2015 Mazda6 Touring Manual
John Goreham's picture

2015 Mazda6 Touring ideal for tech-savvy drivers looking for a sporty sedan

Our review of the 2015 Mazda6 mid-sized sedan with the 6-speed manual finds that the car is a unique blend of old-school sporty driving at a great value, but you will need a smart phone.

When the 2015 Mazd6 I Touring test car arrived my first thought was “Mazda has guts.” Mazda sent me a test car with almost no options, few creature comforts, and a six speed manual transmission. Test cars from manufacturers are almost always fully-loaded, and if not, come with the technology package at a minimum. This 2015 Mazda6 in my driveway was not like that. It was the most bare-bones test car one could imagine.

That does not mean the car was not good. Quite the contrary. The more I drove this car, considered its price point, and spoke to other people, the more I realized what Mazda is up to. For example, the car has no navigation system. I am used to using the in-car Nav in my own cars (one is an aftermarket unit I added) and in the cars I test. Telling my friends about the lack of Nav brought me not sympathy, but a surprise I had not expected. Who knew that so many people didn’t want Nav in their cars? My friends, almost without exception, seemed to think I was old-fashioned for using in-car navigation. They all seemed to rely on their phones. OK, so I’m behind the times by mastering the most advanced in-car Nav systems in the market.

It wasn’t what the Mazda6 we tested lacked that defined it, but rather what it did have. It had a slick 6-speed manual transmission. that transmission is an endangered species, particularly in front wheel drive mid-size sedans. It was refreshing to see one. Mazda says that only about 7% of its customers choose the manual in its Mazda6. Now I was sure Mazda had guts. Here’s why I think this car is important, and why it would be a great choice for a tech-savy car lover on a budget shopping for a family sedan.

2015 Mazda6 Exterior Design
Let’s first start by saying “family-car” is just one name that could be applied to this car. It looks a lot like the Mercedes CLA (and the Mazda came out first). Is the CLA a family car? It has 4-doors, is front-wheel drive like this Mazda6, is similar in size to this Mazda6, and from the front you can barely tell them apart. Yet, Mercedes invents all kinds of other names for its new CLA. The Mazda6 outsells the CLA by about 4 to 1. Maybe Mercedes should try Mazda’s marketing approach.

The front of the 2015 Mazda6 is the same as all the other cars these days in most ways. A flat up and down grill designed to knock down pedestrians cleanly at the femurs. A long hood with space between it and the hard parts underneath (like the engine) to absorb the pedestrian's body and head impact in a strike. These two design elements are no longer negotiable since the government invented the pedestrian striking standards all cars now comply with. It is why all sedans now look this way. The bold grill is Mazda’s own design, but it too is a reflection of the only good option left given the restrictions on its shape. It works. The overall look is modern and clean.

Along the sides the big front fender flares of the previous generation Mazda6 have been toned down. That other car looked like it had an RX-8 grafted to its flanks and it was a little too much. This Mazda6 is more balanced and still has a great flow to it along the sides. Hyundai’s Sonata and the Nissan Altima have a look like this and it works. The back is great. Twin tailpipes. A good look (see our side by side photo with the prior generation for comparison). The trunk lid is small, but the trunk is actually big due to a large, almost horizontal rear window. The glass on this car is very flat.

The side glass is smaller to my eye than the Accord or Camry’s side windows and you feel that when you get inside. The B-Pillar is also a little unusual. It is more forward than in most cars and when you are inside it is basically beside your head and torso. Perhaps for safety? I like that idea, but it does hinder your ingress and egress a bit and it makes it hard to rest your arm on the open window sill. That’s not a great habit anyway.

Our car came with the Soul Red paint option ($300 adder) and it is simply fantastic. One passerby said “nice culla” to me in the Boston area. It makes the car look the best it can. Consider it.

Interior Design of the Mazda6 Touring
So about that Nav that seems missing. If you configure a Mazda6 I Touring with a stick shift you just can’t have Nav. Mazda does not let you. If you select the automatic when you are in the “Build Your Own” configurator, the two packaged for “Technology” and “Moonroof” come up. Interesting. Mazda knows somehow that buyers of the stick '6 will not want these options. If you do choose them, the car jumps in price from our tester’s $25,310 to $28,940. If you click “Technology” the configurator makes you also take the moonroof. All or nothing. However, you can have just a moonroof without Nav.

None of the stick shift Mazda6 cars comes with leather either. The options are leatherette in the I Touring or cloth in the basic model, which is called “Sport.” That is fine. Leather is about 20 minutes from being considered animal cruelty to many people, so leatherette is fine with me. If you do want leather (and I do) then you have to get the Grand Touring Model and no stick. With the technology package and floor mats the Mazda6 Grand Touring is $33K. That price also gets you radar cruise control (something the Tesla Model S can not have), forward obstruction warning (again sorry, can't get that in the Tesla), lane departure warnings, and two things to improve your mileage. Active grill shutters and the i-ELOOP system.

