv-D is any guide, it is possible to drive a street-legal diesel in a way that is both fast and rewarding. Just stop trying so hard, get used to the peace and quiet, and then give a polite little wave when you sail silently past the competition.
2014 Mazda 6 Front Right View
The good news for Mazda is that, in the month just ended (July), the new 6 midsize sedan saw its sales jump by more than 167 percent over the previous model. The bad news is that figure is still only one-tenth the volume Toyota did with the Camry. Clearly, the midsize sedan arena is one that is dominated by big names with outsized reputations and huge built-in buyer bases. But for those who'd rather not see themselves coming and going, the Mazda 6 provides an alternative take on the midsize sedan formula, one that speaks particularly to enthusiasts.
If Looks Could Thrill
The Mazda 6 does not have the lozenge-like shape that's so common among midsize sedans. The look is purposeful and yet the lines are flowing. For a front-wheel-drive car, the proportions aren't terribly nose-heavy. Compared to the previous model, Mazda was able to shorten the front overhang while stretching the wheelbase. The overall length, however, is no greater. It makes for a more athletic look than you typically see in this class.
Inside, however, isn't quite so stylish. The all-black interior of my test car was relieved only by a bit of red contrast stitching and some dark silver trim. What the interior lacks in style, however, it makes up in function. Three large gauges are easy to read, the climate controls are large round knobs that can be operated by feel, so too can the audio system's volume and tuning knobs. The multifunction navigation screen won't dazzle you with its graphics and the touch points are small but there is a redundant iDrive-style knob controller on the console that works well. Speaking of navigation, this is another Mazda that uses a TomTom system, which lacks detail in its map but is good with its turn-by-turn directions and its ability to reroute you due to traffic.
Alert drivers will appreciate the seating position of the Mazda 6, which seeks not to relax you or give you a Shiatsu massage but to put the driver in a good working relationship with his surroundings. The seat has firm lateral support without being confining. A prominent dead pedal is well placed. You don't look out over a vast expanse of dashboard or around thick A-pillars. Speaking of visibility, the bi-xenon, swiveling headlamps in the Grand Touring model, deserve a special shout-out, as they are truly excellent.
Returning to the subject of the interior, one must acknowledge that rear-seat riders don't fare quite as well here as they do in some competitors (Honda Accord, Nissan Altima), although there is room for a six-footer behind a six-foot driver. Rear-seat headroom is adequate despite the sloping roofline. And padded surfaces are strategically located, front and rear.
The Mazda of Mid-Size Sedans
Once again, as with the Mazda 3 and the CX-5, it's the chassis of the Mazda 6 that surprises by being a standout. Maybe that shouldn't be so surprising anymore. One immediately notices the responsive steering and quick reflexes of what by all rights should be a sleepy family machine/commuter drone. In the 6, Mazda engineers have imparted a firm, almost Germanic suspension, without giving passengers a punishing ride.
A chassis like this makes one wonder what this car could be like with an engine that is equally sporting. As it is, the Mazda 6 uses the corporate 2.5-liter four, which brings to bear a respectable 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. With the six-speed automatic transmission (a manual is also available), it makes for adequate if not scintillating acceleration. More importantly, however, it returns excellent fuel economy.
High MPG Without a CVT
At our first encounter with the new Mazda 6 last fall, before EPA estimates were available, Mazda staffers shared their expectation that the 6 would achieve "class-leading" fuel economy. But given that the just-introduced Nissan Altima had been rated at a pretty incredible 27/38 mpg (city/highway), that seemed a very high bar. After all, Mazda, unlike Nissan with the Altima or Honda with the Accord, had (correctly) chosen to go with a six-speed automatic rather than pursue ultimate efficiency -- but sub-ultimate driving satisfaction -- with a CVT. Now that the EPA numbers are in, we see that Mazda is able to match the Altima's class-topping 38 mpg highway figure and that it falls only 1 mpg short in the city, with a rating of 26 mpg -- a very impressive showing. In my week of mostly suburban driving, I got an indicated 31 mpg overall.
Mazda also will soon be selling its Skyactiv 2.2-liter turbodiesel engine in the 6, which should deliver even better fuel economy. That engine, which like its gasoline counterpart will be available with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, is due to go on sale in the second half of 2013.
With a pleasant and highly efficient base engine, and a mileage-champ diesel on the way, that still leaves open the option of a performance mill -- perhaps a V-6 or a turbo four? True, such a choice would be a niche offering, but it would play to the car's strengths. And as the new 6 already proves, a niche offering can be a very nice offering.

2014 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring

Base price: $30,290
Price as tested: $31,490
Standard Equipment:
6-speed automatic transmission w/shift paddles
Power windows, door locks, mirrors
Push-button start
Tilt-and-telescoping steering column
Dual-zone automatic climate control
AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system w/aux and USB inputs, satellite radio, and Bose 11-speaker sound system
Bluetooth phone/audio
Fog lamps
8-way power driver's seat
4-way power passenger's seat
Backup camera
Leather-wrapped steering wheel w/audio controls
Blind-spot monitoring system
19-inch alloy wheels
Automatic headlights
Heated outside mirrors
Heated front seats
Leather-trimmed seats
Power moonroof
Rain-sensing wipers
In-dash TomTom navigation system
Bi-xenon auto-leveling headlamps w/pivoting adaptive front lighting system
Auto-dimming rearview mirror w/Homelink
Anti-theft alarm
Mazda advanced keyless entry
Options on this vehicle:
Radar cruise control and forward collision warning - $900 Soul red paint - $300
Key options not on this vehicle:
None
Fuel economy:
(city/hwy)
26 / 38 mpg (Altima 27/38, Accord 27/36)
Engine:
2.5L DOHC I-4 Horsepower: 184 hp @ 5700 rpm Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Drive:
Front-wheel
Transmission:
6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 3232 lb
Wheels/tires:
7.5 x 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels 225/45 R19 tires
Competitors:
Chevrolet Malibu Ford Fusion Honda Accord Hyundai Sonata Kia Optima Nissan Altima Toyota Camry Volkswagen Passat
2014 Mazda6 GT Front Right View 3
With the sun beating down on Pelon's, an old, limestone-faced Tex-Mex restaurant on Red River Street in Austin, Texas, it seems entirely reasonable to drive this 2014 Mazda 6 to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Two days later in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, it doesn't seem like a very smart thing to have done in early February, as we awake to the ominous sound of crunching footsteps outside our motel window, an indicator of a fresh snowfall.
Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do. Why keep driving mid-size sedans around town as if we were nothing more than taxi drivers? Instead, let's take this 2014 Mazda 6 on the road.

Making a Style Statement in Texas

So there we are, the tires singing in the dark of east Texas after departing late in the afternoon from Austin, where the 2014 Mazda 6 had made its debut on the highways of America. When we told the Mazda people that we were headed to Michigan, they just shook their heads in disbelief and handed us the keys.
Compared with the other cars in its class of mid-size sedans, the 2014 Mazda 6 looks unexpectedly great thanks to a new styling vocabulary that comes from the Shinari concept car introduced at the 2010 Paris auto show. Riding along the interstate, the Mazda 6 feels sound and stable in that familiar way, yet now it's also supple. This comes from a more rigid chassis with lots of high-strength steel, a long 111.4-inch wheelbase that promotes stability, and a change in the rear suspension geometry to reduce impact harshness.
Unfortunately the tires really are singing, as the tread pattern of these 225/45WR-19 Dunlop SP Sport 5000s reacts badly with the Texas concrete. Just like the previous-generation Mazda 6, this new car seems to transmit more road noise than it should.
As we check into a place to stay for the night, the clerk asks what has brought us to Mt. Pleasant, Texas. "The waters," we reply, as we always do wherever we go. She notes that this part of east Texas is mostly farms. We admit that we have been misinformed.

Breakfast of Champions

No, not the racer's breakfast of coffee and a cigarette, but instead a trip to the drive-through lane at McDonald's for the American version of Eggs Benedict – the Egg McMuffin. In the process, we unexpectedly learn all about the Mazda 6's six-speed automatic transmission.
This is a high-efficiency automatic, not a dual-clutch automated manual. It has a torque converter, which is why the Mazda 6 can creep through the McDonald's drive-thru without unexpectedly surging forward, which is what usually happens with a dual-clutch design, as the internal clutches tend to engage unpredictably. The Mazda automatic's own internal clutches still engage sooner than is customary, though, and the result is improved mechanical efficiency without the shudder you might expect. So you have creep capability with high efficiency, the best of both worlds. Mazda also claims its automatic is more fuel-efficient than either a dual-clutch design or a CVT.
We also like the way the Mazda 6's automatic works as you accelerate down the freeway on-ramp with a cup of coffee in your hand. The shifts are accomplished not only quicker but also smoother, so you can hustle into the merge lane at an appropriate speed without having to fool with the shift lever. This means fewer big-rig trucks trying to run you down with 50,000 pounds of frozen chicken as you blend into traffic.

