It might surprise you, but I've never driven a Mazda6 before. A good friend of mine had the first generation Mazda6 V6 6MT in high school, and from memory it was a pretty quick car considering it wasn't the Speed6. The Mazda6 has certainly evolved quite a bit since 2004 when my friend had his car, so we wanted to see what innovations and changes have been brought to this third generation mid-size family sedan.
We're reviewing the 2017 model year, which isn't typical for most automotive publications, especially considering the 2018 model has already been announced and shown to the public, however we wanted an opportunity to feature the only current Mazda model we haven't driven, for two main reasons. First off, the 2017 is the vehicle you can buy today, if you walk into your local Mazda dealership with $33,185 you can walk out the door with this Mazda6 GT and a smile on your face. Also, we love a great deal, and the best time to jump into a new(er) car is when the next one has been announced, allowing you to possibly score a deal on last year's inventory.
The Mazda6 GT we're driving also comes with the 6 speed manual transmission, which has been offered on Mazda's sedans forever and continues with this mid-size family car, making it one of only 3 others sold in North America that allow you to option the manual. The Subaru Legacy and Honda Accord can come with a 6 speed, or the BMW M6 Grand Coupé.
One thing we noticed early on with the Mazda6 was the lower illuminated grille which comes on with the vehicle's parking lights. It's barely noticeable during the day, but at night you can really see the added outline of the grille. A few other manufacturers have started to light up their front badges, and in most cases it looks very tacky, but the Mazda6 (and CX-9 Signature) have an elegant design technique that doesn't make the front end stand out more than it needs to. This is a very humble car, with a very nice front end.
The rest of the exterior follows Mazda's current design language, with a similar look to the smaller Mazda3 and CX model of crossover SUVs. Overall we really liked the design and size of the Mazda6, being only a few inches longer than our own CX-5, but providing what felt like a good amount of additional passenger space on the inside.
The GT trim adds leather seating, navigation, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and LED lighting for the headlights, fog lamps, and interior dome lighting. You also get Mazda's dual zone automatic climate control system, a power moon roof, an 11-speaker Bose® audio system, and leather trim throughout the door cards and centre console. We found all the surfaces like the centre arm rest and doors to be soft to the touch and very comfortable on longer drives. The interior space was also quite good, both for myself as a large driver, but also for passengers. We had a friend of ours who stands at 6'5" sit in the passenger seat, and while he did have to push it all the way back, he was very comfortable with ample head and leg room.
The backseat area is also nice, with supportive heated seats and a comfortably positioned arm rest. Our 4 year old's larger car seat had no issues fitting back there with zero issues buckling her up. Since the Mazda6 is a sedan, she was easily able to get in and out of the car on her own, and the rear doors open up quite wide for easier access. We would have liked to see an optional rear climate control system, along with rear window sun shades and a panoramic sunroof. If Mazda plans to promote their Signature brand into the premium segment, features like this will be a must to compete.
We also had the opportunity to drive this car in a lot of different weather conditions over the two weeks we had it during the Christmas holidays. We ended up picking the car up from Montreal in a snow storm, and the car handled admirably on the unplowed roads and aggressive drivers. We did have some issues with the forward collision warning system, as the camera in the windshield would often get covered by snow, but it would eventually correct itself throughout the drive.
The car was also spectacular in the dry conditions, allowing us to drive comfortably around town, on the highways, and to push the car a little bit with that 6 speed manual transmission. The larger 2.5L Skyactiv-G engine found on this car certainly helps to give this car a sporty feel to it, despite only producing 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers certainly look small on paper, but when you actually get on the road they no longer matter. We never had an issue with power delivery or performance during our testing, and found the 8.6L/100km fuel economy to be quite reasonable given the manual transmission.
There's still a great demand for mid-size family sedans even with the SUV craze. We thoroughly enjoyed driving this Mazda6 and certainly recommend going with the GT trim to get the full experience. Also, like other Mazda models, opting for the manual transmission limits the amount of options you can add onto the car. If you want a fully loaded GT with Technology and Premium packages, which adds things like XM radio, active front air shutters, regenerative braking, nappa leather seating, and other goodies, you do need to get the automatic. All-in though we found the 6 speed manual to be a real blast to drive around, and while we always love Mazda's radar cruise control, the ability to row your own gears is a good trade off.
You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2017 Mazda6 GT 6MT below: