Mazda says the 2014 Mazda6 was "strongly influenced by the TAKERI Concept," a beautiful four-door concept car introduced back at the 2012 New York Auto Show. We say this new Mazda6 essentially IS the 2012 TAKERI concept, save for a few showy details. That 2012 concept sedan even debuted the production 2014 Mazda6's i-ELOOP system and SKYACTIV-D diesel engine. And if this is what Mazda's KODO design is about, we want to see more of it.
The driver-oriented cabin is loaded with intuitive and well-placed controls, including your choice of voice, touch screen, button or knob control of oft-used functions. Soft-touch surfaces and warm textures provide a quality look and feel, and there's ample room inside with 38.4 inches of headroom (one inch less with a moon roof) in front and 37.1 inches in back. Legroom is also good at 42.2 inches front and 38.7 inches rear. The sport-bolstered front buckets are comfortable and supportive, and the driver's seat is power-adjustable in all but base Sport models, which get six-way manual adjustment.
Compared to its larger competitors, Mazda is taking a different approach to meeting government and customer demands for fast-increasing fuel efficiency. Instead of betting $billions on hybrids and electric cars, it's pursuing a comprehensive effort to increase the efficiency of every element of every vehicle – bodies and chassis as well as engines and transmissions -- under the name “SKYACTIV” (which means “sky is the limit”). The Mazda3 compacts got SKYACTIV powertrains in carry-over bodies and chassis for 2012, while the all-new 2013 CX-5 CUV and this 2014 Mazda6 sedan boast the full SKYACTIV treatment.
The Mazda6's SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter gasoline four, with its racer-high 13:1 compression ratio, delivers 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque; eight percent more power and 11 percent more torque than the same-size engine it replaces. Yet, paired with the new SKYACTIV-MT 6-speed manual transmission, it's EPA rated at 25 mpg city, 37 highway and 29 combined. With the SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic (standard on Touring and Grand Touring models), it's good for a segment-best 26/38/30; 24 percent better EPA city and 27 percent better highway economy than the 2013 Mazda6.
The soon-to-come new SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean turbodiesel four will offer even better fuel efficiency along with much higher torque for quick acceleration. With its ultra-low (for a diesel) compression ratio of 14:1, Mazda says it will burn so cleanly that it will not need the expensive nitrous oxides after-treatments typically needed to meet U.S. emissions standards.
A new safety system called Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) is designed to help prevent front collisions at speeds of less than 20 miles per hour. It uses an imbedded laser sensor to detect potential collisions and reduce brake rotor travel to quicken braking. Then, if the driver fails to react, it will activate an automatic braking function. The efficiency-enhancing i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system recaptures energy normally wasted during braking and stores it in a capacitor that can power all the car's electrical systems.
With prices starting around $21,000, this fine-looking, fun-to-drive 2014 Mazda6 is well worth a look and an extended test drive.