Motoring in the Horse Latitudes

As the sun comes up over Arkansas, we see flights of geese overhead and ducks in the flooded rice fields between the woodlands. Now that the road surface is asphalt, the Mazda 6's tires are much quieter.
This 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine gives you 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, enough to move comfortably with the crowd, which hardly ever exceeds 70 mph out here in real America. Thanks to the latest, high-tech direct fuel injection, plus better combustion, plus a clever way to eliminate the mechanical losses of powering an alternator, plus improved transmission efficiency, plus a lighter car overall, plus a million other little engineering victories by Mazda R&D, the 2014 Mazda 6's trip computer keeps telling us that we're averaging 33 mpg.
Of course, we've all driven cars with transmission calibrations that drastically suppress engine performance to get good mpg. When you're driving such a car, you can find yourself strangely becalmed in the nether regions of the engine's power curve, as if you were in the horse latitudes, those regions in the ocean where the trade winds don't blow. During the great age of exploration, sailing ships would drift for weeks in these places until (so the apocryphal explanation goes) the animals began to die of thirst and were pushed overboard. Put down your throttle foot while cruising on the turnpike and some cars will leave you feeling similarly becalmed, as if there were a couple of dead horses in the trunk.
But the Mazda 6 feels lively and responsive, and here again it's the automatic transmission that has come to the rescue. First, there's less slip from the torque converter, so the throttle produces quicker response. Second, the control module has been programmed to deliver quicker kickdowns into a shorter gear, so you don't feel like the transmission is always taking a vote about the next gear ratio. And when you use the shift lever, you get rev-matched downshifts for quicker ratio changes.
By the end of the day, we have pushed up through southeast Missouri to Cape Girardeau, an old steamboat port on the Mississippi River. Grand homes from the 1890s still stand on the bluff above the downtown district along the river. We cross over to Illinois on a spectacular cable-tie bridge, and then the TomTom navigation system helps us find our way on back roads in the dark to the interstate. This affordable, no-frills navi displays a fairly sketchy landscape in map mode, yet it's extremely good when you ask it to give turn-by-turn directions. It never fails us.

Snow and the Safety Net

It's the crunching outside the motel window that tips us off about the snow as we awake in Mt Vernon, Illinois. Fortunately the accumulation has been relatively light, so the tire tracks through the white stuff on the Interstate are getting wider and drier as we push on. And why not, since we have a car that features an array of safety-related electronic features with acronyms that cover nearly every letter in the alphabet?
In this particular Mazda 6 Grand Touring car, there are six airbags, whiplash-reducing seat headrests, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, traction control, stability control, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, radar-controlled cruise control, lane-departure warning, automated city braking, forward obstruction warning, and high-beam warning. It's encouraging to find such a comprehensive safety net in what is meant to be a car of average cost.
And yet sometimes, when the plows, scrapers, and salt trucks are out and there's just a narrow two-track path across the snowy, wind-blown crests on the highway, you have to get in the car and drive. As the snow begins to fall with serious intent in Indianapolis, we're glad to be in a sport sedan instead of a glorified taxi. When you're on the verge of slipping and sliding, you need a driver's car to stay out of trouble, and we always feel like we've got a handle on the Mazda 6.
In the 6, Mazda has turned electric-assist steering to its advantage. The front suspension incorporates more steering castor and trail than even the Mazda RX-8 sports car, so it delivers a sure, heavy feel of stability. Even so, the electric assist keeps the effort level manageable in parking lots.
As a result, we're not daunted when we drive in the increasingly faint traces of pavement left behind by the big rig trucks with which we share the road. We make it to our overnight stop on a farm in the woods outside Jackson, Michigan.

Another Day at the Office

When the 2014 Mazda 6 comes to rest in front of the Ann Arbor office on Highland Drive, it looks like it has endured no more than just another snowy morning in paradise -- one in which the temperature reading is 21 degrees F instead of the 73 degrees F that we had in Austin.
The odometer has recorded 1419.7 miles since leaving Austin, and we've consumed 42.9 gallons of gas at a total price of $144.63 to get here. That's 32.9 mpg. We filled up once per day with regular-grade gasoline, and each time the trip meter gave us a distance to empty of more than 500 miles, so there's definitely no range anxiety.
We learned that the Mazda 6's good looks never get tiresome, and neither does its dynamic personality. We learned that the interior is still a black hole of visual interest despite the redesign. And we learned that as you pass a big rig in the fast lane, the radar sensor for the cruise control always gets confused by the towering flanks of the truck and abruptly slows the car.
We've also learned that the 2014 Mazda 6 is still a sport sedan at heart. At the same time, we've found that a sport sedan can manage a long-distance trek on the interstate without compromising comfort. Better yet, when weather is a factor -- as it always is out there in America -- a sports sedan can be exactly the car you want.
Family Sedan Comparo Honda Accord Vs Mazda 6 Side By Side
Our search for the best midsize sedan in America began with eight remarkable cars: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.
We've driven them in sun, snow, and icy cold to separate the best from the rest and then argued about the results over the long conference table on Highland Drive. (Only basic first-aid supplies were required afterward.) We've looked over, around, and under the cars, then studied spreadsheets of features and specifications. We've even looked at pricing documents (yikes!).
Really, it's been quite a tournament. You can read about the mission we set for ourselves, the driving report for each car, and the smart-ass comments that we made afterward. Here we present the final match between the 2013 Honda Accord and the 2014 Mazda 6.

