Despite what you may have heard, there’s no instant certainty that comes with importance. They are wholly separate, and likely never to occur simultaneously. “Citizen Kane” wasn’t deemed great until Orson Welles was nearly dead, French Impressionists weren’t really appreciated while they were alive and Frederic Chopin died mostly broke.
For those reasons, I don’t expect many people to pine over
Mazda’s current lineup until 2051.
Their new cars are fantastic, and this is proof: I have yet
to meet a fellow auto critic who can’t find one car in their lineup they don’t
like. Getting auto critics to agree on anything is like getting 50 toddlers to
share a single toy. We’re all fantastically fussy folks.
That would be assuming that critical acclaim isn’t the kiss
of death. It certainly is. If the world listened to critics we’d never have Led
Zeppelin or French Impressionists. So for those reasons, I’ll tell you that the
2014 Mazda6 is totally awful. You should definitely run away from this car. Because
if you don’t, you might be forced to gaze longer at what a perfectly mid-size,
well-built sedan is supposed to look like.
Here’s what I mean. The Mazda6, in nearly all its
iterations, has been a good car. My uncle tried to run one until the earth
stopped spinning, and my guess is that the only reason he stopped was because
he realized automatic shoulder belts would be just as annoying in zero gravity.
So he ditched his Mazda after a bazillion years and a bazillion more miles. And
guess what Uncle Jimmy: those shoulder belts are gone for 2014.
But more to the point, the Mazda6 is a superb mid-size sedan
because it does everything well, not just one or two things great. In my
weeklong quest to quantify why I liked the Mazda6 so much, I found no such
evidence — and that’s a good thing.
The exterior is fantastically handsome. Is it as striking as
the Ford Fusion? No. But the Fusion may look dated in a couple years, whereas
the Mazda6 is both handsome and classy like a dry martini. Is it as eco-awesome
as the Passat TDI? No, but the Mazda6’s 28/40 mpg mileage is better than
average. (Yes, there’s a stateside Mazda6 diesel coming, but I haven’t driven
it.) Comparing the Mazda6 to a BMW 5-series is unfair only because the $19,960 starting
price for the Mazda is less than half of the Bimmer’s. That’s it.
Put that all together and you have a compelling case for a
car that gets overlooked more often than parsley in the last recipe you tried.
You want details? I’ll give ‘em. First, the Mazda6 is no hog
on the road. Despite having a styling overhaul in the past few years, the 2014
Mazda6 specimen before us is neither boring nor hulking. The exaggerated front
fenders and shoulders do the car justice without being annoying. Despite it’s
braggadocios posture and big wheels, the Mazda6 is downright nimble and quick.
The Mazda’s direct-injection 2.5-liter, four doesn’t get the
credit it deserves here. Unleashed a few years ago during the gas crunch, and
saddled with the decidedly vague and unexciting moniker of “SkyActiv” there were
many consumers and critics who didn’t quite know what to make of the gas engine
that didn’t quite fit either mold of “revolutionary” nor “evolutionary” — and
I’m included in that category. In reality, the Skyactiv engine takes the
approach that a lot of little things make a big difference. Lighter weight,
direct injection and other small fuel-saving technologies help bump the Mazda6
toward the vaunted 40 mpg highway mileage mark that looks oh-so-good on
billboards. Could you get 40 mpg in a perfect world? Yes. Do you have to select
the right technology packages to get there? Of course.
But that’s not quite the entire story, because the Mazda6
thrives on the little things to add up to big value. The automatic transmission
is predictably boring (read: eco-minded) until you ask it not to be. Stand on
the throttle and the Mazda6 springs to life like a sports sedan. The chassis
has a tight quality — derived from lessons learned in the Miata, no doubt —
that’s sneaky good. There are so many little things that add up here.
Our weeklong tester, optioned up to Touring package that
added navigation, Bose stereo system and a whole host of other goodies that
made the final sticker price $32,845, was simply great to drive. No one quality
stood out on our weekday drive to the office that made the Mazda6 better than
every other sedan on the road. But rather it was the combination of a
comfortable ride, practical price and better-than-average fuel economy that
left many passengers saying, “Yeah, you’re right. That is a pretty good car.”
And it’s all an interesting plan. Mazda’s lineup from top to
bottom is rock solid, perhaps more rock solid than any other automaker’s lineup
at the moment. It’s just a shame people are more inclined to overlook
excellence when it stares them in the face for the first time.
Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He appreciates
hearing from readers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Nathan Leach-Proffer.
2014 Mazda6: Sneaky good, but it's no surprise
by Aaron Cole :: posted in Reviews on November 4th, 2013