Our test Mazda6 had Sand colored seats and a black interior otherwise. I liked that the seats brightened up the cabin. All black is so 1990s. The dash is laid out like our recent Mazda3 test car, but since this was a lower trim level, it was missing the great little volume button next to the multi-function rotary knob Mazda puts on the center island near the shifter. I called that my favorite part of the 3’s interior and I missed it. Without Nav I never found any reason to use the rotary knob in this test car.

The driver’s (unheated) seat had basic power and all 4 windows were auto-up and down. So refreshing. Why don’t all cars have that? The climate control is automatic, but if you prefer to control it for yourself (as I do) it is also very easy. I despise cars with complicated climate control, so this car gets my nod of approval for the HVAC.

The audio was good. My phone instantly synched with the Bluetooth. My Pandora worked from phone to Bluetooth with just the basic functions. No Satellite radio. I don’t like Sat Rad, so I didn’t miss it. The screen for the audio was good-sized and the instruments were the classic design. When you back up the screen is the rear-view camera complete with guide lines. You will pay dearly to add that seemingly common safety feature to a BMW sedan. It all works. The loaded Mazda3 I had made me feel like I was in a more premium car, but its price tag did too. This Mazda6 I Touring has what you need and not one thing more.

The trunk was good sized and the seats split and fold 60-40. My high school-aged son’s hockey stick and bag went in with no trouble. There is a compact spare in the trunk. Beware run-flats and repair kits on other brands. A person 6 feet tall can comfortably sit behind this 6 foot tall person in the driver’s seat. The Mazda6 is a comfortable car for 4 adults and a fifth can be given the middle back seat in a pinch.

Driving the Mazda6 Touring Manual
The drive of the 2015 Mazda6 I Touring is pretty near perfect. It isn’t too soft (Camry). The transmission is fun if you like a stick shifter, and if you opt for the automatic is a real geared transmission, not a CVT that makes you suffer a droning moaning odd-feeling (Altima). The car has all the power and torque you need. First is tall so you can actually use it for more than the first 10 feet. Second is torquey, so you can roll around corners slowly and not have to shift to first every time you come to an intersection.

The Mazda6’s SkyActiv-G engine's 184 horsepower is so silky smooth you really never hear it. I always laugh when EV owners tell me how quiet their car is. I could not hear the engine in this Mazda at idle or around town unless I floored the gas. Then it makes only great sounds. Cruising around town I sometimes looked down and saw I was at 4,000 on the tachometer having forgotten an upshift. Yoda might say "Crazy smooth is this in-line four."

The handling of the 6 with its tight steering and big 19” wheels and low profile tires is just right. The car is stiff, but not harsh. It fells sporty and does not lean in corners. It inspires confidence and when pushed seems to come alive. Last year one of the Mazda6’s competitors held a “Ride and Drive” at location near me. I attended, and I drove all the competitors to this car on an autocross course. Interestingly, the company that sponsored the event did not include the Mazda6. I now know why. It would have stolen the show. The Accord, Camry, Altima, Sonata, Optima, and Fusion cannot beat this car's ride for those that want to feel the road. If you like mushy and soft, or overly firm, you can find that in the list above.

2015 Mazda6 Touring Fuel Economy
I always take my cars on a 100 mile mostly-highway loop to see what the best highway MPG can be. I got 37.8 MPG. The EPA says you will get 37. The automatic is rated at higher. Over a separate 400 mile loop I used the car in actual city (Boston) driving, suburban driving, back-roads driving, and about 1/5th congested highway slogging. The car returned 32.5 MPG over that stretch. The EPA says it will get 29 MPG combined. The car takes regular gas. As I always point out, never – ever – buy a family car that takes premium. The tank can hold enough gas for over 400 miles of mixed driving.

Mazda6 Is a Top Safety Pick+
The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) has evaluated this generation of the Mazda6 and has given the car the highest possible IIHS safety rating of Top Safety Pick Plus. In the very difficult new small frontal overlap test the Mazda6 scored acceptable, and the vehicle can come with a forward collision prevention system. Those two elements are what enables a car to be considered as a Top Safety Pick if all the conventional tests go well..The highest rating would apply to those cars with that forward collision prevention system. Our test car had blind spot monitors. The Mazda 6 has a weight typical for its class of 3200 pounds. Its safety should be as good as the very best vehicles in the US market this size and weight.

The Final Word
The 2015 Mazda6 I Touring with the six speed manual transmission is an outlier. Not many people will own one. However, those that already prefer their phone for infotainment, who want to shift the gears themselves, and want a great looking car that drives better than anything else in the class, will find this car very satisfying and an excellent value.

