The surging popularity of sport-utility vehicles brings an opportunity for free-thinking individuals who also like to express personal style. Sharing roads with so many upright and high-riding utility models, you now can stand out by not driving one.
In most cases that means driving a four-door sedan. In the mid-size class especially, sedans can provide as much five-seat occupant space and comfort as comparable sport utilities, which can include both hardier, truck-based SUVs, and the much more common, car-like crossover sport-utility vehicles. And although most sedans do not offer an all-wheel-drive option the way most sport-utilities do, the front-drive setup common in sedans still provides reliable winter-weather traction.
If your sense of style tends toward the refined and classically elegant, the car that will take you far is the Mazda6. The middle-sized sedan has sharp driving dynamics. Its cabin is purposefully comfortable and pleasingly designed and detailed. Its body shape – the car’s most visible characteristic that displays your personal style to the outside world – stands out as a sensuous wave form that suggests graceful motion. Taken together, all the folds, creases, arches and curves that compose the shell of the Mazda6 add up to fine sculpture.
During a week of test driving the Mazda6, I felt satisfied by the sedan in many ways.
First off, I noticed and appreciated my easy glide and slide into the driver seat, with the sedan at a height that eliminated the high step and hoist necessary to enter a lot of SUVs. The cabin ferried me comfortably both during 10-minute sprints to the store, and during long freeway marathons of about two hours of uninterrupted driving.
For those trips to the store, the deep, wide trunk of the Mazda6 carried an abundance of merchandise. The model comes with folding rear seats that extend cargo capacity a considerable amount.
What’s more, inside the Mazda6 I felt settled and well cared for because the car’s interior design had received so much expert attention. You sense it in the touch and texture of surface materials. You see it in structures like the gracefully arched and smoothly contoured volumes that compose the upper dashboard. You see it in the horizontal lower dash that is accentuated by a long, straight, puckered seam of raised stitching. You see the careful design in shapes like the sloping rails that outline the center console between front seats.
The model’s pleasing details extended to its meters, gauges and cabin controls, too. In fact, the open, uncluttered arrangement of the 6’s instrument panel and switch banks lend a lot to the cabin’s elegance.
The clean arrangement of controls also makes the car’s features intuitively easy to operate. A discretely recessed, central set of knobs and switches controls cabin climate. Other operations, including communication, entertainment and vehicle-information functions, work through a large, prominently mounted color touch screen. It takes commands from a control knob comfortably situated on the console between front seats.
Of course, comfortable driving doesn’t necessarily mean complacent driving. The Mazda6 consistently wins praise for its road dynamics, its willingness to respond briskly and accurately to driver commands.
The model’s standard motor is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 187 horsepower. Higher priced variations carry a turbocharged version of the four-cylinder, with horsepower boosted to 227 with regular-grade gas, or 250 horsepower with premium gasoline. Both drive through a six-speed geared transmission that can be switched to sport mode for more energetic driving.
My evaluation model came with the more powerful, turbocharged engine. It launched with enthusiasm, and met cruising-speed power demands with authority. As an appealing bonus, during about 450 miles of mixed driving, my Mazda6 consumed gas at a thrifty rate of 33 miles per gallon. That’s about 25 percent better than the model’s official government rating of 26 mpg in mixed driving.
Did I feel distinctive in the sleek and shimmering sedan? My test model was painted a shade that Mazda labels Soul Red Crystal – a premium color that comes as a $595 option. It’s a shimmering scarlet with a metallic effect that can make it appear to glow like an ember. In a parking lot I was climbing into the Mazda6 while chatting with an acquaintance parked nearby. She interrupted our conversation to exclaim, “now that’s a perfect car for enjoying the start of summer, in the perfect summer color.”
How can you fail to feel distinctive when people spontaneously call out the standout appearance of your auto?
Along with its expensive paint job, my test model was the highest priced, highest trim level sold. But the Mazda6 comes generously equipped at all levels, beginning with the lowest priced Mazda6 Sport version, with a list price of $24,720. Its features include LED headlights and taillights, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure monitoring with steering assistance, obstacle detection with automatic braking, and radar-adjusted cruise control with automatic stopping.
It’s unlikely that sedans will ever swing back in popularity to overtake people’s growing preference for sport-utility vehicles. After all, crossover wagons also have advantages that draw many drivers. They may be larger and less graceful to drive, and consume more gasoline due to their added heft, but their higher roofed, easier loading cargo backs are better for hauling stuff. The all-wheel traction routinely added as an option on sport-utilities brings drivers some peace of mind on winter roads. For some people, the high step and hoist into an SUV – and the step down to exit – is more manageable than the glide and slide into a sedan’s seat, especially if a person has stiff joints.
For drivers who want a smart vehicle, which stands out as above the ordinary, the Mazda6 sedan deserves a long look.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan
Price range: $24,720 to $36,020 (plus options)
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty
Base engine: 2.5-liter I4
Power: 187 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 186 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm
Base transmission: six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 24 mpg city; 33 mpg highway
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 192 inches
Width: 72 inches
Height: 57 inches
Weight: 3,326 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.4 gallons
Turning circle: 36.7 ft.