The new-for-2014 Mazda6 sedan is more than just a pretty face. For Mazda, it marks the company's best effort yet at competing in the highly competitive midsize sedan segment, all the while staying true to the brand's core value of offering high levels of driver involvement above all. We certainly came away impressed after our first drive of the sleek Six in France last fall, and we knew right from the start that this would be a car we'd want to spend a lot of time with back here at home.
So with that in mind, the folks at Mazda graciously agreed to loan us the fully loaded Soul Red tester you see here for a one-year stay in the Autoblog long-term garage. Because of how important this car is to the segment, and to Mazda as a brand, we know there's going to be a lot to talk about it over the next 12 months. Right now, though, allow us to introduce you to the newest member of our long-term family.
Unlike our 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, where our staff couldn't come to an agreement about what color to get, we knew right from the get-go that we had to have our Mazda6 in this stunning Soul Red. Mazda doesn't actually offer a huge array of colors for its midsizer (options are limited to versions of white, red, black, blue, gray and silver), and while the car's shape lends itself to making a stylish sedan regardless of hue, the deep red color looks classy, and allows the flowing Kodo-inspired design elements to shine. At least one rival automaker has privately expressed its bewilderment to us about this very paint – apparently it's so rich and complex that it's markedly more expensive than other shades. Even though Mazda is charging $300 extra for it, they still can't figure out how the company makes the numbers work.
We knew right from the get-go that we had to have our Mazda6 in Soul Red.
It really is attractive, this Mazda6, especially with the large, 19-inch alloy wheels of our Grand Touring test car. GT models start at $29,945 (the base Mazda6 i Sport carries an MSRP of $20,880), and come with all the trimmings. Standard Grand Touring equipment includes these wheels, a power sunroof, rear lip spoiler, Bose Centerpoint audio with Sirius, heated leather seats, pushbutton start, navigation and bi-xenon, auto on/off headlamps with LED running lights. That's all in addition to stuff standard on mid-grade Touring models such as Bluetooth, Pandora radio, a power driver's seat and a 5.8-inch full-color touchscreen display with redundant controls found just aft of the shifter.
All that, combined with small one-off items like the premium for Soul Red paint, $75 clear film rear paint protection, $75 cargo mat, $125 door sill trim plates and $900 package that includes Mazda's radar cruise control and forward obstruction warning, and the as-tested price of our car is a cool $31,765, including $795 for destination.
Inside, our Soul Red exterior is matched with a full-on black interior (a two-tone Almond and black setup is also available). There isn't much contrast between the dark leather, dark plastic paneling and piano black accents around the center stack and shifter (the latter of which will no doubt be rife with fingerprint smudges by the time we're through). The cabin looks modern, but does lack some of the refinement found in other midsize sedans. We like the operation of the 5.8-inch touchscreen display, but the graphics are seriously last-generation, as is the size (we're living in a time where you can get an 8.4-inch screen in a Dodge Dart, after all). That said, our initial impressions of the interior are that it's comfortable and quiet, though we'll see how that holds up after more butts get in those seats.
The as-tested price of our car is a cool $31,765, including $795 for destination.
We'll be watching fuel economy closely, too, as Mazda rates the new Six at 26 miles per gallon city and a lofty 38 mpg highway. That's with the standard 2.5-liter Skyactiv inline four-cylinder engine under the hood, putting out 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on our GT model).
Our first impression of the 2014 Mazda6 has left us very eager to spend a year with this new Japanese sedan. We enjoyed our time with it in France, and beyond the fact that Mazda has a really solid competitor in one of the most frequently shopped segments, this car certainly proves that the automaker is capable of building truly solid products with no assistance from former parent company Ford. Here's hoping we feel the same way after 365 days.
We'll be posting monthly updates here on Autoblog for our long-term 2014 Mazda6. But remember to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for even more on-the-fly impressions as the car spends time with different members of our team.