Honda Accord vs. Mazda 6

2013 Honda Accord Sport
The 2013 Honda Accord has come through this field of midsize sedans to the finals playing the game like a traditional American car, not the small practical sedan from Japan that you might still imagine it to be.
The Building Blocks
Just like the other cars in Midsize Madness, the Accord has left behind the niche of compact sedans it once occupied and adopted a more American way of doing business, emphasizing spaciousness and comfort.
Although its wheelbase has been reduced an inch from the last iteration introduced in 2008, this new Accord is still a big car. The 2013 Accord's wheelbase stretches to 109.3 inches, and this Accord Sport measures 191.4 inches long, 72.8 inches wide, and 57.7 inches high. It weighs 3342 pounds. More important, it measures out to 103.2 cubic feet of passenger space, with 42.5 inches of legroom in the front seat and 38.5 inches in the rear.
The Honda Accord's 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine shows you why the vast majority of midsize sedans are sold these days with four-bangers. This all-new four-cylinder engine runs smooth thanks to internal balance shafts to counteract vibration, combines power with good fuel efficiency thanks to variable valve timing/lift and direct fuel injection, and operates with an easy, free-revving liveliness thanks to careful detailing to reduce friction and because, well, that's just the Honda way. The Accord Sport's engine makes 189 hp at 6400 rpm and 182 lb-ft of torque at 3900 rpm.
This newest iteration of the four-cylinder Honda Accord also abandons a conventional automatic transmission for a continuously variable transmission (CVT), an $800 option-over the excellent standard six-speed manual-that helps optimize fuel economy, as reflected in this Accord Sport's EPA rating of 26/35 mpg city/highway and 29 mpg combined.
What We Said
On the list of standard equipment, you'll find the usual complement of airbags, air-conditioning, a driver-information display, and power windows, mirrors, and door locks. What is different is the standard, as the Accord now provides all the good stuff.
Standard equipment includes: keyless entry; a tilting telescopic steering wheel with controls for the audio/phone system; dual-zone automatic air-conditioning; an audio system with an eight-inch infotainment screen, USB audio, Bluetooth phone and audio, and Pandora compatibility; and a rearview camera. Moreover, the Sport model adds things like eighteen-inch wheels, foglights, a power driver's seat, and a spoiler.
If you look back at our report about the 2013 Honda Accord Sport on the first day of the competition and read the comments made on the second day , you'll see that the most important added feature of the remade Accord is the interior's newfound niceness. All the tactile surfaces are meant to be pleasant to touch. You can see this in the instrument panel's seamless piece of soft-touch material and even the quality of the standard cloth seat upholstery.
Nicely Does It
Niceness is also the best description for the way the 2013 Accord behaves in everyday life.
It's easy to get in and out, and the one-piece folding rear seat supplements a trunk of 15.8 cubic feet. This is still a friendly car to drive, yet now the suspension dampening gives the Accord more composure while effectively subduing any harsh inputs from the Sport model's 235/45VR-18 Michelin Primacy MXM4 tires. The light-effort steering suits the car, and although the chassis rolls a bit when you heel over into an on-ramp, it won't frighten anyone. The engine is alert and responsive yet also quiet and undemanding.
No matter whether the 2013 Honda Accord Sport was pounding down the interstate through Ann Arbor or bounding over the rolling hills to Hell, Michigan, this car never broke a sweat. We didn't, either.
2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring
The 2014 Mazda 6 comes onto the court from the opposite direction of the Accord, as it proudly proclaims its compact-car heritage with the agile way it drives even as it delivers a useful dimension of full-size comfort.
The Building Blocks
The 2014 Mazda 6 is the last of the midsize sedans to adopt large-car dimensions. Its wheelbase now stretches a long, long 111.4 inches. It measures 191.5 inches overall, 72.4 inches wide, and 57.1 inches high. This heavily optioned Grand Touring model weighs 3232 pounds. Passenger volume measures 99.7 cubic feet, with 42.2 inches of legroom in the front and 38.7 inches in the rear.
Mazda has cleverly optimized its technology to create the Mazda 6's new 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder engine. Like other in-line fours these days, it has balance shafts to control vibration, plus variable valve timing and direct injection to deliver both usable power and good fuel efficiency. At the same time, Mazda has also worked hard to change its manufacturing methods to permit a very high compression ratio of 13.0:1 to deliver maximum power, good fuel economy, and cleaner combustion. The Mazda 6's engine makes 184 hp at 5700 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3250 rpm.
There's a conventional six-speed automatic transmission for the Mazda 6 (a six-speed manual is standard on lower trim levels), but here again the company has optimized its performance, and Mazda claims the result is more efficient than either a dual-clutch automatic or a CVT. This Mazda 6 is EPA rated at 26/38 mpg city/highway and 30 mpg combined.
What We Said
Because the only Mazda 6 available at this early date proved to be a fancy Grand Touring model, it is a bit difficult to sort through the standard equipment to compare the car directly with the Accord Sport.
While the Grand Touring has an elaborate complement of standard equipment, the base Sport model, when equipped with an automatic transmission, incorporates many important items on the list including: keyless entry; a tilting telescopic steering wheel; an audio system with a 5.8-inch touchscreen interface, USB audio, Bluetooth phone and audio, and Pandora compatibility; and a rearview camera for parking. Instead of the Grand Touring's navigation system, moonroof, and eleven-speaker stereo, it was the 6's high-bolstered sport seats with leather upholstery that got our attention, since this is a driver's car.
If you look back at our report about the 2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring on the first day of the competition and read the comments made on the second day, you'll see that it's an occasion to walk up to the Mazda 6 and a treat to drive it. This is the kind of driver engagement that we look for in any vehicle, something that transforms the ownership experience.
Drive, Please
The Mazda 6 has an enhanced dimension of practicality that puts this car in the midsize game at last, yet the things that still set it apart remain styling and driving performance.
This car is perfectly practical to use, as the 60/40-split folding rear seat enhances the utility of the 14.8-cubic-foot trunk. The rear seat doesn't feel as large as its dimensions suggest, and the black interior proves a bit oppressive, as does a bit of noticeable road noise.
On the highway, you're struck by the Mazda 6's impressive straight-line stability and the strong response from the steering. The chassis is controlled very well, although there's still some harshness from this car's nineteen-inch tires. The chassis loves the rolling hills around Hell, although it bounds over the bumps a bit more than we'd like. The engine feels somewhat weak at midrange rpm, so you have to rely on the transmission's notably quick gearchanges triggered by the shift paddles on the steering wheel to keep your speed up.
When you settle behind the wheel of the 2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, you're there to drive, not ride.
DAY FIVE
Yes, there's still one more day to go before the winner is named. We have to catch our breath and check with the referees before we look up at the scoreboard. We should probably get our explanations in order and prepare to sprint for the parking lot, since the sore losers will no doubt start throwing folding chairs into the bleachers when they get the news.
See you tomorrow with the last day of Automobile Magazine's Midsize Madness.
Family Sedan Comparo Final Four Volkswagen Passat Vs Honda Accord 1
Welcome to the second round of Automobile Magazines Midsize Madness, our comparison test of the kind of car you see on American roads every day, the midsize sedan.
As we noted in our Day One introduction, we've gathered eight of the best front-wheel-drive midsize sedans with fuel-efficient engines, and our mission is to sort them out in a way that will let their whole characters be revealed. We've driven all these cars at the same time on the same roads, and we've made our notes and organized our facts and then argued about the results.
To our way of thinking, these are the best midsize sedans available in America right now. We've tried to ensure that our test cars represent a practical level of features - nicely equipped, as they say - yet don't cost too much. Given the challenges of acquiring so many test cars at the same time, they aren't priced exactly the same, but they all cost within $7800 of each other.
We've gathered here eight of these American-market midsize sedans that speak to the priorities that we have at Automobile Magazine: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat. Some have style, some have speed, and some have reliability, yet all have a unique, definable character. By choosing one of them as the best, we hope to not only define the current state of the American midsize sedan but also define the character that those of us who read Automobile want in a practical, everyday kind of car.
During our first round of competition yesterday, some favorites went down and some outsiders prevailed:
  • The Toyota Camry lost to the Honda Accord, as the Camry's unimpressive style made the Accord seem like a luxury car, plus the Toyota's easygoing usability didn't prove as compelling as the Honda's refinement and energy.
  • The Volkswagen Passat unexpectedly trounced the Kia Optima, as the Passat delivered an interesting combination of American practicality and European driving dynamics, while the Optima didn't entirely deliver on the sporty message sent by its styling.
  • Meanwhile, the Nissan Altima seemed like a large luxury car with its styling, passenger space, and freeway comfort, yet we preferred the even more stylish and fun-to-drive Mazda 6.
  • And finally the Hyundai Sonata, a 2011 Automobile Magazine All-Star, was knocked out in the first round by the Ford Fusion, a reminder that the choices in the midsize-sedan segment have dramatically improved in the last few years.
As the tournament continues, the competition involves less driving and a lot more arguing, as the comments below indicate. It's not just about whether these midsize sedans excel in one way or another - because they all do - but instead it's about finding the right kind of combination that meets our expectations about daily transportation. It's also clear to us that our preferences are falling into two categories, comfortable overall usability and everyday driving enjoyment.
As the tournament continues, here are the match-ups for our semifinalists:
  • Honda Accord vs. Volkswagen Passat
  • Ford Fusion vs. Mazda 6

Honda Accord vs. Volkswagen Passat

2013 Honda Accord Sport
  • Executive editor Todd Lassa: "There's a lot of road noise." West Coast editor Michael Jordan (sarcastically, as always): "No, in a Honda?"
  • "Somehow Honda has managed to counter the suck-tide of cheapness that's been dragging down the company for a decade," says Jordan.
  • Road test editor Christopher Nelson says, "For a little under $25K, you get a car that feels more expensive than it is."
  • The hard plastics don't look as cheap as they do in comparable cars, and the leatherette on the doors is extremely soft. "Honda is learning how to grain plastics," says associate editor David Zenlea. "No more elephant skin."
  • The side mirrors are a bit small and the B-pillars are a bit big, but lots of glass helps make up for it. Forward and rearward visibility is phenomenal.
  • Good cargo opening but not a lot of usable cargo space, Nelson discovers. Oh, did we mention the rear seats don't split? You'll turn your family sedan into a two-seater anytime you go to Home Depot.
  • "The steering is light but precise," says managing editor Amy Skogstrom. "There's also a bit of body roll when taking fast corners."
  • "Great powertrain, with smooth, impressive power throughout the rpm range, plus a nice sound when you reach redline," copy editor Rusty Blackwell says. "CVT works with surprising harmony."
  • "The gauge cluster looks wonderful at night," says deputy editor Joe DeMatio, "and the center stack - while admittedly a bit cluttered - is clearly marked with big, easy-to-read buttons."
  • Skogstrom: "The two, contrasting black fabrics on the cloth seats look and feel great." DeMatio: "I could live with a sofa made out of this material."

2013 Volkswagen Passat SE
  • Jordan says. "When I got in this car, I found myself asking it to take me to the Berlin train station. It's very spacious, yet it's also very austere in a way that reminds me of a European taxi, which ironically makes it more like a traditional American sedan than any other car in its segment."
  • Volkswagen does Bauhaus-style minimalism here - simple, handsome design, both inside and out.
  • The seats have flat-bottom cushions and don't offer much lateral support. DeMatio: "The driver's seat is made for fat Americans." Lassa: "Fat Americans of German descent."
  • We love the upright windshield (minimal reflections), the low dashboard, and the slim A-pillars, which combine to deliver great visibility and a feeling of safety in congested traffic.
  • "This car's styling should age extremely well, like a Brooks Brothers suit," says DeMatio.
  • The radio is rudimentary, so it fits in well with the humble interior.
  • By far the best trunk in this competition.
  • "Plain and simple, this is a German Camry," says senior web editor Phil Floraday.
  • "While not inspiring, the Passat drives like a confident car," says Skogstrom.
  • "For all the cost-cutting that went into this car, it has good dampening and good brake-pedal feel, both of which you'll appreciate every time you drive," says Floraday. DeMatio continues, "It's refreshing to be in a midsize car with Germanic capabilities, even if they have been watered down for American buyers."
The Volkswagen Passat combines a surprisingly space-efficient package with very capable driving dynamics, and it proves more energetic than we expected. Even so, the Honda Accord surpasses it when you factor in convenience and entertainment features, a sense of spacious interior luxury, smooth-riding freeway comfort, and a notably more fuel-efficient powertrain. These cars are playing the same kind of game, but the Accord is simply better.
Winner: 2013 Honda Accord Sport. The Honda Accord moves into the final round.

Ford Fusion vs. Mazda 6

2013 Ford Fusion SE
  • "The Fusion drives like a car that's just stopped in this category for a courtesy cup of coffee on its way to an Audi A4 comparison test," says Jordan. "Actually, I think it might win a comparison like that."
  • Pudgy and obtrusive styling corrupts the airy cabin we want, the tallish Christopher Nelson says.
  • Absolutely great cargo capacity; now if only it were more usable. Try to reach deep into the trunk and the bumper holds you back. Maybe if you had a stick to move things around.
  • The Fusion's sleek exterior doesn't wow us any longer. "It looks slab-sided in profile, what with all the metal below the high beltline," says Skogstrom.
  • "MyFord Touch needs more attention than I can give it," says Blackwell. "For instance, just adjusting the climate control takes my eyes off of the road for longer than I'd like."
  • "Well, at least MyFord Touch actually looks good," says DeMatio. "I'm surprised by how comparatively ugly the screens are in other cars in this class."
  • There's a solid quarter-inch gap where the door panel meets the instrument panel at the A-pillar, Lassa discovers. Maybe Ford's build quality isn't as good as some of its competitors'.
  • The way the doors shut and the trunk closes reminds you that you're driving, well, a Ford. "The execution is slightly half-assed," says Nelson.
  • It's stylish and good to drive - but neither stylish enough nor good enough to drive that it should shrink the view from the driver's cockpit the way it does," says Zenlea.
  • For a car that's all about sport, there's an extreme focus on form over functionality. Everything you touch tries too hard to be stylish rather than usable.
  • A little heavy and underpowered compared with the competition, even though it feels very sporty and alert. And it's not that comfortable and quiet on the freeway, is it?

