2014 Mazda 6 GT SkyActiv, the Bi-polar Review


2014 Mazda 6 GT

I’ve been driving the 2014 Mazda 6 GT w/ Mazda’s SkyActive Technology Package for about a week now. It’s a stunner, looking for all the world like the kind of sports sedan Aston Martin would build if it had any stones. On top of that, the car has some seriously trick fuel-savings features and, I must admit, handles brilliantly (even on my tester’s Blizzak winter tires). For each of the Mazda’s highs, however, there is a low, and I will do my very best to remain objective as I share these, leaving you, dear reader, to decide whether the highs outweigh the lows.

Get comfy, then. We’re about to get weird.

2014 Mazda 6 GT: Highs and Lows

The 2014 Mazda 6 GT is a study in compromises. As I alluded to above, the Mazda is the best car I’ve tested in some ways. In other ways, it’s the very worst. Let’s start, then, on a high note: the Mazda’s muscle-car styling.

The 2014 Mazda 6 is, simply, one of the best-looking cars ever built. That may sound like it’s one of those “opinion” things, but it’s not. It’s a fact, and anyone with even the slightest hint of soul will see it immediately. The 2014 Mazda 6 GT combines the same sort of long hood/short deck sort of rear-drive proportions that made the original Mustang a classic, and combines those with a sexy, flowing curviness that is both subtly European and very, very Japanese in the best possible sense of the word.

There is only 1 (one) thing wrong with the Mazda’s look: it’s fake.

Granted, being 1 step away from perfection seems pretty good on paper, but the fact that the car draws you in with a long-hooded Muscle-car vibe then sticks you with the same basic mechanical front drive layout as a minivan is, at best, disappointing.

Let’s move on to the next “good” thing, then, shall we?

My 2014 Mazda 6 tester was equipped with the company’s highly lauded SkyActiv Technology Package. That includes Mazda’s i-ELOOP energy recovery system, active grille shutters, and radar-assisted cruise control, along with a few other goodies. The system is supposed to give back 28 city and 40 highway MPG and do all kinds of cool things like maintain a distance from the car in front of you, matching speed, accelerating back to your set speed once the “blocking” car moves, etc. It works amazingly well, and is almost totally invisible. It works so well, in fact, that I would almost suggest Mazda’s Technology Package be held out as the “gold standard” by which automotive electronics are measured by.

Almost, that is, because as well as the Mazda 6’s Technology Package worked, I didn’t get anywhere near 40 MPG. On several drives, even re-tracing the same route that gave back 51 MPG in the Toyota Corolla I tested earlier this month, I never saw more than 29.5 MPG, according to the car’s computer.

Mazda 6 MPG

Worse than the fuel economy letdown, however, was the Mazda’s infotainment system. It is, without question, the worst part of this, or any other car I have ever driven. Keep in mind, that list includes a Renault 5 (LeCar) that required me to, more than once, spray the fusebox with a fire extinguisher while driving.

What, exactly, made the infotainment system in the 2014 Mazda 6 so infuriating? It’s hard to explain, I think, but I’ll give it a try. Take a look at the photos of the system in in play, below, then read on as I explain the issues I had.

I was listening to the radio on a drive from my home in Oak Park to see a man about a guitar out in Plano, and wanted to change the station. Not wanting to take my hands off the wheel or my eyes off the road, I pressed the button on the left of the steering wheel that looks like it would have a “seek” function. Rather than going to the next station, it went to the next pre-set station.

“OK,” I thought. “That’s not what I expected, but it’s not the end of the world.

Next, I tried the BMW iDrive-syle knobule in the center console- and that’s when things really went sideways between me and the Mazda. Literally not a single input produced a sensible response. Turning the knob, pushing it left or right, pressing down on it, all seemed to have different functions depending on what screen I was in. In Nav mode, for example, I turned the knob thinking that it would take me back to audio or, at least, allow me to select a Navigation menu.

No dice.

Instead, turning the knob on the center console in the Mazda’s Nav screen zoomed in and out. Quickly. Distressingly quickly, in fact, going from “this is what is in your pores” close to “see what Lake Michigan looks like from deep space” far in seconds.

I’m sure I would, eventually, figure out the radio’s controls- but after nearly two decades of driving all manner of different cars, I’d like to think I’m pretty good at figuring out how an infotainment system works. In the 2014 Mazda 6, however, I was no closer to intuiting any of its supposed “features”, even after a week of trying. On the bright side, however, the Mazda’s sound system delivered fantastic sound quality- a fact I discovered after giving up entirely on the radio and playing songs through my phone’s BT connection. It was crisp, clear, and had decent bass.

So, where does that leave the Mazda 6?

2014 Mazda 6 GT: the Verdict

I couldn’t decide how I felt about the thing. In fact, the 2014 Mazda 6 GT seemed a little like a woman I used to date years ago- which is to say “beautiful, but incredibly frustrating”. Like the car, I used to love looking at her. She was an excellent playmate, too, but I couldn’t really figure her out and never managed to convince her to do anything productive with herself. In my twenties, that seemed OK- in my thirties?

