2014 Mazda Mazda6: Form, meet Function...

2014 Mazda Mazda6: Form, meet Function…

Form and function are two ideals that don’t often wind up working together. Something can be stylish but lack the functionality of its competition, and the best performing item in a given market could look five to ten years old if its styling is dated. Getting form and function to work together seemingly takes a bit of magic. This means that Mazda must hire wizards, because the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 forced Form and Function into a room… and the two didn’t come out until they were in love.

2014 Mazda Mazda6: Good God, such good looks

It’s the face that hits you first. Where you’d expect to find the smiling mug found throughout the Mazda family of machines, you’re instead greeted with something a bit more sinister. The gaping maw is gone, and it’s been replaced with a face that’s sleeker, more stylish, and all-around more enjoyable on the eyes. The sharp lines extend from the upright grille out towards the muscular front fenders. From there, everything moves backwards on this cab-rearward design. A stout shoulder and character line bring the eye out to the back of the Mazda 6, where the tail mimics the aggression of the face. In fact, the taillights and their red glow give off an even angrier angle than the front of the car… and it all works so well together.

What Mazda has done here is successfully taken the KODO design language first shown on the Shinari concept car, and placed it on a production vehicle. Our first taste of the all-new Mazda6 was by way of another concept car called the Takeri. That vehicle featured styling elements you see on the Mazda 6, as it was 85 to 90 percent related to the car you see here, per Mazda.

2014 Mazda Mazda6: Style inside as well

It’s not just a pretty face outside though, because the design team spent plenty of time transforming the interior as well. Similar styling elements exist in both spaces too, as the use of angles and lines play a role in making the cabin space feel wide and mimics what the lines do on the exterior of the Mazda 6. The quality of the materials at play here also lends an upgraded feel as your hands can glide over the satin-chrome and leather elements. It’s not overdone though either, which is an easy thing to do these days. This is minimalist chic done right.

It’s not all excellent inside, however, because there are a few areas where it’s quite clear that this latest Mazda 6 was actually conceived a few years back. This is most readily apparent when you look at the touchscreen mounted at the top of the center stack. While other automakers are pushing the size envelope with eight-inch systems, Mazda makes do with a 5.8-inch unit that looks small where it sits. It has some decent functionality thanks to a TomTom navigation system, 11-speaker Bose Surround Sound system, Pandora, and SMS/Text display-and-respond ability. We asked Mazda about the screen, and the automaker knows it’s small… keep your eyes peeled for an update to that down the road.

Still, that’s a nitpick because the rest of the interior is wonderful. Not just in terms of its styling direction, but also because it’s a rather cozy place to spend time. During our many miles logged behind the wheel of the 2014 Mazda6 we never felt tired, our legs never went numb, and our back and behind remained on good terms with the seats.

2014 Mazda Mazda6: The pinnacle of Skyactiv technology

The real magic of the 2014 Mazda6 doesn’t happen in the cabin, and it’s only partially related to the exterior good looks. Mazda has stated that the new 6 is the pinnacle of Skyactiv technology. That means everything on the car from the ground up is aimed at making the most of what the Mazda6 is capable of achieving from an efficiency standpoint. Cars are getting heavier, and therefore less fun to drive, but Mazda is working against that mindset while also ever mindful of the increasing requirements of consumers for improved fuel economy.

Starting with the chassis, Mazda engineers were able to add more strength while dropping weight. Increased high-strength steel is the key here. Additionally, the new chassis employs aggressive front caster angles. What does that mean for the driver? More steering feel at higher speeds, less brake dive, and a better driving experience overall. In fact, the steering response is nearly the same as that of the oh-so-delightful MX-5 Miata.

A good chassis is nothing without the proper engine and transmission, of course. Under the hood of the 2014 Mazda 6 sits a 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This mill can be paired with either a six-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual transmission. Additionally, you don’t have to settle for the base Sport trim if you want to row your own gears because you can also get the manual on the Touring trim. Not that the Sport trim should be considered settling, since it comes well equipped.

Mazda worked hard on the new Skyactiv-G engine, and the result of their efforts pay off when it comes to the fuel efficiency of the Mazda6. The 6MT-equipped car is rated to return 29 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. The 6AT-equipped machine does even better thanks to some engineering magic, and is rated to return 30 miles per gallon combined. It’s also no slouch from the driver’s perspective thanks to rev-matched downshifts and quick upshifts. The manual is as good as it gets because Mazda has been cranking out the best manual gearboxes for years.

Even more good news exists on the horizon too, as Mazda plans to bring a diesel version of the Mazda6 into the United States. We didn’t get to sample the oil-burning variety, but we’re nearly giddy with anticipation. The 2.2-liter turbodiesel should prove to be an excellent match for this sultry sedan. Performance and fuel efficiency can coexist, and the diesel Mazda 6 will help prove that concept.

2014 Mazda Mazda6: A mid-size sedan minus the boredom behind the wheel

As it sits now though, the gas-powered Mazda6 is a bit of a driving revelation in its class. It may seem as if the power figure sounds a bit low, but it’s right in line with the competition. Mazda sees the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, and Volkswagen Passat as its main bit of competition. All are priced nearly the same, have similar power figures, and get relatively similar fuel economy numbers, with the exception of the gas-swilling Passat. None of the competition, however, delivers as enthusiastic of a driving experience.

Mazda is the Zoom-Zoom company, and every vehicle in its lineup reflects this ideal. The 2014 Mazda6 is no exception. Steering feel is excellent, and turn-in is crisp. The manual shift lever slots confidently into each gear, while the automatic responds quickly with a light touch of the paddle. The suspension is setup right in the middle of the firm-comfort balance so that the passengers have the same smile as the driver when the car is pressed into action. When it’s time to slow the action down, the brakes are progressive and responsive. There’s no funny business, just smooth braking action. This is a driver’s mid-size sedan, which isn’t something that the rest of the competition can rightfully lay claim to. Yes, the new Accord offers a surprising amount of fun, the new Altima is far better than what it replaced, and the Passat is the most premium entry in this group. None of them drive as well as the Mazda 6… and not one can hold a candle to the car when it comes to styling.

2014 Mazda Mazda6: Summary

When given a choice between style, substance, and cost, you are typically told to pick two of the three and be happy. Mazda is offering you all three with the 2014 Mazda6. The entry-level Sport 6MT starts at $20,880, and comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity for both audio and hands-free phone use. Climb the trim ladder up to the Touring, and you’re going to spend around $25,000. Keep climbing for the king of the Mazda 6 hill and you arrive at the $29,495 Grand Touring, which is only available with the six-speed automatic. A few options packages are available if you really want to crest $30,000, but you’re still getting a whole lot of car at that price point.

There’s even more to come for the all-new Mazda 6 as well. We already told you about the diesel, but the automaker has another engineering trick up its sleeve. It’s called i-ELOOP, and it’s a mild hybrid powertrain that will make its U.S. debut later this year. The goal of the i-ELOOP system is to eliminate the 10 percent electrical loss caused the use of various systems throughout the car. By using this system, the efficiency of the car is increased, fuel economy increases, and it’s all done so in a rather brilliant manner. We’ll dive deeper into the i-ELOOP system when we get our hands on a properly equipped Mazda 6.

For now, we’re more than content to make do with the Skyactiv-G powered Mazda6. It’s the perfect means to whet our appetite for what else is in store for our new favorite midsize sedan. Once the diesel arrives, however, we’re going to need some serious alone time with our favorite roads, a map of diesel-capable stations, and a clear signal to pull in our favorite Pandora stations.

Mazda has made the mid-size fun again…

By Jeff Glucker