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I have long been a fan of Mazda, definitely my favorite of the Japanese nameplates. This latest design is no exception, looks great coming and going. I also like the fact that not every other car you meet on the road is a Mazda. Having said that, I do have one big (make that huge) concern...whatever happened to "Zoom-Zoom"?? No more MazdaSpeed editions are available, and not even a V-6!! Not EVERYONE needs to get 35+ MPG. There are still some of us who enjoy the push back in the seat feeling every now and then. Help us out Mazda!!!
Bob's right. Mazda may add the stick shift option to the Mazda3 with the 2.5 liter engine, but is that going to sustain the brand's image for another year until the Miata arrives? http://www.torquenews.com/1083/evidence-2015-mazda3-25-liter-manual-stick-shift-mounts
I like mazda6. It is very nice
I have a 2014 Mazda6 Touring with the manual transmission and love it. I've had it close to eight months now. As stated in the review, the engine is silky smooth and feels very refined. Concerning Navigation, while is is not available as an option in the MT Touring, is is available as an accessory (the very same system) and is very affordable. Many have purchased it and installed it themselves for under 500.00. I had mine installed by a Mazda dealer for just over 600.00 Many previous reviewers thought Mazda left the nav buttons because they were to cheap to remove it, however Mazda left it to keep it quick and simple to add later. All Mazda 6's (except the Sport MT which doesn't have the touch screen) are already pre-wired for nav. I've been averaging about 27 mpg (primarily city/suburb driving with a little highway thrown in). I've taken two trips since I got the car and have averaged right around the EPA rating of 37, this is based on the actual fuel needed to fill the car, not the trip computer which I do not find to be incredibly accurate.
This was a hugely valuable comment. Thank you for adding it. we appreciate it.
Hi there: I am also a BIG MAZDA fan!! -:) My 2004 Mazda 3 (WHICH I LOVE DEARLY) with 150,000 miles still runs great (NO ISSUES WHATSOEVER). Few months ago, when I was getting an oil change at the dealership, I saw the 2015 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring with technology package and I FELL IN LOVE WITH THAT CAR! I simply could not believe how PERFECT the car WAS IN and OUT! I am a very picky person, I pay attention to details and I am obsessed with flawless design . Mazda 6 is so well crafted with a beautiful interior, great looking dashboard and amazing lines on the exterior that I could not find a single flaw! It looks so much classier than even many higher end vehicles in the market nowadays. Meanwhile, all other cars in its class (such as Camry, Altima, Fusion etc..) look so boring! They are all toasters on 4 wheels!!! Mazda 6 on the other hand, with its Kodo design definitely stands out from the crowd, not to mention all the high tech that you can enjoy, that its competitors cannot even come close! So, just this past week, I finally decided to take the plunge and ordered my 2015 liquid silver Mazda 6 i Grand Touring with tech package and few more options (such as the remote engine start, door plates, rear bumper guard, cargo net and parking sensor). I am literally getting almost all the options this car can possibly come with for only 30K!!! If you would try to get all this with the competition's higher end models (Fusion, Camry and Altima don't even offer everything Mazda does!) you would need to pay a whole lot more than 30K!!! Since the dealership did not have what I wanted in stock, they had to place an order. My brand spanking new Mazda is now on its way from Japan to the USA, as we speak! -:) Looking forward to receiving my New Baby!!! -:) By the way, up to this date, I still don't understand why there are so few Mazdas on the road??? Why do people keep buying those toasters (Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans etc...)??? They are all ugly as hell and they are getting uglier and uglier every other day. That is still A MYSTERY TO ME!!!!!
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Totally agree. Was At Costco the other day and was checking out what I thought was a new Infiniti or high end sedan. I was shocked to see it was a Mazda badge on it. One dam good looking car. It's unfortunate it's not offered with turbo or V6 but with 38 mpg dangggg I can leave my power ego at the door! All these other makes Toyota, hundai, altima, Honda look like overpriced bland grandma junk after seeing the Mazda 6 lines and mileage.
I am still waiting for my Mazda 6 GT with tech package to arrive from Japan. CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -:) The dealer told me that nobody in the State of Florida has ordered one with all the extra options that I wanted. I replied back to him:" Not only I want to drive the best looking and sexiest car on the road, but I also want to have The Smartest One! -:) " About the turbo, yes it does not have a Turbo, but Mazda put a button under the gas paddle on Mazda 6 (identical to what Audi has), so when you need some extra kick, you can put the paddle to the medal, and then the car really takes off!!! It also has a "Sport" mode and gear shifters on both sides of the steering wheel so you can really have some fun driving a Mazda 6!!! -:) All the other toasters out there will collect your dust when you zoom zoom with a Mazda 6!!! When My Baby finally gets here from JAPAN, I will proudly post some pictures!!! LONG LIVE MAZDA!!!!! Reha
I own a 2015 manual as tested in this piece. This reviewer and I have dead-on identical impressions of this Mazda. I even have a teen son with hockey sticks to cart around! I agree this car, in countless ways, outshines its competitors. I drove an Accord Sport manual back to back when shopping. Accord was "fine" (damning praise) while the M6 was much more comfortable and seemed less compromised. They were only about $250 apart, but in the real world were very far apart. It was an easy choice. I would only add that entry and egress through the front doors requires a bit more bending and neck twisting that I would prefer. The week I was heeling from a sprained MCL in my right knee required a bit of wincing and groaning to get in and out of my 6. Lastly, this car looks and feels like something much more expensive. I still consider it a treat to get in this car to drive to work each day!