Utterly stymied by the Mazda and unable to decide what I thought of it, I turned to the wife. While highly educated and extremely intelligent, the wife has almost no knowledge of car culture. She was, then, totally unaware of the fact that, as an automotive journalist, I am “supposed to” love the 2014 Mazda 6 GT. I asked her about the car, and she had generally positive things to say. Good-looking, roomy, yadda-yadda. It was when I asked her what she thought a car like the 2014 Mazda 6 GT might cost that she dropped a bomb on me: “I think more than the Corolla,” she said, referring to my last tester. “So, I dunno, $18,000 or $18,500.”


My wife is pretty good at guessing prices. She was within 10% of the sticker of both the Toyota Avalon and Lexus CT200h we tested, and nailed the Chevy Sonic with such precision that I’m convinced she peeked at the sticker while I wasn’t looking. Still, the price she put on the 2014 Mazda 6 was nearly $15K shy of the car’s $32,845 sticker.

So, where does that leave the 2014 Mazda 6 GT? I think it leaves it exactly where I have it, which is to say in a weird sort of “Why is this a thing?” limbo that it will never, ever escape- at least, not without some kind of massive infotainment overhaul, all-wheel drive, or a 35% price cut. There is, however, an alternative. A product that gives you all of the benefits of the 2014 Mazda 6 GT’s sexy curves, brilliant handling, and 40-ish (claimed) MPG fuel economy while getting fairly close to the car’s $18,000 “feels like” price.

That alternative? The 37 MPG 2014 Mazda 6 Sport with manual transmission, which stickers at just $20,990.

If you stick to your guns, drive a hard bargain, and show up at your nearest Mazda dealer an hour before closing time on the last day of the month, you’ll get to drive home the best looking $18,000 car cash money can buy.


Original content from Gas 2.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • John Eisenschmidt

    Great critique of the Mazda6, its fuel economy, and their vile infotainment system. I couldn’t agree more, except I had far more technology challenges with my 2013 CX-5: http://www.cxfail.com/2014/02/gas-20-critiques-technology-in-mazda-6.html #cxfail

    • “Vile” is a great word for it.

  • Ash

    Well dare I suggest the ‘writer’ needs to learn how to understand cars properly, to even try and link the Corolla to a Mazda 6 in the fuel economy stakes speaks volumes, one is 1000 lbs lighter….IF you plant your foot on gas pedal then how do you expect to get high MPG!!?…This is typical of Americans who are clueless, you can not have economy and power. Every other country who tests this all new Mazda 6 raves about the car and has few let downs, they even get the factory mileage, because they drive it how it is intended to be used….Funny how Canada gives 2013 CCOTY to this very same car last week.
    As for price, well yet again the USA is subsidized by the rest of the world…The USA has the cheapest cars on the planted because you demand cheap prices, you have all this technology in the Mazda 6 which costs money and you want this for nothing also!?…THE facts are the all new Mazda 6 offers more than what BMW, Audi and Mercedes give at half the price, but, if you WANT POWER don’t buy the Mazda…simple.,,,if you want a lightly balanced loaded car with superb finish and comfort for 4 and is still a drivers car then the Mazda is a superb choice.

    • Judging from some of your syntax choices, I’m going to assume English isn’t your first language and give you the benefit of the doubt. So let’s talk about some of your issues.

      First, the Toyota Corolla weighs in at about 2880 lbs., while the Mazda 6 weighs 3100. That’s a 220 lb. weight difference, rather than a 1000 lb., as you claim.

      Second, Toyota claims the Corolla gets 37 MPG, while Mazda advertises its Mazda 6 GT with SkyActiv to get 40 MPG. The Toyota out-performed its own claims, while the Mazda fell way, way short.

      The countries who rave about the car are right to do so- based on the car’s looks and handling. If you’re actually considering buying the car? It’s my opinion that you should skip the GT option and go for the base Sport model.

      As for the Mazda 6 offering “more than what BMW, Audi, and Mercedes give at half the price”, that is just factually, 100% incorrect. I could buy a brand new Mercedes CLA, get similar power, better standard equipment, similar real-world MPG, and a Mercedes badge for $29,990, which is some $2000 *LESS* than the Mazda 6 GT + SkyActiv. BMW and Audi also have sub-$30K options.

      So, your “THE facts” are wrong. That’s OK. We live, we learn, and we change our views. Maybe you’ll change yours … unless, you know, your paychecks all say “Mazda” on them.

      • mn_test347

        You (and the author) need to understand the difference between reporting that it gets 51mpg, and actually getting 51mpg. Big difference.

        • You may want to walk me through that, champ- I clearly stated my avg. MPG in the Corolla test, and noted that the trip on which I got an indicated 51 MPG was repeated to the best of my ability with the 6, which got an indicated 29 (ish) MPG.

          What am I missing? What are you missing? Are we both missing something?

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  • mn_test347

    The wost things “about the car” are that a) the author thought it was rwd? (b) the author did not read the infotainment system manual? (c) It gets worse fuel economy that the (obviously incorrect) 51mpg reported by a Corolla?

