Review of: 2016 Mazda Mazda6 4dr Sdn 2.5L Man GT
2016 Mazda6 GT: A winner in white leather
By Jil McIntosh
May. 8, 2015
One of the hazards of working with the auto industry is that I always have to stop and think what year it is. And it’s no wonder: in March of 2015, I was driving a 2016 Mazda6.
The Mazda6 was an all-new design in 2012, and this newest one is a “refresh,” with new interior and exterior styling, more sound-deadening material, and improved seats.
Despite its name, there’s no six-cylinder available. Instead, all models use a 2.5-litre four-cylinder. And unusually for this segment, all three trim lines—GX, GS and GT—offer a six-speed manual transmission in addition to a six-speed automatic. Pricing ranges from $24,695 for the GX with M/T, to $35,695 for the auto-equipped GT with Technology Package. My tester was the GT with manual, which tapped the scale at $32,895.
Pros & Cons
- + Attention-getting styling
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Interior design
- - A few cheap interior touches
- - Secondary controls
- - Drives big
Mazda has done a bang-on job with the styling, and this is one very handsome machine. Up front is a new grille that sweeps back into the arched front fenders. Exclusive to the GT are new, standard-equipment auto-levelling LED headlamps and fog lamps, and an LED light bar that swoops down to illuminate the sides and lower edge of the grille. Also exclusive to this top-end trim line are the 19-inch wheels; the GX and GS make do with 17-inch rims.
All models receive LED taillights, which wrap around the fenders and are tied together with a chrome bar across the trunk lid. While four-cylinder models usually only get one exhaust pipe, the twin tubes on the back of this one add a sportier touch.
White leather? Sign me up. All GT models have cowhide, which can be added as part of a Luxury Package to the standard-cloth-chair GS models. You can opt for all-black leather seats, but I’d gladly buy the cleaning kit and go for my tester’s luscious white ones.
Save for a couple of minor complaints, the Mazda6’s interior is a knockout. The seats are heated both front and rear on all trim lines, and they’re very supportive and long-distance comfy. The rear seats fold easily to increase the capacity of the spacious trunk, too.
All models come with a seven-inch colour display that’s fixed to the top of the dash. It’s becoming a common sight in vehicles, and while its tablet-like look makes for higher-tech aesthetics, there’s more to it than that. Taking it out of the centre stack allows for a lower dash pad, which makes the car look roomier and increases visibility, while its elevated position means you’re still looking in the general direction of the road while you’re staring at the screen.
And those complaints? First up is a climate control system with small buttons and a too-tiny icon to indicate where you’ve set the vent mode. Second is the Active Driving Display, standard on the GT line. It’s a head’s-up display that shows your speed, upcoming navigation turns and other information, but instead of being projected onto the windshield as most are, it uses a smoked plastic screen that automatically lifts up from the top of the dash each time the car is started. It does the job, and it’s apparently far less expensive than a windshield projector, but it looks cheap and tacked-on. That’s the trade-off for the technology, I suppose.
The upright centre screen uses a console-mounted joystick. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, and it handles all of the functions, including the GT’s standard Bose audio and navigation, that latter feature also controllable by touching the screen. The voice command for the navigation works really well, too: say the entire name of your destination all at once and the system gets you on your way, without the need to speak the city, street and house number separately.
All trim lines include Bluetooth, two USB ports, and steering wheel audio controls, while the GS and GT add a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring system, and cross-traffic alert. There’s a final Technology Package, not added to my tester, which includes all the electronic nannies: automatic braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and automatic high-beam headlights. The package also includes satellite radio, which I really thought would have been thrown in with my car’s standard premium audio system.
The 2.5-litre makes 184 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Going by seat-of-the-pants, it feels even stronger and torquier than that, and that smooth clutch and notchy shifter just make it better. Quite seriously, there are times when it feels like Mazda lived up to the car’s name and slipped a couple of extra cylinders under the hood.
The steering is pleasantly light, with good feedback and quick response. Oddly, though, despite its nimble nature, you don’t get that smaller-car feel that some sportier sedans can return, and you never forget that this is a big car. Against published figures of 9.4 L/100 km for the city and 6.4 on the highway, I averaged 9.2 L/100 km.
This newest 6 is the first Mazda with an electronic parking brake, and while it frees up console space, I still prefer the more visceral feel of pulling up a handbrake when I’m parking a stick shift. But I do like the dash readout that tells you what gear you’re in. Yeah, I know, I know, but when every paddle-shift automatic tells you, why is it such a rarity with a stick?
It had me with the driving experience, but the exterior sealed the deal. Between the design and the lovely tactile feel of the materials, my tester looked like it should have been closer to $40,000 than its $32,895 tag.
That price also included a few other goodies not previously mentioned, including auto-dimming rearview and driver’s mirrors, sunroof, interior LED lighting, and memory seats. Yes, you can buy less-expensive vehicles in this category, but few can match just how good this car looks inside.
The midsize sedan market is an important one for Canada, but it’s even fiercer in the U.S., where it’s the top-selling passenger car segment. The result is that while manufacturers aren’t necessarily speeding up their vehicles’ overall life cycles with complete makeovers, they’re becoming far more likely to throw in these mid-cycle touch-ups to keep them fresh. This one might not have changed much under the skin, but with these new looks and features, it’s a winner nevertheless.