By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
If you are in the market for a mid-size sedan you are fishing in a pond stocked with outstanding products and excellent values, often making the choice difficult. These are the bread and butter cars of the American, Asian and European manufacturers and there are more than a dozen choices fighting to get into your garage.
We recently spent a week driving the 2016 Mazda6i Grand Touring model and discovered that while it doesn’t get quite the attention of some of some of the big names like Camry and Accord, it has features and styling that makes it one of the most attractive in this category and one of the best values.
Mid-size sedan styling has blossomed the last few years and while styling is a matter of personal taste, we think the Mazda6 is a design leader of the category. Like the other Mazda vehicles, the 6i is a product of the sophisticated KODO design language. Fins on the grille create a strong horizontal look enhanced by Mazda’s signature winged front face complete with LED headlights (Grand Touring). The sides are simple with a lower character line and the rear is highlighted by an additional wing of chrome and LED taillights.
The interior is not flashy, rather it leans more toward quality materials, well organized controls and function. The leather seats are comfortable and supportive, and the rear seat will hold three in a cozy line, when needed. We like Mazda controls which include a large console mounted knob and a variety of buttons that control screen functions. Cargo space is 14.8 cubic feet and the split rear seat backs fold to expand the space into the rear seat area when needed.
The 2016 Mazda6 has the company’s first application of an electronic parking brake – a nice addition on any car. It also has Mazda’s unique Active Driving Display which is similar to a head up display, but it uses a clear screen mounted on the top of the dash in front of the driver, instead of the windshield. The display shows vehicle speed and other information in real time right in front of the driver so his or her eyes don’t have to leave the road.
The Grand Touring model we drove had the Technology Package and included most of our “must have” safety devices like blind spot, navigation, radar cruise control, smart braking, rear-view camera and rain-sensing wipers. Another important new feature is the Mazda Connect infotainment system which displays commands on the seven-inch screen mounted at the top of the center stack. It displays all the entertainment options including Satellite radio, HD radio, along with internet choices like Aha™, Pandora® and Stitcher™. The system handles a multitude of infotainment functions, but you have to deal with too many layers of menu to make it completely user friendly. It also allows the driver to send and receive text messages verbally keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
The 2016 Mazda6i is powered by the Skyactive 2.5-liter four-cylinder with variable valve timing. Although the Skyactive technology is still something of a mystery to us, it translates nicely to sharp handling and good performance characteristics. The engine is rated at 184-hp and it drives the front wheels through a six-speed sport automatic transmission. The transmission can be shifted manually using steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or the console mounted shifter, and it’s also . The 6i Sport and Touring models have a standard six-speed manual transmission with Hill Launch Assist or the optional automatic.
Buff magazine testing recorded a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.0 seconds, and a top speed of 130 mph. The automatic transmission version we drove has and EPA fuel economy rating of 28 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. We average 34.7 mpg during a week of local driving.
Overall the 2016 Mazda6i Grand Touring is very impressive from its quality feel, fit and finish to the kind of styling that turns heads. It’s a car that’s fun to drive, and the handling is so good it is difficult to distinguish from a rear-wheel drive.
The Mazda6i comes in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Both the Sport and Touring models are offered with manual or automatic transmission. The automatic transmission is a $1,050 option on the Touring and $1,500 on the Sport. The pricing starts at $22,315, including the destination charge, for the Sport with manual transmission. The top-of-the-line Grand Touring has a base price of $31,015 and with all the available options it goes to $33,695 making the fully loaded Mazda6i an outstanding value.