Is The 2016 Mazda6 Better Than 2 Buck Chuck?

The 2016 Mazda6 is the Trader Joe’s of the family sedan segment.  Stay with me here.  Family sedans are normally pretty boring. Trader Joe’s has made grocery shopping fun, hip, and cool.  Dare I even say enjoyable?  Mazda has done the same, and created a family sedan that is fun, hip, cool.  Bravo Mazda.  If Mazda offered the Mazda6 in a wagon, with an optional turbocharged rotary engine, it’d better than “2 Buck Chuck”. Mazda did not provide me with any two dollar bottles of wine. They did one better though, and provided me with a 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring in Sonic Silver, with a full tank of gas and insurance.  For a whole week!  Take a look at the video and see what we thought!

The family sedan is not exactly a car that enthusiast brag about to their friends about.  The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat Chrysler 200 are popular cars but none of these cars can get my enthusiast blood pumping.  The Mazda6 goes against the family sedan trendit is a car that actually involves the driver, and has so much character that a Toyota Camry would beg to be friends with it.

What I Would Change

No matter which trim level you choose for the 6, you get the same engine. A 2.5-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder engine that produces 184-hp and 185 lb-ft of torque.  That torque is definitely felt, and gives it a peppy feel.  Despite the torque level, you can’t help but feel that Mazda needs to offer a larger, more powerful, engine.  If I were Mazda, I would offer a hybrid-turbocharged rotary engine in the Mazda6.  I can dream.  

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The Mazda6 is only available in a sedan.  Its little brother, the Mazda3, offers an optional hatchback.  Automotive journalist’s and car enthusiast alike love wagons and hatches.  Owning a sporty hatchback is like having your cake and eating it too. If you buy a hatchback Mazda3 with the 2.5-liter SkyActiv engine, you get the same engine as in the Mazda6, similar cargo space, for less money, and less weight.  Mazda isn’t exactly enticing you to buy the Mazda6.

My last suggestion would be add all-wheel-drive. Anybody remember the MazdaSpeed6?  It was ahead of its time.  It was an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged “supersedan”, at least for the price.  You can pick one up on the used car market for a bargain these days. If Mazda offered an all-wheel-drive version, it would certainly broaden its customer base. Subaru customers who want a better interior, at least something closer to the German rivals, might head over to Mazda.  Even the seats in the Mazda6 are some of the best in the car industry, but that’s not something I would change so let’s move on.

Why It’s Great

I’m not exactly the kind of guy who typically buys a family sedan. I’m more of the minivan type.  My 1996 Toyota Previa might look like a spaceship, but the Mazda6 actually has technology and safety features that could qualify it as a spaceship compared to a two decade old van.

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Standard features on my test car are:  blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, smart city brake support, smart brake support with collision warning, lane departure warning system, high beam control, radar cruise control with close proximity warning.  Wow.

The one that I was most interested in testing was the radar cruise control with close proximity warning.  It monitors and maintains your speed and distance relative to the car in front of you. I was fairly impressed with how well it worked.  Initially. I found myself hitting the brakes before the car realized it needed to slow down. The car will slow down to 19 mph, and at that point it will let you know that “Active Cruise Control Has Disengaged”.  I wanted to see what would happen in an emergency braking scenario. Instead of slowing down to 19 mph and then letting me brake, the system immediately shut off, and then the word “BRAKE” came up on the display.  Braking is up to you in emergency situations.  This is by no means fully autonomous driving; there is no sleeping at the wheel here.  It is just allowing you to keep your feet off the pedals fully while cruising on the highway by managing the distance between you and the car in front of you.

Blind spot monitoring gives you a second set of eyes.  It basically notifies you if there are cars in the next lane.  A little icon will appear in your side mirror letting you know there is a car there. If you have your blinker on, an audible beep will alert you if a car is there.  It actually saved me a couple times. Thanks, Mazda!

The Mazda6 has an i-ELOOP regenerative engine braking system to improve the overall efficiency of the car.  It takes the energy created during braking and stores it in a capacitor.  A capacitor is similar to your bladder: you fill it up and it depletes itself once full and can keep refilling itself.  Well, ideally your bladder doesn’t deplete itself without your say-so.  If it does, I’m sorry.  Back to the car, a capacitor has a weight and durability advantage over a lithium-ion battery. On the highway you can get upwards of 40 mpg.  This gives you another reason not to buy a Toyota Prius.

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When you walk out to your car in the morning, the 6 should put a smile on your face. This sedan has the looks of the popular guy in high school.  The front end is a mash-up of Mercedes CLA meets Maserati Ghibli.  It is one of those front ends you would enjoy washing on a sunny Saturday morning.  Its worst angle might be its side profile, but as I said, I would fix that by making a wagon. Regardless, it is diamond in the rough of family sedans and quite a good looking car.

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The Mazda6 even has personalitythere’s a soul under all that sheet metal.  Compared to other family sedans, its steering feel is on pair with sport sedans.  I would be comfortable calling this Mazda6 a sport sedan if it had a better engine.  In order to achieve maximum fun with what you’ve got, press the “sport” button.  When you press it, the transmission holds each gear longer, and the steering has more weight.  Personally, I don’t think you should not have to press a “sport” button to make a car sporty though.

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What Enthusiasts Are Saying

Walk into a Mazda dealer today, and you can get the same Mazda6 Grand Touring that I’m driving for $32k (see sticker price below).  The issue is, a 2015 Volkswagen GTI, the original hot hatch, has 30  horsepower more for $4000 less, and same high quality interior.  If I were a Dad, looking for a sporty family car, I would certainly consider the little VW.  Just skip the diesel.

I stopped by a local car show, Katie’s Cars and Coffee, to survey the local enthusiast.  What I found was, people just want to talk about their cars.  Shocking, right?  What was even more shocking was most people didn’t know much about the Mazda6.  Most people attending apparently shop at the Ferrari dealershiptheir oil changes cost as much as a Mazda6. Clearly, the Mazda6 is below everyone’s radar and it’s showing in their sales.  Jalopnik has it listed as one of the best cars no one is buying.  For perspective, Mazda sells around 50K 6’s in the US each year.  Accord and Camry sell, oh around 400K per year.  Big difference.

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Final Thoughts

It’s unfortunate that most people don’t know about the Mazda6.  It is a special car. It, for some reason, doesn’t have the mass market appeal of a Camry, but the Mazda6 makes you feel that that driving is more than a task.  The 2016 Mazda6 is just 2 cylinders shy of greatness.  Despite its lack of power, Mazda continues to offer an excellent value for your dollar in the Mazda6. It has its own unique driving feel.

If I had to choose, whether to take a trip to Trader Joe’s or take the 2016 Mazda6 for a spin, I’d take the Mazda6 (and hightail it over to Trader Joe’s).

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