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2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

2014 Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan - FROM $

A handsome new design, roomy cabin, agile handling and impressive fuel economy should make the 2014 Mazda 6 a much more competitive midsize sedan.

2014  Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan

What's New for 2014

The Mazda 6 is fully redesigned for 2014.

Introduction

Among the landscape of midsize sedans, the Mazda 6 has traditionally been an underdog. Most owners love their 6 -- there just aren't many who own one. The current-generation Mazda 6, the one that debuted in 2009, was supposed to fix that, but it never quite caught on with consumers. So Mazda will be trying again, this time with the new 2014 Mazda 6. It is the first car to incorporate, from the ground up, the company's new Skyactiv technology, which is essentially a collection of connected powertrain, chassis and efficiency improvements.

Chief among those upgrades is a direct-injected 2.5-liter four-cylinder joined to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The 2.5-liter engine generates 189 horsepower and should return about 37 highway mpg. Mazda appears to have no plans to continue with the 3.7-liter V6 -- and its middling fuel economy -- available in the current Mazda 6 top Grand Touring trim level. A turbocharged 2.2-liter diesel four-cylinder is a distinct possibility for a stateside Mazda 6, however. Mazda won't confirm it, but a diesel that generates up to 300 pound-feet of torque, as the European model is expected to do, aims the Mazda 6 squarely at Volkswagen's midsize diesel dominance. Whether the diesel arrives at all, and whether it measures up to Volkswagen's popular diesel TDI engine, remains to be seen.

The Mazda 6 will also feature an energy capture system called i-Eloop ("intelligent energy loop") that can store energy during deceleration to a capacitor, which can then power air-conditioning, lighting and accessories for about one minute while the stop-start system shuts down the engine at stoplights or in merciless traffic. Mazda hasn't decided whether to offer the stop-start feature in the U.S., however.

The Mazda 6 design theme holds true to the earlier Takeri concept car design. The "Kodo" design -- fancy designer-speak for the new curves, angles, depressions and aerodynamic cues formed into new Mazdas -- makes the 6 one of the more arresting designs in the class and an easy rival to the elegant new Ford Fusion. A prominent grille, tight rear shoulders and deep-set headlights augmented with LED halo rings further the 6's distinctive new look.

Given the outstanding choices in this class -- which include the Fusion, Volkswagen Passat and a redesigned Honda Accord -- we don't expect the 2014 Mazda 6 to stray far from its current base price of $21,520 (including destination). The U.S. version of the Mazda 6 goes on sale next spring.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2014 Mazda 6 is a five-passenger sedan that is likely to offer Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels. A recently unveiled European version hints at what U.S. buyers can expect, and features 17-inch wheels, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a 3.5-inch multi-information display and a standard four-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio jack.

Upgrades will likely include 19-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, a six-speaker audio system, a premium 11-speaker Bose audio system, a navigation system, a 5.8-inch touchscreen interface, Bluetooth, an iPod/USB interface, voice recognition and display readout of text and e-mail through compatible smartphones. A dial controller for navigation, phone and audio functions is also a likely offering.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2014 Mazda 6 will offer a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 189 hp. It can be matched to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission (with shift paddles on the steering wheel). In the European test cycle, the 2.5-liter returns about 37 mpg (the EPA hasn't yet estimated the Mazda 6's fuel economy) and Mazda says it should accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 7.8 seconds.

The wild-card engine is a 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder that generates 148 and 173 hp in standard and high-power versions, respectively. More importantly, it's also capable of 280 and 309 lb-ft of torque while still achieving around 50 mpg. Mazda won't confirm it, but odds are good that this engine will eventually be available on U.S. models.

Safety

Standard safety features for the Mazda 6 include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Other standard or optional safety features should include adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive headlights and lane departure warning.

Interior Design and Special Features

With 38.7 inches of rear legroom, the 2014 Mazda 6 promises rear seat passengers one of the roomiest rides in the class. For reference, consider that the cavernous Volkswagen Passat offers 39.1 inches, while the new Ford Fusion opens up 38.3, and you'll see that the Mazda 6 splits the difference. Rear legroom shouldn't come at the expense of luggage space either, as the Mazda 6 features a rather large trunk.

Inside, the Mazda 6 will replace Mazda's current red and blue gauge and instrument lighting with cool white illumination. Polished aluminum trim on door handles, shifter and dials, available leather upholstery and clean, minimalist organization of key controls gives the Mazda 6 a smart style. The quality of the materials, however, the hard and soft panels, dash and consoles, already feels slightly outdated, as if they were lifted from a three-year-old Camry. It doesn't strike us as a deal breaker, but at the very least, the interior and its perceived quality feel like a missed opportunity given the improvements in competitors like the Fusion and Nissan Altima.

Driving Impressions

So far we've only briefly driven the Mazda 6 that will be sold in Europe. Still, with lighter suspension components and a lighter chassis than before, the Mazda 6 feels sharp-witted and willing, with stand-out dynamics for the class. The flip-side, however, is that it rides more stiffly than competitors. The 2.5-liter is smooth and eager to rev. Like many Mazdas, the 6 is a car for practical buyers with enthusiast leanings. Those who lean far into the enthusiast scale will appreciate the availability of a six-speed manual. Don't discount the six-speed auto, however; it is an excellent, smooth-shifting gearbox that never needs to hunt for the right gear.