FOUR-SEASON TEST: 2014 Mazda6 GT

Sporty Mazda6 mid-size sedan makes a solid first impression

2014 Mazda6 GT - front 3/4 view low
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$32,195 base. $36,190 as tested.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 7.6 city. 5.1 highway. 6.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, 184 horsepower, 185 lb-ft torque; six-speed automatic transmission

Car reviews are typically based on one week spent with the vehicle, making it impossible to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses over the long term.

In this instance, however, Autofile will be checking out the 2014 Mazda6 through four seasons, evaluating its performance through all the conditions and challenges that each season presents.

It’s a unique opportunity to check out a vehicle over a long term – and share the results with you along the way.

GT model

The model I’ll be evaluating for the next year is a Mazda6 GT, a sporty family sedan finished in Mazda’s stunningly attractive Soul Red Mica finish (a $300 option) and featuring the Technology Package ($2,000) in addition to an impressive list of standard equipment.

2014 Mazda6 GT - rear 3/4 view low.JPGThe beautifully styled Mazda6 GT comes equipped with an all-new 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine featuring Mazda’s innovative SkyActiv technology that has been causing a buzz in the automotive world.

The 16-valve, double-overhead-camshaft four-cylider with direct injection has been designed from scratch to deliver superior fuel economy combined with low- and mid-range torque that surpasses that of conventional gasoline-powered engines.

Every component has been evaluated gram by gram to reduce weight without sacrificing durability.

Engineering breakthroughs, such as an ultra-high compression ratio of 13:01 using regular grade fuel, are setting Mazda apart in a world where turbo-charging and supercharging are perceived as the solution for performance and efficiency in small-displacement engines.

No one, however, is talking about the long-term impact of forced induction on these high-revving engines, but logic suggests Mazda’s naturally aspirated approach is less stressful over time.

More than adequate

In my initial time with this engine, it has been impressive. While its power output won’t snap your neck on acceleration, it does get the job done in a more than adequate manner.

2014 Mazda6 GT - headlight and grille detail.JPGPassing response is immediate and maintaining speed on superhighways is not an issue.

All this without paying heavily at the pump – in normal combined driving (city and highway), I’ve managed to post consumption rates from a low of 7.1 litres/100 km to highs in the mid-8s range.

An advanced balance shaft has been included to reduce noise and vibration – and it works well. The engine is surprisingly quiet for a four-banger, although it can be a bit raucous on cold start-ups.

The GT, like all Mazda6 variants, comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission that has been given the SkyActiv treatment. This gearbox is smaller, lighter yet stronger than any Mazda has built previously and has a sweet, short throw reminiscent of the sporty MX-5 Miata.

Our tester, however, is fitted with a new six-speed automatic transmission that’s a no-cost option on the GT. It, too, features SkyActiv technology that results in smooth, crisp shifts while delivering a 7% improvement in efficiency compared to its predecessor.

In the GT, this transmission choice also includes paddle shifters. Combined with the Sport mode, I’ve found the shifting between gears to be as responsive (and fun) as a manual box.

Attractive and comfortable inside

The interior of this GT is finished in soft black leather with contrasting red stitching – a very attractive combination. Piano black accents and brushed metal trim on the instrument panel complement the décor.

2014 Mazda6 GT - steering wheel and instrument panel.JPGOn several long drives, the front sport bucket seats have proven to be very comfortable and supportive and I’m told by rear-seat occupants that the accommodations back there are equally comfy.

Indeed, the rear legroom, which can be at a premium when I set my seat to accommodate my six-foot-plus frame, usually disappears, but not so in this sedan.

The only complaint so far from back-seat riders has been some wind noise around the rear doors and wheel/road noise emanating from the back end.

Many amenities

Already, the standard amenities on the GT are earning approval (and appreciation) from my co-pilot.

This model has set-it-and-forget-it dual-zone climate control, heated front seats with a trio of settings (great on cold mornings), rain-sensing wipers that actually work quite well, a fine premium Bose audio system with 11 speakers, a rear-view camera, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (which has already earned its keep) and HID Xenon headlamps with LED daytime lights.

2014 Mazda6 GT - headlight detail.JPGThese headlights do an amazing job of not only lighting up the roadway with a clean, white beam at night, but also effectively illuminating the shoulder as well.

The Technology Package adds Smart City Brake Support (which has kicked in once when the vehicle ahead stopped suddenly), forward obstruction warning intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning (which can be deactivated – and is) and a high-beam control system that automatically alternates between low and high beam, illuminating the road for an extended distance when feasible.

I’ve found the system does get somewhat confused on multi-lane highways.

Wiinter tires, of course

As part of this long-term test, Yokohama has supplied a set of its new iceGUARD iG52C winter tires for the Mazda6.

Although the GT comes with low-profile 225/45R19 all-season tires, we have opted for 235/55R17 winter tires – the circumference is the same, but the taller sidewalls will deliver a more compliant ride on the rough, rutted winter road surfaces in my area, and the narrower tread should cut through snow better as well.

Yokohama iceGUARD i52C winter tire.JPGThe timing for the installation couldn’t have been better – Kevin Granger and his crew at Bob Williams tire centre in London installed the Yokohamas just an hour before the first winter blast hit the city.

Several centimetres of snow covered already icy road surfaces, making for quite an adventure for most drivers. However, the new Yokohamas enabled our Mazda6 to negotiate its way through the white stuff without an issue.

As expected, there does seem to be an improvement in ride quality, though it’s only been a few days since the Yokohamas replaced the original Dunlop rubber.

I have noticed a slight increase in tire noise since the change. However, the trade-off for the Yokohama’s superior grip in this first brush with winter is a no-brainer. I’ll keep you posted on how these tires cope with the full fury of winter in this notorious snow-belt region of Ontario.

Initial impressions of this Mazda6 GT support the praise the car is earning from pundits – it’s just been named a Canadian Car of the Year finalist in the very competitive Family Car category by AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) – but we’ll see how it stacks up over the long term. Stay tuned.

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