This is the best-looking Mazda6 yet. It follows Mazda's current Kodo design language, which aims to convey a more athletic, dynamic look. With many design cues coming straight from the radical-looking Shinari concept car that was unveiled a few years ago, Mazda design director Derek Jenkins and his team were able to create a midsize sedan that stands out from the crowd, with looks that are neither blase, nor overdone like some of the car's competitors.
The front end gets a more grown-up face featuring a curving, trapezoidal grille with stretched horizontal lines that make it appear wide, not tall like the big-mouthed Mazda3. Wraparound headlamps and LED foglamps with flared, geometric housings add athletic touches.
From the side, the prominent nose looks almost shark-like. The deep flowing creases over the front fender continue into the front doors, in a cue taken straight from the Shinari concept. The A-pillars are pushed farther back on the new Mazda6, which not only biases the proportions rearward, but it also aids with visibility while driving. Bright trim is used sparingly and tastefully around windows. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels look substantial, and the optional 19s on higher trim levels look even better.
In back, the shortened rear deck curves subtly outward, with an integrated lip spoiler on the line-topping Grand Touring trim. Wraparound taillamps mimic the horizontal shapes of the front end, and here, too, bright work is used to highlight but not overwhelm. Twin exhaust pipes that sit beneath the lower plastic bumper cover are subtly sporty.
In true Mazda style, the cockpit of the Mazda6 is centered around the driver. The steering wheel is smaller than before, and buttons and knobs on the center stack are within easy reach of the driver (even though many functions are duplicated on the steering wheel).
Materials inside are a mixed bag; the soft-touch dash and instrument panel are of good quality, but the plastic around doors, including window switches, have a generic parts-bin look. Still, there were no glaring fit or finish issues, and we daresay everything inside is on par with other cars in the class.
In front of the driver is a trio of gauges that are simple and easy to read; speedometer, tach and driver information display. The center instrument panel is equally clean. Knobs for the climate control sit three abreast. Beneath is a small cubby for a phone or keys. The center roll-top compartment can fit two average-sized water bottles, while deeper cup holders in the door fit larger beverages.
On cars equipped with Navigation, (sourced by Tom Tom), a 5.8-inch color touch screen sits front and center on the instrument panel, with its large control knob and related buttons located in the center console in front of the shifter, in a similar setup to those found on German luxury cars. While the screen is clear and easy to read, we found using some navigation functions annoying and non-intuitive, such as setting, changing or canceling a destination. It also takes some time to figure out how to change the map view.
Leather upholstery on the upper Grand Touring model has sporty, but not gaudy, red contrast trim stitching. We didn't find the leather particularly supple and prefer the soft, Alcantara-like fabric on the entry-level Sport trim.
The standard audio system found on the Sport trim is adequate but nothing special. The 11-speaker Bose setup is a much better choice for audiophiles.
Visibility is good all around, especially in front with the pushed-back of design with the A-pillars. Headroom and legroom is on par with the class, and the rear seats can accommodate a six-foot-tall passenger without any knee cramping or head bumping.
At 14.8 cubic feet, cargo space in the Mazda6 measures less than other cars in its class, compared with 16 cubic feet of space in the Ford Fusion, 15.8 in the Honda Accord and 15.4 for both the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. Still, the long, deep layout accommodates plenty of luggage and gear. A videographer on site remarked that he was easily able to fit his tripod without folding the legs, something he can't always do in other vehicles.