2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring
  • Nelson is hoping to discover a cut-price BMW 3-series but is disappointed to find just another midsize sedan. He says, "To say it's more exciting to drive than its competitors is like saying a bowl of Special K breakfast cereal with banana slices is more exciting than plain old Special K."
  • The direct-injected Skyactiv-G four-cylinder is lively but isn't powerful in the midrange. Good thing it's aided by a very good automatic transmission; we love that manual mode will hold gears to redline.
  • "The well-placed paddle shifters encourage you to use the manual mode, which makes the car really enjoyable," says Skogstrom.
  • The car looks gorgeous from the front-three-quarter view, but the exterior isn't so attractive that it puts the rest of the midsize pack to shame.
  • "What a likable personality this car has," says Jordan.
  • "Mazda can't make magic with its interior the way it has with its exteriors," says DeMatio. It's very dark inside the Mazda 6, and the rear seats are comfortable but a bit claustrophobic. Less overall legroom than the Fusion.
  • A wide trunk opening, lots of usable cargo space, and 60/40-split folding rear seats that go down almost completely flat.
  • "This is a great balance of style and usability," says Zenlea. "I like the sporty steering wheel, supportive seats, and even the handbrake."
  • Reassuringly tight feel to the structure, exceeded only by the Fusion, which is about 200 pounds heavier.
  • Better city fuel economy than the Fusion by 2 mpg; better on the highway by 1 mpg.
  • "Fine highway comfort although a bit more road noise than you'd like," Jordan says. "A cruising range of about 500 miles if you're up to it."
Ford and Mazda are playing the same sporty-sedan game, but the Fusion can't match the 6's poise or prowess. While Ford is pushing the boundaries of consumer preferences with a car that doesn't look or drive like the usual choices in this segment, the automaker didn't nail down this car's details. The Fusion has a great chassis and a good powertrain, but it doesn't feel like a put-together package. The Mazda does, and this makes it a friendlier, more usable car in daily life.
Winner: 2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring. The Mazda 6 moves into the final round.
We're down to our last two cars as the Honda Accord and Mazda 6 vie for overall victory. Check back tomorrow to read the head-to-head comparison of our finalists.
Family Sedan Spread
Welcome to Automobile Magazine's Midsize Madness, our comparison test of the kind of car you see on American roads every day, the midsize sedan.
As we noted in our Day One introduction, we've gathered eight of the best front-wheel-drive midsize sedans with fuel-efficient engines, and our mission is to sort them out in a way that will let their whole characters be revealed. We've driven all of these cars at the same time on the same roads, and we've made our notes and organized our facts and then argued about the results.
To our way of thinking, these are the best midsize sedans available in America right now. We've tried to ensure that our test cars represent a practical level of features - nicely equipped, as they say - yet don't cost too much. Given the practical realities of acquiring so many test cars at the same time, they aren't priced exactly the same, but they all cost within $7800 of each other.
These cars include: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.
To make our comparisons as direct as we can, we've organized a different kind of scheme, matching the cars in brackets just as you would in an athletic tournament. Lacking a "regular season," we've randomly seeded the participants, pitting competitors against one another by drawing names from a hat. The losers will be knocked out one by one until the winner presents itself.
Today, we present a full accounting of each car, and the match-ups will cut the pack in half, going from eight cars to four. Tomorrow, we cut it in half again, going from four cars to only two. These two will go head-to-head in a comparison on Thursday, and we will declare the winner on Friday.
We start the tournament with four match-ups:
  • Ford Fusion vs. Hyundai Sonata
  • Honda Accord vs. Toyota Camry
  • Kia Optima vs. Volkswagen Passat
  • Mazda 6 vs. Nissan Altima

Ford Fusion vs. Hyundai Sonata

2013 Ford Fusion SE
2013 Ford Fusion SE Vs 2013 Hyundai Sonata SE
The 2013 Ford Fusion SE is plainly the best athlete in this contest. The Aston Martin-style grille that this car wears shows you that Ford intends for the new Fusion to be a European sport sedan. In the same way that the Toyota Camry represents the extreme from the traditional side in this segment of midsize sedans, the Ford Fusion represents the extreme from the sporty side.
The 2013 Fusion is a great car if you're looking for a driving enthusiast's interpretation of a midsize sedan's mission, yet some compromises in utility are also required as a result. To give the 2013 Fusion a sporty roofline that still delivers adequate rear-seat headroom, the car's beltline gradually sweeps upward. Headroom is good, but the interior architecture makes rear passengers feel like they're in the back seat of an Audi TT. When it comes to driving, the Fusion has a sporty, alert instinct for a winding road, yet the car also lets you down somewhat in the daily slog because it feels heavy and the freeway ride is a little brittle.
Problem is, while everyone likes good styling, consumers also buy midsize sedans for their interior comfort and easy, low-cost operation. Problem is, while car people pay lip service to sporty driving dynamics, most people are just trying to get to work.
Nevertheless, if you're looking for a midsize sedan with sporty flavor, then the 2013 Ford Fusion SE should be playing for your team. The 178-hp, 1.6-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engine seems small and underpowered on the specification sheet, yet as road test editor Christopher Nelson reports, "It feels like it has just the right amount of power." The six-speed automatic transmission even feels sporty as it helps deliver 24 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
The same goes for the chassis. "Perhaps the best chassis here," deputy editor Joe DeMatio says of the Fusion. "Excellent steering feel and accuracy. The car feels really nimble." Senior web editor Phil Floraday concurs and says, "Good suspension, accurate steering." At the same time, Floraday notes, "The car is heavier than the competition - in most cases by about 200 pounds - and it feels enormously heavy from the driver's seat in a bad way. Plus compromised visibility cramps the cabin."
As you'd expect in a sport sedan, the seats are top-notch, yet not just in a sporty way. Managing editor Amy Skogstrom says, "The seats are extremely comfortable. Ford took some lessons from Volvo, and it shows." (Well, she likes things that are Swedish anyway, as you can tell from her name.) "As for MyFord Touch," Skogstrom continues, "at least there's a knob to change the radio station. However, I accidentally brushed my fingers across the climate controls and suddenly the temperature was set at 60 degrees."
Winning this contest requires more than just athleticism. We're aware of our own general preference for sporty driving, but even we acknowledge that a car that is used daily needs a certain kind of easy-going utility, and the Fusion might have a little too much personality going for it. - Todd Lassa
2013 Ford Fusion SE
Price:
$24,495/$29,180 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
16-valve DOHC turbocharged I-4
Displacement: 1.6 liters (97 cu in)
Horsepower: 178 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Electrically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 235/50R-17 96H
Tires: Michelin Energy Saver A/S
Measurements
L x W x H:
191.7 x 72.9 x 58.1 in
Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Track F/R: 62.7/62.4 in
Weight: 3421 lb
Headroom F/R: 39.2/37.8 in
Legroom F/R: 44.3/38.3 in
Passenger volume: 102.8 cu ft
Cargo volume: 16.0 cu ft
EPA mileage: 24/37/28 mpg city/highway/combined

2013 Hyundai Sonata SE
For the 2011 model year, the Hyundai Sonata left behind a past of generic midsize competence for a new life with cutting-edge styling, and we celebrated it with a spot on our list of All-Stars. We liked the combination of expressive sheetmetal, a feature-laden interior, and value for the money, plus the 2011 Sonata was among the first cars in the segment to abandon the option of a V-6 engine to focus on fuel-efficient four-cylinders.
But even All-Stars get old. Two years later, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata SE still offers a lot of style and features for the money, two strategic factors that have fueled the steady growth of Hyundai's sales. And yet the Sonata falls short in a tournament like this, where it has to match up against so many models that have been recently improved. How can such a thing happen in two years?
The answer is: there are now more cars that can play the style game, plus more models have embraced fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines and abandoned the V-6. "The Sonata is the clear loser of this match-up," deputy editor Joe DeMatio exclaims with surprise. "Excellent power delivery, but the engine is coarse and the transmission is its willing accomplice." Road test editor Christopher Nelson concurs. "I can see why this would've been an All-Star before its competitors were replaced with new models," he says. "It has a very strong engine, but it's coarse, with more idle noise than a good diesel."
When you break down the Sonata's game, you're surprised to find too many negatives. The Sonata's 200-hp four-cylinder is powerful, yet copy editor Rusty Blackwell found its throttle tip-in to be touchy. We also disliked the Sonata's mushy brakes and numb steering, while this car's sport suspension delivered too much road harshness for too little handling improvement. "On a smooth road, the Sonata feels fine, but get it on a road with some bumps and it immediately starts to feel twitchy and unsettled," managing editor Amy Skogstrom says.
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata delivers a lot of game for the money, and this continues to make it a leading value in its segment. Even so, it's just a little bit off from the best in every category, which proves crucial in a head-to-head tournament like this. For example, the bodywork is expressive, yet the roofline noticeably compromises rear-seat headroom. The Sonata SE's interior looks reassuringly traditional at very low cost, yet the same money gets you leather seating surfaces in the Kia Optima EX, for instance, seems like a small price to pay to get so much.
When the Hyundai Sonata SE is cruising calmly along the turnpike at 70 mph and the audio system is playing, this traditional midsize sedan seems like a sure winner. After all, it is a sound all-around player. But when you get the Sonata out of its comfort zone, it makes you wonder if there are more compelling choices in this segment. This is what happens when every team in the league raises its game. - Todd Lassa
2013 Hyundai Sonata SE
Price:
$24,120/$24,720 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement: 2.4 liters (144 cu in)
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 186 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Electrically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 225/45R-18 95V
Tires: Hankook Optimo
Measurements
L x W x H:
189.8 x 72.2 x 57.9 in
Wheelbase: 110.0 in
Track F/R: 62.5/62.5 in
Weight: 3260 lb
Headroom F/R: 40.0/37.8 in
Legroom F/R: 45.5/34.6 in
Passenger volume: 103.8 cu ft
Cargo volume: 16.4 cu ft
EPA mileage: 24/35/28 mpg city/highway/combined
Winner: 2013 Ford Fusion SE. The Fusion moves into the final four.

Honda Accord vs. Toyota Camry

2013 Honda Accord Sport
2012 Toyota Camry LE Vs 2013 Honda Accord Sport
The Honda Accord is a familiar player in the top rank of midsize sedans. It's a fan favorite that sold 331,872 examples in America during 2012, which made it the second-most-popular sedan in the country behind the Toyota Camry. Just like the Camry, the Accord builds its game on the core values of quality, durability, and reliability. And just as the Camry was comprehensively revised for 2012, the Accord comes onto the floor in 2013 thoroughly revised after some serious rethinking of its game.
Of course, we also remember the last-generation Accord, which changed its game plan from a handy-size international-style car to a fuller, more mature car for full-size Americans, and the reception from fans was mixed. Thankfully the 2013 Honda Accord plays the game in the light-footed style that we remember so fondly, both with a more expressive appearance and a livelier personality.
We particularly appreciate the fit and finish of the 2013 Honda Accord Sport's interior, which has a mature sophistication that's new to the brand. Almost everyone among us who has driven the 2013 Accord comments on the great look and feel of the cloth seat upholstery, which is in telling contrast to the impression made by the cloth upholstery of the 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV and 2012 Toyota Camry LE. And you can call us techno-phobic Luddites if you like, but we also pile praise on the knobs and buttons used to control the Accord's audio system, which are such a relief after a spell in the 2013 Ford Fusion with its MyFord Touch electronic interface.
The Accord earns high marks in powertrain refinement, too. While we're hardly fans of continuously variable automatic transmissions in general, we couldn't complain about this one. "The Accord's CVT really suits Honda's way of doing things and here at last it has refinement," West Coast editor Michael Jordan says. Copy editor Rusty Blackwell enjoys the characteristic smoothness with which the Honda's 189-hp, 2.4-liter in-line four makes power. Road test editor Christopher Nelson reports the engine's surprising responsiveness even in the middle range of the tachometer. Respectable EPA fuel-economy ratings of 26/35 mpg city/highway further confirm that the 2013 Accord has all the right moves when it comes to engine performance.
Driving the 2013 Honda Accord is hardly the dynamic revelation that this model was when the Accord was about the size of today's Honda Civic, yet its maker has made big strides in ride quality for 2013. Jordan applauds the well-damped suspension and surprisingly controlled body motions. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio is pleased with the accuracy of the electrically assisted steering. Although none of us would call the 2013 Accord the best-handling car in this group, it does deliver the best compromise between a smooth ride and responsive, fun-to-drive handling.
When you look to the box score, the 2013 Honda Accord Sport racks up more points than the competition with a surprisingly luxurious cabin, a very smooth and controlled ride, and an incredibly refined powertrain. It has every phase of its game in order. - Phil Floraday
2013 Honda Accord Sport
Price
: $24,980/$24,980 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement: 2.4 liters (144 cu in)
Horsepower: 189 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 182 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Electrically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 235/45R-18 94V
Tires: Michelin Primacy MXM4
Measurements
L x W x H:
191.4 x 72.8 x 57.7 in
Wheelbase: 109.3 in
Track F/R: 62.4/62.4 in
Weight: 3342 lb
Headroom F/R: 39.1/37.5 in
Legroom F/R: 42.5/38.5 in
Passenger volume: 103.2 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15.8 cu ft
EPA mileage: 26/35/29 mpg city/highway/combined
2012 Toyota Camry LE
The Toyota Camry enters this tournament with a number-one ranking. After all, it's the top-selling sedan in the country. Some 405,000 examples of the Toyota Camry were sold to Americans last year, a number so prodigious that only the Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks exceeded the Camry's sales success. This should be vindication for the complete makeover that the Camry had received for 2012, a rethink of style, equipment, and engineering to keep the car in the game with the improving competition.
But once its rivals show up, the Camry falls back on its old, familiar game plan. That is, QDR - quality, durability, and reliability. Beyond the laudable virtues of everyday utility, the 2012 Toyota Camry LE can't keep pace with the other cars in our test.
It might be the best-selling sedan in the country and one of the most important vehicles in our group, but the Camry just doesn't look that way. This innocuous silver Camry LE even led one of us to walk right by it when the cars were scattered in a parking lot during a stopover to switch drivers. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio declares that the exterior look of the Camry is as "exciting as a grocery cart." Managing editor Amy Skogstrom called the combination of silver paint and completely uninspired exterior styling "deadly."
There are also few words of praise for the Camry's interior. DeMatio approves of the above-average visibility, noting the slim A-pillars, but finds the fabric seat upholstery to be on par with "bad drapes from J. C. Penney, circa 1988." And even though this basic Camry LE test car's dash layout represents an effort to embrace the era of touchscreens and voice recognition, the buttons and knobs that remain look clunky and dated, though usable. Skogstrom speaks for us all when she says, "The interior needs some help."
One area where the Camry doesn't need any help is powertrain refinement. The engine and transmission perform with extreme smoothness. "The engine and transmission work with remarkable harmony, and this sets the car apart," says Jordan. Moreover, the Camry's chassis tuning also elicits overwhelmingly positive comments. Skogstrom discovered that the Camry soaks up bumps that send a Sonata skipping. DeMatio remarks upon an "overall feeling of competence," and he suggests that this is what comes of decades of experience in the creation of midsize sedans that meet the approval of a majority of Americans.
The 2012 Toyota Camry LE didn't win us over with its staid appearance, although we like its similarly traditional ride comfort and powertrain performance. In the end we'd recommend the Camry for friends and family who need reliable transportation, but this is not a car that plays the midsize-sedan game in the way that we personally prefer. - Phil Floraday
2012 Toyota Camry LE
Price:
$23,260/$23,700 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement: 2.5 liters (152 cu in)
Horsepower: 178 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Electrically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Control arms, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 205/65R-16 94S
Tires: Firestone Affinity Touring S4
Measurements
L x W x H:
189.2 x 71.1 x 57.9 in
Wheelbase: 109.3 in
Track F/R: 62.4/62.0 in
Weight: 3190 lb
Headroom F/R: 38.8/38.1 in
Legroom F/R: 41.6/38.9 in
Passenger volume: 102.7 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15.4 cu ft
EPA mileage: 25/35/28 mpg city/highway/combined
Winner: 2013 Honda Accord Sport. The Accord moves into the final four.

Kia Optima vs. Volkswagen Passat

2013 Kia Optima EX
2013 Kia Optima EX Vs 2013 Volkswagen Passat SE
Sometimes the game changes in unexpected ways. The previous-generation Kia Optima was such a loser that fewer than 40,000 examples were sold in the U.S. during 2009, the car's last full year of availability. Now the Optima has so much game that in 2012 more than 150,000 copies of the completely different, completely more attractive Optima found owners. If you don't have six figures in your sales charts, you're not a serious player in the market for midsize sedans. It's clear that the 2013 Kia Optima EX is a now serious player, and that is how it has brushed aside more familiar nameplates to get into this tournament.
The best place to experience the 2013 Optima, we have concluded, is from the driver's seat of another car following it from behind. The Optima looks darn good as it goes down the road, and its crisp, clean lines and sporty profile are aging well. Compared with the modern exterior, however, the interior might look too traditional, what with its large panels of fake dark wood. Nevertheless, managing editor Amy Skogstrom argues, "The two-tone palette of dark cherry and beige gives the car a rich feel." At the same time, everyone agrees that the bodywork's high beltline and kick-up in the rear doors induce claustrophobia for rear-seat passengers.
In all matters relating to the Kia Optima, we find ourselves comparing it with its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Sonata. Both cars are built at newish manufacturing facilities in the U.S., the Sonata in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Optima in West Point, Georgia. Kia has tried to position itself as the sportier of the two brands, and indeed the Optima drives kind of like a Sonata, only with the bass turned up. As West Coast editor Michael Jordan says, "Heavy steering, stiffer tires, stiffer dampers? All the clichés of a sport sedan are here." This strategy doesn't necessarily help the car feel very poised, though. Once you leave the freeway, the impressive body stability falls to pieces and the engine whirs unhappily.
About that engine. Although the 2.4-liter four-cylinder eagerly sends 200 hp to the ground through a six-speed automatic transmission, the direct-injection engine is noisy. Skogstrom says, "It simply doesn't feel as refined as the four-cylinders in the Camry and the Accord." As a result, it's less fun to drive this muscled-up chassis as quickly as the aggressive styling promises.
The 2013 Kia Optima EX looks like a toned athlete, but it lacks the coordination and sophistication to win. This car wants to be a sport sedan on the other side of the midsize-sedan continuum from the traditional-style Hyundai Sonata, but it plays better to the emotions of the showroom than to the realities of the daily commute. The Koreans have looked to Europe for their styling and to America for their product planning. Now they need to raid the engineering offices of BMW, Ford of Europe, or Volkswagen AG so they can up their dynamic game. - Joe DeMatio
2013 Kia Optima EX
Price:
$24,275/$25,524 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement: 2.4 liters (144 cu in)
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 186 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Hydraulically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 215/55R-17 93V
Tires: Kuhmo Solus KH25
Measurements
L x W x H:
190.7 x 72.1 x 57.3 in
Wheelbase: 110.0 in
Track F/R: 63.0/62.6 in
Weight: 3223 lb
Headroom F/R: 40.0/37.6 in
Legroom F/R: 45.5/34.7 in
Passenger volume: 102.2 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15.4 cu ft
EPA mileage: 24/35/28 mpg city/highway/combined

