We just took delivery of our 2014 Mazda6 Sport test car. This isn't our first encounter with Mazda's redesigned mainstream sedan; we drove a pre-production car (sans badges) late last year and recorded a First Drive video. But it was another recent Mazda6 drive that put this car into perspective.
That car was a previous-generation Mazda6 that I picked up on a cold Sunday night three weeks ago from Avis, my rental ride for the Detroit auto show. Since Avis Preferred gave me the choice of a ubiquitous Nissan Altima (choice of four), a Mitsubishi Eclipse (yuck), or a Chevrolet Impala (not an upgrade), the 6 was a welcome chance to get reacquainted. I last drove the previous-generation 6 when we tested two 2009 models. In the following years, the 6 was mostly overlooked by myself and most car shoppers.
Driving my rental, which felt surprisingly solid with 34,000 miles on it, what struck me is how similar the 2014 redesign feels to the old car. Both are more stylish than the midsized norm. (And to my eyes, the interior of the previous-gen 6 is more modern-looking than the new one.) Both have decent four-cylinder power. (The optional V6 is no more for 2014.) Both have comfortable rear seats for two adults. Both have nicely contoured front seats and a little too much road noise. And both have sporty handling that stands out in the class.
No doubt the new car has better fuel economy and much more connectivity. (The rental didn't even have a USB port.) An optional diesel will be a unique touch, too. But now I understand why Mazda is modest about sales expectations, given that the new car follows the same basic recipe of the old one. The 6 will appeal to some efficiency-minded enthusiasts and diesel buyers who don't favor Volkswagen, but it's not going to try and outrun a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry in the sales races.
For more on the 2014 Mazda6, enjoy our First Drive video. We're putting break-in miles on the test car we bought from a local dealer, and it will enter our test schedule soon.
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