2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport review: Bad boy looks but mpg friendly

2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport

2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport

Mazda’s Mazda6 has had trouble getting traction. No, not the low mu, slippery surface kind of traction, but rather getting a grip on the sales corralled by the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. It’s nothing new for Mazda, which has played fourth fiddle to the big three in Japanese midsizers for a long time.

The 2014 Mazda Mazda6 should change that, at least if there’s any justice in the automotive market. Not that its predecessors have been lacking. The Mazda has been just as good its rivals, but good as is seldom enough.

The 2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport has a horizontal brushed metal-look bar across the dash.

The 2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport has a horizontal brushed metal-look bar across the dash and bisecting a nacelle that holds the audio controls or, in premium models can be filled with the multi-information display. (click to enlarge)

The new Mazda6, however, should change that. As with the Hyundai and the Sonata, Mazda has brought visual excitement to the Mazda6, Mazda unleashing its Kodo design philosophy. The Mazda6 brings not only the popular coupe-like roof but sports car-like fenders and hood. The prior generation Mazda6 had bulging fenders, but the 2014 stretches them back onto the front doors. The grille is an open maw with a thin-line chrome jaw beard, the bottom edge of the front fascia shaped into a race car-like aerodynamic splitter for better airflow control.

It all make the previous Mazda6 looks feminine by comparison.

2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport instrument panel

The 2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport instrument panel has a large central speedometer with the tach to the left and driver information to the right. (click to enlarge)

In fact, we’d say the 2014 Mazda6 has the toughest tough guy styling of not only its three Japanese rivals, but of all mid-price mid-size sedans. It’s the family sedan that puts more excitement in a family sedan than a trip to a water park.

Inside the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 is dramatic without chewing the scenery, a wind drift contour to the dash top with a three-dial instrument panel and a center stack that’s not a stack but a bisected geometric shape that hasn’t been named yet, containing the audio/infotainment screen along with the climate control knobs lower on the dash front. The trim in our test 2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport was a subtle brush metal look against black, with a textured and durable-feeling seat fabric.

Mazda has hidden a USB port and an aux plug along with a 12v charging socket in the center armrest, and the center console has cup holders that are too close together to fit two standard fast foot beverage cups, though it is well suited for soft drink cans. At least there’s french fries holder in the center console.  Mazda, is the spirit of zoom-zoom, has a parking brake hand lever between the seats.

The 2.5-liter four in the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport

The 2.5-liter four in the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Sport has a 13:1 compression ratio. (click to enlarge)

The seats are comfy, with back side bolstering on the front buckets, and toe room under the front seats to help back seat passengers with legroom. The steep angle of the windshield and rear window, however, complicates entry. Watch your head getting in and out.

So the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 is a very nice automobile. The ride is smooth. It’s not quite as quiet as some but still very good. And handling is from the company that brought you the Miata. Mazda calls the Mazda6 “the true definition of the modern sports sedan.” We won’t argue with that.

If there’s one shortcoming, however, it’s under the hood. It’s a technical marvel, but seriously, only 184 horsepower as the only choice, this when the Korean competition has the option of almost 100 horsepower more? It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the engine. It makes the right snarl when accelerating, and it’s so smooth that it’s easy to leave it a gear or two too low on the highway, spinning a thousand or so rpm to high and killing the fuel mileage.

And that is where this engine excels. The Mazda 2.5-liter SkyActiv engine is stingier than Ebenezer Scrooge on December 24th. The technical side of it is that the engine has a super-high 13.0:1 compression ratio, all the better for volumetric efficiency, which is tech talk for getting more from the same size. It has direct injection with an injector with six tiny holes for a particularly fine mist. What Mazda does differently than other direct injection engines is have a “volcano-like” bowl in the top of its piston face to contain the initial combustion.