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