2014 Mazda6 Test Drive at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

2014 Mazda6 on the highway
The 2014 Mazda6 has the race-bred road manners you expect from a Mazda sedan.

When an automaker skips a model year and brings out a new car with next year’s year on it, you know that they want to grab your attention. The 2014 Mazda6 is a substantial redesign of Mazda’s popular mid-size four-door sedan, and unlike most year-skippers, this car is so significant that it really deserves that extra year.

SKYACTIV Technology

The new Mazda6 offers the full suite of Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology in a passenger car. SKYACTIV is a combination of improvements to the chassis, engine, body and drivetrain that combine to produce greatly enhanced fuel economy without sacrificing the performance you expect from a Mazda.

2014 Mazda6 Sedan
The 2014 Mazda6 can be yours for as little as $21,675, and for that money, you’ll get a car you can take to the race track or to the opera.

Mazda has been late to the alt-fuel game, eschewing the EVs and hybrids that other automakers have used to stay in the news. But the SKYACTIV program has delivered comparable improvements in fuel economy, and promises more to come. For example, one of Mazda’s new features is a 2.2-liter twin-turbo-diesel Mazda6 that is rated at 44 MPG on the highway. The diesel engine Mazda6 will be in showrooms later this year, but the car is already winning races in the Grand-Am series.

2014 Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D Race Car
The 2014 Mazda6 with the SKYACTIV-D Diesel engine – this car is winning races in the Grand-Am series.

Available Engines and Fuel Economy

The main engine available in the 2014 Mazda6 is a turbocharged 2.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder, producing 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Mated with the 6-Speed SKYACTIV manual transmission, that’s good for 25/37 MPG, and you get 38 MPG on the highway if you opt for the paddle-shifted 6-speed SKYACTIV automatic transmission. Those are excellent numbers for a C-platform sedan with a conventional engine. By comparison, the basic Toyota Camry hybrid offers 39 MPG highway, and the XLE Camry hybrid offers the same 38 highway MPG. Of course, the hybrids offer much better city MPG, so choose your car according to your driving habits.

2014 Mazda6 side view
The 2014 Mazda6 is sleek, sporty, and performs well outside its price class.

Interior Qualities

The rest of the new Mazda6 is as expected. The interior is nicely put together with quality materials and sensible controls. Outside, the Mazda6 reflects Mazda?s current Kodo design philosophy, and it has the aggressively stylized looks of all Mazdas from the last 5 years or so. You won’t be disappointed with trunk space or legroom. About the only criticism I can make was the voice-activation on the navigation system. Maybe the car needed to train me to speak clearly, but it was consistently unable to understand simple requests. Picking the car up in San Jose, the navigation asked for my destination. I said “Monterey” and it responded with “Locating nearest opera.” As they say, a tiny little first-world problem.

2014 Mazda6 interior
The 2014 Mazda6 interior treatment reflects Mazda’s no-nonsense sports car aesthetic – a distinct lack of cheesy bling and an all-business cockpit.

Sport and Grand Touring Models

I drove two variants of the car this month – a Grand Touring automatic on the road, and a manual-transmission entry-level Sport model at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Both cars performed admirably. Either way, you get a sporty, quiet car that is fun to drive and loadable with optional features like backup camera, adaptive cruise control, blind spot radar, heated seats, and full electronics. At the track, the Mazda6 corners nicely and has plenty of power for enjoyable spirited driving. The car has no bad habits and plenty of evidence that the same people who gave us the Miata and the RX-8 have been at work on this sedan.

Pricing the 2014 Mazda6

The best part of the Mazda6 is its price tag. The Sport model I drove on track has a sticker price of just $21,675, and that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air, cruise, 4-wheel disc brakes, power everything, nice stereo with MP3 and Aux port, trip computer, push button start, and the list goes on. The Grand Touring version had leather, navigation, 19-inch wheels, HID lights, heated seats, rearview camera, blind spot radar, adaptive cruise, and much more for $31,490.

Bottom line – If you’re shopping Lexus, Acura, or Infiniti, take a look at the Mazda6 and save some money for track days.

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