2013 Volkswagen Passat SE
The Volkswagen Passat has finally learned the rules of the game. When the car was recast to reflect American tastes by making it bigger, simpler, and cheaper, it suddenly became a big success in the U.S. There is a lesson in this about a simple formula for the American midsize car. While we'll miss the cut-price Mercedes-Benz that the Passat once was, we have to admit that the 2013 Volkswagen Passat SE is relevant to our market in a way that its forebears were not.
We'd argue that the optional, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine is the best choice for this model, though, as our opinions about our test car's five-cylinder gasoline engine are split. At 170 hp, this engine delivers less horsepower than any of the four-cylinder engines in the other seven cars we tested and produces less torque (177 lb-ft) than all the others except the Camry. Executive editor Todd Lassa says it shakes more at idle than the Camry four-cylinder, plus it makes, "an awful noise, especially under throttle tip-in." Meanwhile, senior web editor Phil Floraday says he likes the broad powerband nevertheless: "It's my favorite engine/transmission combination here." Road test editor Christopher Nelson probably takes the engine's true measure when he says, "It's better than the Korean engines but not as good as those of the Japanese." West Coast editor Michael Jordan concludes, "At least you're aware that the Passat has an engine, which is not something that can be said of the other cars in this test."
When it comes to chassis dynamics, there is no dispute, because the 2013 Passat SE shines where some of the other cars here stumble. Jordan says, "The Passat might look American but it is utterly like a European car in the way it goes down the road. The long-travel suspension is compliant, and you can feel the wheels stroking up and down as the car rides the bumps." In addition, the steering is accurate and communicative even if the effort level is very light, and you have a good idea of what's going on at the road surface, which is a core tenet of German chassis tuning.
A core tenet of American chassis design is passenger space, and the Passat has plenty, with an enormous rear seat and trunk that make this car a fine platform for road trips, although we wish there was a little less road noise. There's also an impressive sensation of space for the front-seat occupants thanks to the low dashboard, unobtrusive instruments, and slim windshield pillars. Visibility is very good in all directions. Managing editor Amy Skogstrom also says, "The layout of the interior is functional, but it feels clinical, as so many German cars do." The driver's seat has a pretty flat bottom cushion without much lateral support, but it has power lumbar adjustment and proves pretty comfortable on long drives.
When you look closely at the 2013 Volkswagen Passat SE, you won't find a cut-price Mercedes-Benz. Instead you'll find something that might be even better, a classic American sedan built affordably in Tennessee yet engineered with German flavor and quality. Just make sure you test-drive the diesel. - Joe DeMatio
2013 Volkswagen Passat SE w/sunroof & navigation
Price:
$24,790/$27,790 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
20-valve DOHC I-5
Displacement: 2.5 liters (151 cu in)
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Hydraulically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 215/55R-17 97H
Tires: Continental ContiProContact
Measurements
L x W x H:
191.6 x 72.2 x 58.5 in
Wheelbase: 110.4 in
Track F/R: 62.1/61.0 in
Weight: 3221 lb
Headroom F/R: 38.3/37.8 in
Legroom F/R: 42.4/39.1 in
Passenger volume: 102.0 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15.9 cu ft
EPA mileage: 22/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined
Winner: 2013 Volkswagen Passat SE. The Passat moves into the final four.

Mazda 6 vs. Nissan Altima

2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring
2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring Vs 2013 Nissan Altima 2 5 SV
The Mazda 6 has always struggled to find its niche in the midsize segment. From the first, it has played the game like a scrappy minor-leaguer - small and athletic. In its 2003 iteration, we loved it and named it an All-Star, yet people in the real world kept buying Toyota Camrys. Even when it stretched a handful of inches for 2009, the Mazda 6 still played the game like a sport sedan instead of a traditional midsize sedan, and we liked that. Of course, Americans kept right on buying Camrys.
The 2014 Mazda 6 is still relying on the same scrappy strategy, but now every aspect of its game has been thoughtfully improved and the result is a genuine major-league effort. What gives us hope that people will embrace it at last is its styling. "This car is gorgeous, nothing like the generic Japanese cars of the past," notes West Coast editor Michael Jordan. This car's proportions convey a rear-wheel-drive look while its sinuous curves suggest right-size elegance, which is quite a feat since the front-wheel-drive 2014 Mazda 6 measures slightly larger in all exterior dimensions than a Toyota Camry.
This revised platform for the 2014 Mazda 6 has been stretched a couple of inches, so there's plenty of room for passengers, although the interior feels a bit tighter than the Camry and the Honda Accord. "From the driver's seat, the cabin feels spacious and airy," says managing editor Amy Skogstrom. Still, the cabin doesn't live up to the exterior's standard of style, as good fit and finish is undercut by unadventurous design and use of color. The small touchscreen that serves as the interface for the navigation system and radio seems pleasantly unobtrusive to some and too small to use to others. But as always, Mazda has nailed the stuff that matters to drivers, which means legible gauges, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, deeply bolstered sport seats, and an honest-to-goodness handbrake.
The 2014 Mazda 6 doesn't drive like a four-door Miata, but it is fun to drive in that inimitable Mazda way. Its chassis is tautly controlled and nicely balanced, plus the electrically assisted steering is sharp, although it should offer a bit more feedback. The 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is no powerhouse, but it responds well when you flog it and gets good fuel economy when you don't thanks to Mazda's smooth six-speed automatic transmission. The flip side of such driver engagement is that the sporty Mazda 6 isn't as plush to drive as the Accord or the Camry. "It's a little too lively, as if it's a Mazda 3 in disguise," says Jordan. There's also a bit more road noise than we'd like, especially in the back seat.
As a perennial challenger, the 2014 Mazda 6 can't afford to be exactly like an Accord or Camry for fear of being lost among the taller players on the court. Nevertheless, this latest iteration is sporty and stylish enough to stand apart from its more popular competitors while still meeting them head-on with important things like fuel economy and a package that's easy to drive. - David Zenlea
2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring
Price:
$30,290/$31,490 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement: 2.5 liters (152 cu in)
Horsepower: 184 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Electrically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 225/45R-19 92H
Tires: Bridgestone Blizzak LM60
Measurements
L x W x H:
191.5 x 72.4 x 57.1 in
Wheelbase: 111.4 in
Track F/R: 62.8/62.4 in
Weight: 3232 lb
Headroom F/R: 37.4/37.1 in
Legroom F/R: 42.2/38.7 in
Passenger volume: 99.7 cu ft
Cargo volume: 14.8 cu ft
EPA mileage: 26/38/30 mpg city/highway/combined
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
The Nissan Altima broke out of anonymity in 2002 by offering more power, more personality, and - most important - more size. By becoming a big, brawny car, it elbowed its way underneath the basket with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Altima confirmed its enduring appeal last year when 302,934 examples were sold. This makes it the third-most-popular car in the immensely popular category behind the Camry and Accord.
The 2013 Nissan Altima has been comprehensively revised, yet it rides on the same basic platform that it has since 2007 and looks much like it has for the last ten years, only softer and more upscale. It aspires to real style but in a way that won't offend anyone. The same can't be said for the cabin, unfortunately. This affordable trim level of the Altima, with its beige cloth upholstery, looks like it's from the past. "The mouse-fur upholstery looks like something you'd find in a 1970s custom van," says copy editor Rusty Blackwell.
What the interior lacks in style, it makes up for with space. Front passengers enjoy scads of legroom, and the back seat feels more comfortable to us than the competition even though its measurements aren't much different. "I could spend a few hours back here and be happy," notes deputy editor Joe DeMatio. It helps that the seats both front and back are soft and wide enough to please the softest and widest Americans. Traditional, intuitive control knobs and buttons also please us.
Nissan once promoted this model as something of a sport sedan, but the rethought 2013 Altima comes into the game in a far less muscular state of tune. As they say, an athlete's legs are the first to go, and while the Altima's suspension feels fine on the freeway, its knees buckle at the mere suggestion of cornering forces. Flaccid electrically assisted steering also offers no hint of what the front wheels are doing. This big man doesn't show much instinct for speed, either. The 182-hp four-cylinder engine is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission, and while the combination provides acceptable thrust, the engine discourages hard acceleration by moaning plaintively under full throttle. "If I were deaf, I might like this powertrain," says managing editor Amy Skogstrom.
All this isn't to say the 2013 Nissan Altima drives badly. When we behave ourselves, the 2013 Altima impresses us. "The Altima bounds down the road with a fluidity that many competitors do not possess," notes DeMatio. Even so, this is a long way from being a four-door sports car. "The Altima feels like a big car," adds West Coast editor Michael Jordan, "although in a good way."
The 2013 Nissan Altima plays the game like the established player it has become. It's spacious, comfortable, fuel-efficient and easy to drive. "It doesn't try to be anything other than a midsize sedan, which is actually refreshing," concludes road test editor Christopher Nelson. But for us, this also makes the Altima, in the words of another editor, "the least interesting car in our test." - David Zenlea
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Price:
$24,880/$27,005 (base/as tested)
Powertrain
Engine:
16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement: 2.5 liters (152 cu in)
Horsepower: 182 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering:
Electrohydraulically assisted
Front suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs, ABS
Tire size: 215/55R-17 93V
Tires: Continental ContiProContact
Measurements
L x W x H:
191.5 x 72.0 x 57.9 in
Wheelbase: 109.3 in
Track F/R: 62.4/62.4 in
Weight: 3121 lb
Headroom F/R: 39.1/37.1 in
Legroom F/R: 45.0/36.1 in
Passenger volume: 100.5 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15.4 cu ft
EPA mileage: 27/38/31 mpg city/highway/combined
Winner: 2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring. The Mazda 6 moves into the final four.
Family Sedan Graphic
Mainstream sedans--millions of them. Get out there on the road and you'll find them. Not too big and not too small, all built for the way we drive in this country--even if the carmakers labels seem to come from elsewhere. These are midsize cars built to suit American roads and American drivers, so we really should call them American sedans.
Family Sedan Spread
These are pretty much the best, most practical sedans in the world. You get plenty of passenger room and no end of features, plus you don't have to spend too much for the privilege of ownership. The cars almost never, ever break down, since every little component has been refined to the last degree during miles and miles of testing by dozens of engineers and miles and miles of just plain driving by millions of owners. Like a stone that you find in a river, all the rough edges have been worn off of these cars until only the truest, purest form remains.
We've gathered eight midsize American sedans that speak to the priorities we have at Automobile Magazine: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat. Some have style, some have speed, and some have reliability, yet all have a unique, definable character. By choosing one of them as the best, we hope to not only define the current state of the American midsize sedan but also define the character that those of us who read Automobile want in a practical, everyday kind of car.
We haven't included every car in this segment because, well, such a test would be a mess. We elected to compare front-wheel-drive family sedans powered by four-cylinder engines, and there are a lot of them. Not every car had the right kind of game to make the tournament, among them the Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, and Chevrolet Malibu. The Subaru Legacy is available only with all-wheel drive, so we set up a match with an all-wheel-drive Ford Fusion to get a different perspective.
We'll admit that our standards are perhaps impractically high. We can't pretend to be the average buyer, because, well, that would be impossible. Just like you, we are who we are. If you want complete objectivity unconfused by education, experience, enthusiasm, and just plain good taste, well, good luck.
The choices we'll make will be just as difficult yet just as final as the ones consumers make. We're going to match the cars head-to-head, weigh the assets and liabilities, and then choose. We're not going to dumb down the process into some kind of SAT test, where like eraser-head geeks we carefully add up the points scored in a thousand little categories of performance. When you do that, you reward broad-based mediocrity, not excellence. And at Automobile Magazine, we're all about excellence.
We think the question of choice is personal and powerful, and a one-to-one confrontation reveals character in a way that giant test groups do not. The things we care about in every match-up might change as we wrestle with the differences between cars, but we're sure that this overall strategy will enable a real winner to emerge. After all, we're looking for a great car, not great statistics.
To give a little real-world perspective to the whole process ("real world" being a largely foreign concept to those of us at Automobile), we've arranged the participants in brackets just as you would in an athletic tournament. The losers will be knocked out one by one until the winner presents itself.
It's a different kind of comparison test, but it's one that suits us. For us, its all about driving.
Come back to automobilemag.com tomorrow morning for the first round of Midsize Madness.
2014 Mazda6 Front Three Quarter In Motion
Competing against sales giants like the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, and the Nissan Altima, the Mazda 6 has long been overshadowed in the midsize sedan market. Although a competent contender, Mazda's entry has been hampered by a generic name, anonymous styling, and mediocre fuel economy. The name hasn't changed, but the all-new 2014 Mazda6 does have a new look, improved fuel economy, and a more engaging driving experience, which should help it emerge from the shadows.
The Japanese, it seems, cannot restyle a car without coming up with a name for their effort. At Mazda, the current design language is dubbed Kodo, which means "soul of motion." The Kodo design language first appeared on the CX-5 but is perhaps better realized here. The upright front end has a serious appearance with overtones of the BMW 3-series; the profile, meanwhile, is rakish yet still sedan-like. The Mazda6 achieves more cab-rearward proportions due to its shorter front overhang and longer dash-to-front-axle distance, both enabled by canting the engine back by ten degrees.
It's clear that Mazda engineers paid careful attention to the driver's relationship to his surroundings. Reduced wheel well intrusion allowed the pedals to been moved slightly to the left; Mazda also switched to a floor-hinged throttle and fitted a large dead pedal. The small-diameter steering wheel has a thick rim wrapped in smooth leather, and the seats are firm, with plenty of lateral support. The deeply hooded trio of gauges and the cockpit-like layout create a sportier, more intimate environment than the midsize sedan norm. The upper dash houses the requisite touch screen, which on higher trim models also can be controlled via a knob on the console that's similar to the one provided by BMW's iDrive system. It's too bad the TomTom navigation system is slow acting and cheap looking. We were, however, happy to see that Mazda stayed with the driver-friendly simplicity of three large dials to control temperature and fan speed, plus volume and tuning knobs for the audio system. The overall interior design is richer than before, with sculpted door panels, padded surfaces, and metal trim. The top-spec model's available two-tone off-white and black leather livens up the cabin; lesser models get leatherette or cloth.
The new exterior and interior are only the most visible changes, but the 2014 Mazda6 also rides on an all-new platform, which is stiffer and lighter. The new car's wheelbase is 1.6 inches longer but its overall length is two inches shorter. Overall width is the same. Predictably, electrically assisted power steering has arrived, but Mazda engineers have done a good job tuning this system. It's quick and precise, if a little wanting for feedback. The ride and handling were a little harder to judge. The car was composed and responsive on the smooth roads in the French countryside, but our drive on the eve of the Paris Motor Show was restricted to European-spec cars, and suspension tuning will be different for the U.S. market. (We'll have a chance to drive U.S.-spec cars in January, right about the time they arrive in dealerships.)
Under the hood, the optional V-6 is gone, and the old 170-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder has been replaced by a new, 2.5-liter SkyActiv unit four, a larger version of the 2.0-liter engine in the Mazda 3 and the CX-5. (Look for the 2.5 to find its way into Mazda's popular crossover sometime soon.) Like its smaller sibling, the 2.5-liter features direct injection and dual variable valve timing. It's energetic off the line but midrange punch is a little wanting. Still, its 189 horsepower is enough to send the 3232-lb sedan from 0 to 62 mph in a factory-measured 7.8 seconds.
We also spent some time with the 2.2-liter SkyActiv turbodiesel, which has plenty of midrange punch--thanks to 310 pound-feet of torque that comes on stream at 2000 rpm. Its 173 horsepower is also extremely good for a four-cylinder diesel, and a twin-stage turbocharger helps makes for better-integrated boost and a fairly linear throttle response. So far, the company hasn't said whether this engine will be offered in the U.S. Mazda 6, only that the diesel will be sold here in some car. We drove the diesel with the six-speed manual transmission, a combination that matches the 7.8-second 0-to-62-mph time of the 2.5-liter. The newly designed manual -- which is confirmed for our market -- has shorter throws and slips through the gates with a light touch. It's backed up by an easy-to-use clutch. Too bad few U.S. buyers will take it. Instead, they'll flock to the six-speed automatic, which has shift paddles and performed admirably enough in our short experience with it.
Mazda does not yet have EPA fuel economy ratings for the new 6, but the company is hoping for best-in-class figures. It will be a tall order, however, to top the current class leader, the Nissan Altima, which rings in at 27/38 mpg city/highway. Mazda has a couple of technologies to help in its quest, however. The first is a brake energy regeneration system called i-ELOOP (catchy, huh?). Rather than storing the recaptured energy in a battery, however, it's stored in a capacitor, which is quickly recharged and can power all the electric accessories in the car for brief periods. This means that less engine power is needed to run the alternator.
Another fuel saver is auto stop/start. This system is on both the automatic and manual transmissions -- on the manual it doesn't shut the engine down unless you shift into neutral when you stop, which keeps it from being overly annoying. Restarts aren't quite as smooth as in the new Ford Fusion; drivers who find it bothersome can switch it off. Other new tech features finding their way into the Mazda 6 for the first time are mostly safety-related: lane departure warning, adaptive front lighting, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning; and in low-speed, city driving conditions (up to 18 mph), Smart City Brake Support can take an unheeded warning one step further by automatically applying the brakes -- similar to Volvo's City Safety system.
The Mazda6's charms are subtly revealed, particularly to the discerning driver. This car isn't likely to blaze a swath through the dense forest of big-name competitors, with their huge built-in base of repeat buyers. But the 2014 version of Mazda's midsize entry has enough style and enough of the brand's Zoom-Zoom chops to significantly raise its profile.
2014 Mazda 6
On sale: January 2013
Base price: $22,000 (estimated)
Engine: 2.5L I-4
Power: 189 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 189 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Drive: Front-wheel
Fuel Economy: N/A
2014 Mazda6 Sport Front
2014 Mazda 6

New For 2014

The 2014 Mazda 6 is largely unchanged from its introduction as an all-new model in 2013. A 2.2-liter diesel engine will become available in winter 2014.

