The Extra Mile: 2014 Mazda 6 Sport
Entry Price: $20,888
Price As tested: $21,675
This week, we're testing Mazda's all-new 2014 Mazda6 Sport, a totally revamped Mazda that is now built entirely in Japan versus the earlier generation build point of Flat Rock, Michigan.
Most important is the Mazda6's outstanding, low cost entry price of just $20,880. Our tester's bottom line came in at $21,675 as just the $795 delivery charge added to the final price. This is a most impressive price for a car that comes with all necessary safety and amenities as standard equipment.
Joining the front-drive Sport are a Touring model for $24,495 and a top line Grand Touring for $29,495. However, to keep things in perspective, all three rely on Mazda's proven "Skyactiv" powertrain technology with an identical 2.5-liter four-cylinder under the hood. Last year's (this year's actually) V6 is no longer available, but after driving the '14 Mazda6 for a week it's clear the extra two cylinders are no longer needed. Additionally, the '14 Mazda6's 25 city and 37 highway EPA fuel mileage is another major plus, as the V6 last year delivered just 18 city and 27 highway.
Under the hood, the 184-horse Skyactiv inline four cylinder produces 185 lb. ft. of torque and, thanks to our manual six-speed transmission and the engine's 13 to 1 compression ratio, delivers surprisingly good pep. Moreover, if you think ordering a new Mazda6 with an automatic will impede fuel mileageâ¦you're wrong. Thanks again to the Skyactiv technology, consumers who opt for the automatic can expect even better fuel economy, as 26 and 38 are listed on the window sticker, respectively. The reason the automatic delivers better mileage is a more controlled shift point for optimum economy, which can be "overruled" if you decide to shift the automatic yourself.
It's difficult to hide our enthusiasm concerning the mid-size '14 Mazda6. Considering I'm driving a smaller compact-size vehicle this week from a respected Japanese competitor, the final bottom lines are virtually identical. Still, Mazda6 delivers almost the same EPA numbers and does so with a much longer wheelbase. Consumers will thus appreciate the expanded interior room and twice the standard features that the compact I'm driving offers. There's no head scratching here, just a major glimmer of hope for those who seek a brand new mid-size car that's only "small" is the final price.
Inside, the cabin includes cloth trimmed seats, six-way driver seat, tilt and telescopic, six speaker stereo with CD/MP3/Aux/USB, leather wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, all the powers, remote entry, push button start, air, 60/40 split seat, rear seat armrest with cup holders and even carpeted floor mats.
On the safety side, Mazda6 is again loaded thanks to four wheel disc anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability, traction control, hill launch assist, advanced front, rear and side curtain air bags, and Skyactiv's impressive "safety cocoon" body ring chassis structure. Standard tires are 17-inchers on nice alloy wheels.
Outside, Mazda6's new design is most appealing with a European flair. It looks good parked anywhere, from country club to food market. The car's motif grows on you the more you look at it, and then over-delivers in the most important areas of comfort, sporty handling (thanks to a fully independent suspension), fuel economy and return on investment (ROI). Thus, when considering ROI alone, 2014 Mazda6 may well be the best of the mid-size bunch.
The competitors are many and strong, including Nissan Sentra and Altima, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Dodge Avenger, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Chrysler 200, VW Passat and Chevy Malibu. Still, Mazda6's attributes outweigh most of the challengers, if not all of them.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 111.4 inches, 3183 lb. curb weight, 16.4 gallon regular grade fuel tank, and a very spacious 17.3 cu. ft. of cargo space.
At this point, Test Drive rates the 2014 Mazda6 an overall "Best Buy," and don't be surprised to see some 2014 "Car of the Year" awards come its way.
Likes: Roomy, quality build, handling, technology, low price, fuel mileage.
Dislikes: Engine a little noisy at higher RPM, warranty only 60-month/60,000 miles on powertrain.
Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.