In addition to the touch screen and voice command for many functions, the Mazda6 driver can make use of a control knob on the center console to make onscreen selections by twisting and pressing. This knob is surrounded by shortcut keys for its four major infotainment functions (audio, phone, navigation, and setup) along with a pair of back buttons. This is the first time that I've seen a physical controller with this generation of Mazda infotainment. I like the fact that Mazda gives its drivers so many options for interacting with the tech.
Turn-by-turn directions and audio sources reach your ears via a standard (for the Grand Touring model) 11-speaker Bose audio system that sounds good for this price level, but not great. Digital audio sources include HD Radio tuning, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, USB and iPod connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and audio streaming, and a single-disc CD player with MP3 decoding capability. Analog audio sources include AM/FM radio and a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input.
Pair a smartphone that is running Pandora Internet Radio and the Mazda system can even take control of the app, so you can browse your stations, skip tracks, and assign thumbs-up and thumbs-down ratings from the touch screen.
You can also access a number of vehicle options via the 5.8-inch screen, including controlling the behavior of the automatic HID headlamps, automatic windshield wipers, and power locks with keyless entry and push-button start. There are physical controls elsewhere for activation of the Adaptive Front Lighting feature that steers the headlamps with the wheels to illuminate around bends.
Standard safety tech includes a rearview camera, which also makes use of the 5.8-inch screen. While this system does display static distance markers, those lines don't move when you steer the wheel to predict your trajectory. Users can add optional Rear Backup Sensors to the mix for $475 for an extra layer of auditory warning.
In the side mirrors, you'll find small LEDs for the blind-spot monitoring system, which also beeps if the turn signal is activated with a vehicle in the way. This system also includes cross-traffic alert, which beeps when a vehicle approaches from the side while you're reversing. This is a great standard feature for drivers who often navigate crowded parking lots filled with large, vision-blocking SUVs, and I'm happy to see it showing up on more vehicles.
Finally, our Mazda6 was equipped with a $900 Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) and Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW) Package that adds, well, radar-guided adaptive cruise control and a Forward Obstruction Warning system that beeps to warn an inattentive driver if the system detects that a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian is imminent. In combination with the Smart City Brake Support system, the FOW system can also begin applying the brakes in an attempt to reduce the speed and severity of the accident or avoid the collision.
Pricing and sum
The entry-level Mazda Mazda6 i Sport starts at $20,880 with a fairly basic level of in-dash technology and cabin comfort. Our 2014 Mazda Mazda6 i Grand Touring, on the other hand, is an all-inclusive, full-loaded upgrade at $29,495 with all of the cabin technology currently available to the sedan, a good showing of standard safety tech, and plenty of cabin comfort and styling upgrades.
Our as-tested price of $31,490 also includes $900 for the MRCC and FOW package, $300 for the Soul Red paint (money well spent, IMHO, on a gorgeous deep color), and $795 in destination fees. This vehicle will no doubt be cross-shopped with the 2013 Toyota Camry and 2013 Honda Accord and will compare favorably in styling, tech, and value. However, I think that the most dangerous competition to the Mazda6 comes from the 2013 Ford Fusion, which is an equally good value when comparably equipped and is also available with such advanced driver aid features as lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, and the crowd-pleasing Active Park Assist automated parallel-parking system.
Of course, patient prospective 2013 Mazda6 owners can wait until the $2,080 Advanced Package comes available in late May; it adds a lane departure warning system, automatic high-beam headlights, and Mazda's i-ELOOP system, which replaces the alternator with a regenerative braking system that recaptures energy when decelerating to charge a capacitor, reducing drag on the engine, freeing up to 10 percent more power for actual driving, and boosting the fuel economy a few ticks. But that's not the only reason to hold off on buying a new Mazda6.
The automaker has stated that it's bringing a 2.2-liter twin-turbo diesel model to the North American market later this year, offering better torque than the gasoline model and better fuel efficiency. This is the Mazda6 that I'd be holding out for were it my money on the table.
|Model||2014 Mazda Mazda6 i|
|Power train||2.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder, direct-injection, six-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters, front-wheel drive|
|EPA fuel economy||26 city, 38 highway, 30 combined mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||25.9|
|Navigation||Standard TomTom navigation, SD card-based|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard hands-free calling with audio streaming|
|Disc player||Single-slot CD|
|MP3 player support||Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection|
|Other digital audio||SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, PandoraLink app integration|
|Audio system||11-speaker Bose audio with CenterPoint|
|Driver aids||Standard rear camera, blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, and Smart City Brake Support; optional adaptive cruise control and forward-obstruction warning|
|Price as tested||$31,490|