Vehicle Summary

Mazda has always been a company that likes to think outside of the box, but only recently has this imaginative point of view paid off in commercial success. The first-generation Mazda 6 caused a stir because its compact, international-size package posed an interesting alternative to mid-size sedans from Europe and Japan that were growing longer and heavier. The longer, more spacious second-generation Mazda 6 enhanced the model's reputation for dynamic goodness, but neither the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine nor the 3.0-liter V-6 delivered the kind of fuel efficiency that became important in the aftermath of a sizable spike in gasoline prices.

Even so, the Mazda 6 has always represented an intriguing combination of European-style personality and Japanese-style quality, so it gets on the shopping list of many sedan buyers. With the 2014 Mazda 6 that debuted last year, this car finally might find the audience it deserves. It has the zoom-zoom spirit that has been Mazda's hallmark for some time, but even more important is the car's new-found sophistication and refinement, and now it is just as composed on the road as its rivals in the market of mid-size sedans.

Overview

The 2014 Mazda 6 is largely unchanged from the 2013 car, which had been completely re-engineered. This front-wheel-drive sedan continues to stand apart from its rivals thanks to its fun-to-drive personality, but it is the Mazda 6's refinement on the highway that will make buyers choose pick it out of a crowded field of competitors. It's now a better match with its rivals in terms of practical things like passenger space and fuel-efficiency, not to mention quietness and comfort.

A new chassis with a sizable amount of lightweight, high-strength steel is the basic building block here, yet the secret to the 6's highway composure is a long wheelbase that delivers a European-style measure of sure-footedness on the road. Just as important, there's more room within the cabin, especially in the back seat. The 2014 Mazda 6 still drives like a small, handy car, yet it has much the same interior spaciousness as a Honda Accord.

A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the only choice here, but its output of 184 hp at 5700 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3250 rpm is enough motivation for this 3200-pound car to make you forget all about a V-6. Indeed, the Mazda 6's EPA rating reminds you why powerful but thirsty V-6s are out of fashion in mid-size sedans, as the car is rated at 25/37 mpg city/highway when the six-speed manual transmission is in place and 26/38 mpg when the six-speed automatic is selected.

The Mazda 6 ranked second in a 2013 comparison test of mid-size sedans by Automobile Magazine, just behind the Honda Accord. The car's lively personality helped it to win votes, yet we also appreciated its impressive complement of convenience and safety features, some unavailable elsewhere in this class.

You'll like:

  • Same agility, new comfort
  • Impressive safety features
  • Availability of diesel engine

You won't like:

  • Road noise
  • Nav system is best for directions, not maps
  • Interior style doesn't measure up to dramatic exterior

Key Competitors

  • Ford Fusion
  • Honda Accord
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Volkswagen Passat
Mazda Skyactiv Diesel Prototype Racer
We're still waiting for the official arrival of the diesel-powered Mazda6 in U.S. showrooms, but that's not stopping Mazda from actively campaigning diesel-powered race cars in the U.S. Following the success of the Skyactiv-D-powered Mazda6 in the Grand Am GX series, Mazda is entering a prototype race car in the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Mazda 6 SkyActiv D Race Car Trio
Mazda will once again attempt to demonstrate the performance and durability of its SkyActiv-D diesel-powered 6 sedan by entering a trio of the cars into the 25 Hours of Thunderhill race. Of the three Mazda 6 diesel racers, one will be fielded by a team of Mazda North American Operations employees and two others will be driven by representatives from Mazda dealers.
2014 Mazda 6 Front Three Quarters
With the upcoming 2014 Mazda 6 Skyactiv-D, Mazda will be the only Japanese automaker to sell a diesel passenger car in the U.S. However, although the car was originally supposed to be released by the end of this year, a Mazda representative told us today that the on sale date for the 2014 Mazda 6 Skyactiv-D will be delayed until late spring 2014 to accommodate final emissions testing and certification.
2014 Mazda CX 5 Profile
Mazda will have a busy 2014, as the automaker will not only launch an update Mazda 2 hatchback, it will also refresh the CX-5 crossover and 6 sedan. According to Automotive News, Mazda will update the CX-5 and 6 with new front fascias and new interiors in late 2014 or early 2015. Although both cars are relatively new, Mazda reportedly wants to roll out updates more often in the future.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA6
2014 Mazda MAZDA6
I Sport FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
26 MPG City | 38 MPG Hwy
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2014 Mazda MAZDA6
2014 Mazda MAZDA6
I Sport FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
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2014 Mazda MAZDA6
2014 Mazda MAZDA6
I Sport FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
184hp
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2014 Mazda MAZDA6 Specifications

Quick Glance:
Engine
2.5L I4Engine
Fuel economy City:
25 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
37 MPG
Horsepower:
184 hp @ 5700rpm
Torque:
185 ft lb of torque @ 3250rpm
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats (optional)
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control
  • Sunroof (optional)
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential (optional)
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
Vehicle
36,000 miles / 36 months
Powertrain
60,000 miles / 60 months
Corrosion
Unlimited miles / 60 months
Roadside
36,000 miles / 36 months
Recall Date
12-31-1969:21:35:40
Component
FUEL SYSTEM, GASOLINE:STORAGE:TANK ASSEMBLY
Summary
Mazda North America Operations (Mazda) is recalling certain model year 2014 Mazda6 vehicles manufactured October 25, 2012, through May 9, 2013. In the affected vehicles, it is possible to fill the fuel tank beyond its rated capacity.
Consequences
If the tank is overfilled, gas may flow into the charcoal canister (an evaporative emissions component) and possibly leak from the canister's external vent, increasing the risk of a fire.
Remedy
Mazda will notify owners and dealers will inspect and add an adapter to the shut off valve in the fuel tank and also inspect the charcoal canister for the presence of gasoline, replacing it as necessary, free of charge. The recall began on May 19, 2014. Owners may contact Mazda at 1-800-222-5500. Mazda's number for this recall is 7414D.
Potential Units Affected
19,000
Notes
Mazda North American Operations


Recall Date
12-31-1969:21:35:40
Component
ELECTRICAL SYSTEM:ALTERNATOR/GENERATOR/REGULATOR
Summary
Mazda North America Operations (Mazda) is recalling certain model year 2014 Mazda3 vehicles manufactured June 12, 2013, through December 18, 2013, and model year 2014-2015 Mazda6 vehicles manufactured May 20, 2013, through December 4, 2013, and both equipped with a 2.5L engine and a regenerative engine braking system. When driving the affected vehicles in heavy rain or in deep puddles, the alternator belt may slip causing the Power Control module (PCM) to incorrectly assume failure of the charging system.
Consequences
Once the PCM assumes that the charging system has failed, the vehicle will stop charging and could result in poor acceleration, loss of steering assist and windshield wiper operation, and a possible engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash.
Remedy
Mazda will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the PCM with updated software, free of charge. The recall began on May 19, 2014. Owners may contact Mazda at 1-800-222-5500. Mazda's number for this recall is 7314D.
Potential Units Affected
5,700
Notes
Mazda North American Operations


Recall Date
12-31-1969:21:35:41
Component
TIRES:PRESSURE MONITORING AND REGULATING SYSTEMS
Summary
Mazda North American Operations (Mazda) is recalling certain model year 2014-2015 Mazda6 vehicles manufactured October 25, 2012, to October 10, 2014. If the pressures of four of the tires on an affected vehicle gradually drop at the same time, the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) may not warn the driver of the drop in pressure. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 138, "Tire Pressure Monitoring System."
Consequences
A vehicle that is driven with under inflated tires may experience a sudden tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.
Remedy
Mazda will notify owners, and dealers will update the TPMS software, free of charge. The recall began on December 10, 2014. Owners may contact Mazda customer service at 1-800-222-5500.
Potential Units Affected
99,711
Notes
Mazda North American Operations


IIHS Front Small Overlap
Acceptable
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rollover
Not Rated
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
Good
IIHS Overall Side Crash
Good
IIHS Best Pick
1
IIHS Rear Crash
Good
IIHS Roof Strength
Good

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2014 Mazda MAZDA6

Depreciation
34.8%
Loss in Value + Expenses
= 5 Year Cost to Own
Depreciation
$10,835
34.8%
Insurance
$6,475
20.8%
Fuel Cost
$8,103
26%
Financing
$2,279
7.3%
Maintenance
$2,480
8%
Repair Costs
$609
2%
State Fees
$385
1.2%
Five Year Cost of Ownership: $31,166 What's This?
Value Rating: Above Average