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Mazda6′s “SKYACTIV” approach builds a car that punches well above its weight class; one of the best driving sedans on the market while pulling down great fuel economy.


A new direct-fuel-injection 2.5-liter four-cylinder replaces the previous four- and six-cylinder engines; a 173-horsepower 2.2-liter turbo-diesel option arrives partway into the 2014 model year.

Always the rebel, Mazda has a reputation for going against the grain in product development. The automaker refuses to offer a hybrid powertrain option, which is tantamount to sacrilege. Instead, it pursues internal-combustion-engine refinement under the SKYACTIV label. From most angles, the Mazda6 is more expressive than the previous car and closely resembles Mazda’s Shinari and Takeri concept cars that revealed a new styling direction. The distance between the front and rear wheels has been increased by about two inches (the longest among its direct competitors, claims Mazda) for extra passenger room, while overall length has been reduced by about the same amount. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The uniqueness of the new four-cylinder is its higher-than-usual 13:1 compression ratio that gives the engine much of its extra punch. In addition, its specialized components, including the pistons and direct fuel-injection system (which cools the combustion chambers to allow the higher compression), means it can run on regular-grade fuel. Available in early calendar 2014 will be a 2.2-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel with 173 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices for both include a six-speed manual that uses a MX-5 Miata-inspired short-throw shifter, or the optional six-speed automatic. The base Sport model comes with the usual power and comfort ingredients. Adding the automatic transmission to the Sport also gets you a touch-screen display, a rearview camera and Bluetooth short-range networking. The mid-level Touring increases the content level with dual-zone climate control, power driver’s seat and 19-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard), while the Grand Touring bulks up with standard navigation, premium Bose-brand sound system and laser-guided speed control that applies the brakes when a potential rear-end collision appears imminent. Among the more interesting options is Mazda’s Intelligent Energy Loop (i-ELOOP). The system’s compact capacitor stores energy from the alternator, then feeds it directly to the car’s numerous electrical components. Mazda claims the i-ELOOP cuts fuel consumption by about five percent.

Base price (incl. destination): $21,700
Type: Four-door sedan
Base engine (hp): 2.5-liter DOHC I4 (184)
Optional engine (hp): 2.2-liter DOHC I4, turbo-diesel (173)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 25/37 (MT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
Weight (lb.): 3,180