2014 Mazda6 i Touring Long-Term Update 5
Shiny Happy People Driving
The 2014 Mazda6 mileage continues to pile up under my hands and those of the staff. These are apparently oily hands, as the '6's leather-wrapped steering wheel has taken on a smooth and oddly glossy sheen. To be fair, it is about the only surface in the car showing any signs of wear. The cloth-covered seats are still grippy; the cushion foam as supportive as the day I first drove it.
All of the controls in the car still snick and click with authority, especially the center console's little-used rotary controller. At the outset of the loan, I hypothesized that this dial would be used not at all, since our base '6 came without a navigation system, and zipping through radio stations could be done with the steering wheel controls and/or the touchscreen.
Speaking of the stereo system, I do have one gripe to register on behalf of a few of the younger, deafer members of the Motor Trend staff. If the position of the adjustable sound levels after a weekend with these young 'uns is any indication, the bass and treble response are in dire need of amplification. What? Exactly.
Rowing through the gearbox continues to be a simple pleasure. The 2.5-liter I-4 is no stoplight stunner, but it is well-paired with the six-speed manual. When merging onto the 405 Freeway, I often send the tach needle whirring to redline for no other reason than to enjoy the high-rpm smoothness. Even as the engine speed nears maximum, there is never any coarseness felt in my ears, hands, feet, or backside. It's a lovely, understated engine -- and one that happily sips regular, too.
A light flywheel means there is little point to engine braking, except for the challenge of executing a perfect heel-toe downshift -- which shouldn't be overrated these days. Same goes for the steering, perhaps the '6's strongest quality against its competitive field. Like the rest of the driver controls, the steering system has a clear and natural feel, which seems like no big deal at first. After sampling other cars, particularly better sellers in the midsize class, I've come to respect the delicate balance Mazda engineers have struck. The steering input and effort are light, but the feel is neither disconnected nor artificially quick (a trend these days to add "sportiness").
As our time with the Mazda6 draws to close, I'm struck by how straightforward, easy, and enjoyable the "ownership" experience has been. I've been able to just grab the keys and go -- and that's exactly the way it should be.
More on our long-term 2014 Mazda6 i Touring: