Were you among the many who started watching Breaking Bad or The Sopranos years after everybody gushed? If so, your expectations were likely crazy high. So you may have been impressed, sure, but also left wondering whether all that extoling was truly warranted.
So it is with the Mazda6, AJAC’s pick for 2014 Car of the Year. It’s a great car, indeed. Yet with all the hype and publicity it’s received, your expectations will be crazy high. So a decent test in it may leave you thinking . . . not quite that the emperor’s naked but perhaps he’s wearing crocs.
Here’s what was great during a recent weeklong test
The Mazda6 is gorgeous. Period. It stands out amid sedans ten or fifteen thousand dollars more expensive.
It’s genuinely fun to drive. You can push it hard and still render decent fuel economy. It handles exceptionally well, lapping up the corners like a Tory senator at an open bar.
Speaking of fun, does any competitor even offer a good old standard 6-speed transmission any more? If you’re also among the many who never learned to drive stick, you’re still in look. There’s no extra charge for an automatic. (I drove one briefly last year and it handled marvelously too.)
As for bling? It comes equipped with a dowry that would flatter royalty. All these extras were included in the base price of the GT: intelligent key system, Bluetooth, power moonroof, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts, rain-sensing wipers and more on 19” alloy wheels.
So between the features and driving dynamics, kudos to Mazda: they continue to produce cars for those driving enthusiasts who still haven’t made their first million.
And here’s where it’s vulnerable
The electronic steering feels a tad artificial. The 4-cylinder engine really needs that manual tranny, putting out 184hp and 185 ft-lb of torque. For the same money, competitors offer V6 and turbo options. And the soundproofing isn’t up to some competitors, which affects your enjoyment of the (standard) Bose stereo.
Of course, these issues are not major. It’s just that with the high expectations Car of the Year supplants, you become acutely aware any imperfections.
Options (paint) $200
Freight & PDE $1,695
Taxes & Fees $4,550
As tested $38,640
Though a co-owner and former editor of DailyXY, Steven Bochenek is actually an advertising writer who does some journalism on the side. In 2011 he was accepted into the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. His other interests include playing music, long-distance running, skiing and writing in the third person.
Photo courtesy of Mazda.