    • Not quite.

      a) the author understands that most new car buyers have no idea if their car is FWD, RWD, or what that even means. The typical Mazda buyer probably does, and the car is styled specifically to look like a RWD car. It’s not.

      b) the author did not, and believes that, in a post iOS world, he shouldn’t have to.

      c) the author reported his findings, and tha 51 MPG is correct in the context provided here: http://gas2.org/2014/02/14/2014-toyota-corolla-gets-the-chicago-winter-test/ and verified by photos at the link.

      d) the author thinks you have a reading comprehension problem.

  • Buset

    I just bought a 2014 Mazda 6 GT with tech package for my sons 2 weeks ago ( they share the car ). By the sound of it, you really don’t like Mazda. In my opinion, Mazda 6 dont look like a $15K car. In fact, it is much better looking than the Accord or Camry which has over $20k price tag. Before I bought the car for my son, they did test drive it and loved every bit of the car. My son had driven my 2006 BMW 320 and 2010 BMW 325 and guess what, the verdict is on Mazda 6.

    • I’m glad your over-privileged sons were able to upgrade to the Mazda 6. Hopefully, you’re also paying for their education, because if you had 6th grade reading comprehension skills you’d notice that I called the base Mazda 6 the best new car you can buy for that price.

      Nor do I, at any point, imply that the Mazda looks like a $15K car … so, have fun doing whatever it is you do- it clearly makes you good money and is incredibly easy. Mazel tov! You found a dream gig, my friend!

  • Jonathan Morales

    I love reading these honest reviews of cars. I do agree that the front end of the Mazda6 for 2014 does give you a muscle car vibe but the performance aspects you’d expected are not quite there yet…maybe with a MazdaSpeed version? Either way, the 2014 Mazda6 is pretty sleek in itself, check out our blog on it here: http://ramseymazda.com/2014/02/08/2014-mazda6-stock-ramsey-nj

    • Basic Mazda 6 with a manual is all you need, my man. Where are you guys located?

      • Jonathan Morales

        North Jersey and without a doubt, that’s the most fun you can have in a Mazda!

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  • Ariana

    Hi Jo. Thank you for your review! I have one question regarding mileage. Are you still on 29 mpg? I read somewhere in the internet, that after 1000 miles, you get to the suggested 37 mgp. Thanks again!

  • Siddhartha Dutta

    I am a Mazda 6 Touring owner since the past one month. I just want to say that most of the point brought in by the author of this article is completely wrong.

    1. Fuel economy: On highways I averaged 38 miles/ gallon on cruise. On average I get 450 miles before the gas light comes on. I filled approx 12.5 gallons twice. That’s an overall average of 35 miles/ gallon which I believe is one of the best in its class. Fuel economy was one of the main reasons for me to buy this car and so far I have absolutely loved it.

    2. Design: In the mid sized sedan segment this car is the absolutely best looking hands down. The closest second would be the 2013/14 Ford Fusion but the Mazda us definitely better however you look at it. I could not figure out a single internal or external design element that I would change in this car.

    3. Infotainment System: Its an absolute pleasure to use except one thing which I will talk about later. The infotainment knob is absolutely awesome and I use it all the time. When I purchased the car I thought it would be a gimmicky feature but its not. I dont have to reach out to the screen to do anything at all. If used properly this will make controlling everything on your dashboard a breeze.

    Now coming to the GPS on this car, its in one word horrible. Its not user friendly, its laggy and overall very confusing to use. Once you set up an address it works fine but I have seen far better GPS systems in cars.

    4. Transmission: The transmission is above average on this car. Just a reminder to everyone that this car has been built keeping fuel economy in mind. This is not your traditional Mazda zoom zoom car. However seeing the kind if fuel benefits I get this is fine for me. However for power car lovers this car would not be sufficient.

    5. Pricing: I would say pricing is comparable to other cars in its segment. I got mine for 25K with the GPS upgrade. If you dont care about the GPS I would suggest to go for the Sports package. It will be 5K cheaper.

  • mdl

    I have had my 6 GT for 5,000 miles, overall I am getting 31 mpg with an average speed of 30 mph. Best was on 37.7 mpg on the turnpike.

  • I own a 6 Sport MT — and love it. The stock radio (which is NOT the touchscreen nonsense) was immediately ripped out and replaced with a Pioneer 4000 NEX, which works perfectly and integrates with the steering wheel controls just fine with the PAC interface.

    I recently put 3,000 miles on it in 8 days on a road trip. It’s quiet, comfortable, never left me feeling like I was going to die at the end of an (often 10 hour!) day of driving and — get this — returned between 35 and 39mpg per tank end-to-end in mostly highway, but some city and suburban driving (~20% of the total miles, more or less.)

    Verdict? Oh yeah I’d buy it again. For under $21k out the door? Uh, yeah, even with the additional spend on the stereo, which incidentally got me the backup camera (which I installed myself) at the same time.

    The “6” Sport simply dusts the floor with the other available options within reasonable reach for dollars spent. IMHO the GT is grossly overpriced, never mind that I wanted the stick anyway.

  • james

    Haha well said! That’s exactly what I did, bought a 2015 sport manual for 17500. Wish I’d made an attempt to find a soul red one though, what a brilliant color!