Zoom-zoom. For automotive enthusiasts the name Mazda is synonymous with this catchy tagline. Like some kind of automotive Rorschach test, the words “Zoom-Zoom” conjure up images of red gen-1 Miata’s carving up roads like 1.5:1 scale go-karts.

Besides the Le-Mans winning Renown Mazda 787B, Miata, and RX-7, I have been preoccupied with other marquees for most of my life. However lately anytime anyone – car fan or not – asks me what kind of car they should get in the sedan or SUV category, I immediately include Mazda. In fact, I must sound like a Mazda fanboy as I go on and on to describe the design renaissance that Mazda is undergoing, the beautiful exterior and interior design that cars like the CX-9 feature, and the sporty driving feel that Mazda focuses on.

Pretty face aside, it’s that last part – captured in their new “Driving Matters” campaign, that makes me root for Mazda. While other, more prolific companies keep rolling out A-movers like SUVs, compact cross-overs, and near-luxury cars with performance division emblems slapped on, Mazda has fought the good fights and tried to stay true to its roots as a place that cares about driving feel regardless of how many (or few cars) they sell. Mazda sold about the same number of Miatas in 2015 as the now-defunct Scion sold iAs. In any other company, the Miata would be on life-support.

That all being said, the Miata is not exactly practical for getting the kids to soccer practice. Does your decision to reproduce bar you from enjoying driving, ban you to a land of minivans telling your friends excitedly how cool the automatic sliding doors are? Take heart my suburban super parent friend, the Mazda6 is here for you. Just like your handy Vitamix blender blends kale into fruity-tasting smoothies to ensure your kids get their daily iron intake, the Mazda6 infuses the driving passion of Mazda in a mid-size family sedan format that gets the job done.

 

EXTERIOR

I am going to join the chorus of automotive critics who say that the 2018 Mazda6 is one of the best-looking mid-size sedans on the market today. That’s saying something since this generation first bowed in 2013 as a 2014 model year.

2018 Mazda6

 

At the LA Auto Show, Mazda unveiled the 2018 model year facelift that incorporates a larger grille a la the CX-5 and CX-9, LED daytime running lights, and new taillights.  I’ll double-down and say that to me with the latest refresh the Mazda6 still looks better than many newer near-luxury or luxury mid-size sedans that it’s not in direct competition with.

Our specific loaner was a 2017.5 model year – itself no slouch in the looks department.

2017.5 Mazda 6

INTERIOR

Mazda touts that the interior of the Mazda6 is purpose-built around the driver, and that “nothing extraneous” has been included. The interior is indeed devoid of the seemingly random curves and baubles that so many modern cars incorporate in pursuit of an upscale aesthetic. Speaking of which, the Mazda6’s spartan (in a good way) design and use of high-end materials – especially in the Grand Touring trim – reminded me of near-luxury and luxury competitors of the Germanic variety (also in a good way). Our loaner featured striking parchment Nappa leather with perforated seating surfaces that complemented the Soul Red Metallic exterior beautifully. The beefy steering wheel is the star of the show with an almost-flat bottom that subtly reminds you of Mazda’s performance mission. Everything from the gauges and electronics controls are where you would expect them to be, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road as you relive your carefree coupe days.

 

TECHNOLOGY

All Mazda6s feature a 7-inch touchscreen display that sits atop the dash. Navigation is standard on the Grand Touring trim and the infotainment functions can be utilized via touch-screen when not driving, or using Mazda’s weighty and imposingly-named Commander Control Knob or voice commands when in motion. The Bose 11-speaker surround sound system delivered a crisp and powerful aural experience that helped make stop-and-go traffic less painful. In L.A., that’s a huge consideration.

 

As you would expect on a car of this caliber and price point, the Mazda6 comes with a host of safety and security features including lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and smart brake assist.

 

PERFORMANCE

And now for the main event – how did driver’s sedan actually drive? In one word – beautifully. On paper 184 horsepower and 185 lbs.-ft. of torque that we had at our disposal in the 2017.5 Mazda6 doesn’t sound exactly exhilarating. The fact of the matter the Mazda6 is not a drag strip assassin. It shines in the handling department and that’s where the Zoom-Zoom feeling comes in. That being said, we cannot wait to drive the 2018 Mazda6 with its new turbocharged SKYACTIV engine that serves up 227 horsepower and 310 lbs-ft of torque.

 

One of the reasons that the Mazda6 is so fun to drive relative to its staider competitors is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control. This technology analyzes driver inputs and adjusts throttle to ever-so-slightly cut throttle and help to load up the front of the car. What any racing school graduate will tell you is that this is how you get the car to turn-in quicker. So this is part of the secret sauce that makes the Mazda6 more fun to drive than other sedans you may pull up in front of in the school drop-off line.

 

WRAPPING IT UP

Sub-$40k mid-size sedans are often not the car of choice for auto enthusiasts looking to show off their worldly success or driving prowess. But for those of us who have clients to entertain or clones to take to soccer, a Miata, S2000, CRX (I can keep going…) are not in the cards, as a daily anyway. That’s where the Mazda6 comes in. It’s still possible to be practical and passionate about driving. On behalf of all suburban racers who still love to drive, we applaud the product planners, engineers, and executives at Mazda who are staying true to their tagline.

 

For more information on Mazda products, visit mazdausa.com.

2017.5 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Price:

Base $3o,695; As tested $34,695

Options: GT touring package

Engine:

SKYACTIV 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder

Horsepower:

184-hp

Torque

185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm

Drive configuration:

Front-wheel drive

Transmission type:

SKYACTIV®25-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift and Sport mode

Suspension:

Front MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar
Rear Multilink with stabilizer bar

Wheels and tires:

19″ alloy wheels

P225/45 R19 all-season tires

Brakes:

Brakes 4-wheel disc, diagonal hydraulic
– Front 11.7-inch vented disc
– Rear 10.9-inch solid disc

Dimensions:

Wheelbase (in) 111.4
Track, front (in) 62.8
Track, rear (in) 62.4
Length (in) 191.5
Width (in) 72.4
Height (in) 57.1

Mileage estimates (mpg city/highway/combined):

Automatic transmission  26 / 35 / 29 mpg

EPA Size Classification:

Midsize

* Passenger car classes are designated by the EPA based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two-seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions.

2018 MAZDA6 Overview at the LA Auto Show

(Courtesy RightTrack Motoring & LACar)

 

Story by Glenn Oyoung, Photos by Mazda