In the high-stakes auto world, sometimes automakers just can’t wait a year to make updates to their vehicles, and that’s how cars like the 2017.5 Mazda6 come about. Although the heavily updated 2018 Mazda6 goes on sale this spring, Mazda didn’t want to wait that long to add more content to its mid-size sedan which is going up against brand-new offerings like the Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, and Honda Accord. The 2017.5 Mazda6 went on sale in October as a mid-model year offering, and brought added standard features to a car that’s already one of the most fun and affordable in its class.
Ahead of any seat time in the refreshed 2018 Mazda6, I had one last chance to experience the 2017.5 Mazda6, and it proved to be very fitting for this class—a 1,000-plus mile family road trip over the holidays. That’s a true test for any mid-size sedan.
2017.5 Mazda6 Exterior
Being an update focusing on adding content, there were no changes to the appearance of the 2017.5 Mazda6, which is definitely a good thing. The current Mazda6 was launched for the 2015 model year, and this design still looks better than ground-breaking designs seen on the new Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The bold front-end design features an upright grille with a large Mazda logo, and it is flanked by scowling headlights with attractive LED daytime running lights.
As good as the Mazda6 looks from every angle, the profile might be the best way to view this car. The sculpted front fender lines and rear shoulders give the 2017.5 Mazda6 an athletic look, while the rounded roofline and short decklid give the car an almost hatchback-like silhouette.
Making this Grand Touring trim level look even better, LED headlights and taillights are standard equipment, as is the grille’s accent lighting, which makes this car unmistakable at night. During the day, the $300 Soul Red Metallic paint job ensures that this car won’t go unnoticed.
2017.5 Mazda6 Interior
The content added to the 2017.5 Mazda6 affects the Sport and Touring trim levels, but the top Grand Touring trim was left untouched. Mazda likely couldn’t have packed any more content into this luxurious, well-equipped model, as leather, navigation, push-button start, and Mazda’s full-color Active Driving Display are all standard on the GT trim. One interesting note about the Active Driving Display unit is that unlike most head-up displays, this setup isn’t affected by polarized sunglasses.
Taking the cabin a bit further, the optional GT Premium Package adds a heated, hand-stitched leather steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats, Nappa leather seats and metallic switches and knobs that furthers the upscale look and feel of this sedan. The cream-colored perforated leather seats are incredibly comfortable and supportive, and the dark piping adds a stylish contrast. As is the case with most infotainment systems these days, Mazda Connect has its quirks (especially when you have to make a half dozen clicks just to set your favorite radio stations), but for the most part it is easy to use with an excellent display; the display can even be operated as a touch screen when the vehicle isn’t moving.
In terms of overall size, the Mazda6 might be slightly smaller than some of its rivals, but this cabin is still extremely spacious with plenty of rear headroom and legroom to seat three adults. During a road trip in cool weather, my rear passengers praised the Mazda6’s rear HVAC vents and the GT’s heated rear seats. Speaking of the road trip, the trunk’s 14.8 cubic feet isn’t close to being class-leading, but it was more than enough to swallow a week’s worth of my family’s luggage.
2017.5 Mazda6 Powertrain
All versions of the 2017.5 Mazda6 are powered by the same SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Like the Miata and some other Mazda products, what the Mazda6 lacks in horsepower, it more than makes up for with a solid chassis and suspension tuning, which makes it an incredibly fun family car. On top of that, it’s very efficient, with this GT tester having EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway** (when equipped with the optional i-ELOOP engine brake regeneration feature that is part of the GT Premium Package). After my week-long road trip, the computer showed 30.7 mpg, which is almost a perfect match for the EPA’s rating of 30 combined mpg.
Such a long trip usually reveals some weaknesses in the ride quality or comfort for most cars, but the Mazda6 only got better with more seat time. On the interstate, the ride is smooth and quiet—but the back roads are where this car truly shines. There are plenty of reasons to consider the Mazda6 over its rivals, but the biggest is how fun it is to drive. Everything about the Mazda6 was designed to maximize the fun for drivers, starting with the new-for-2017 G-Vectoring Control. This new feature is standard on all trim levels, and it uses throttle inputs and steering sensors to provide engine braking for improved steering stability and turn-in feel.
Even better, a curb weight of just 3,305—almost 300 pounds lighter than the sporty Camry XSE—lets this big sedan handle like a much smaller car. As a cherry on top for true enthusiasts, the Mazda6 actually offers a manual gearbox (in Sport and Touring trim levels) , but the Grand Touring only comes with the six-speed automatic. Although it lacks a manual, the GT does have paddle shifters for manual shift capabilities, which allows the driver to hold gears until redline rather than shifting for you.
2017.5 Mazda6 Safety
Along with its unique sportiness, Mazda is also dedicated to creating safe vehicles. With the exception of the Miata, the entire lineup of Mazda family cars and crossovers—including the 2017.5 Mazda6—carries a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And that’s backed up by a five-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The 2017.5 model years means that all Mazda6 trim levels now come standard with Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, but the Grand Touring tacks on even more, including Lane Keep Assist System, radar cruise control and Smart Brake Support System with Collision Warning.
2017.5 Mazda6 Overall
With even more standard features, the 2017.5 Mazda6 makes an already great sedan that much better. Even when compared against brand-new rivals, the Mazda6 continues to be the top option for buyers who want a car to be as sporty and stylish as it is affordable. Despite the added content for the mid model year, the 2017.5 Mazda6 is priced the same as the 2017 model year with a starting price of $21,945*. Jumping up to the Grand Touring trim level and adding in the GT Premium Package brought the as-tested price of this Mazda6 to $34,695.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Mazda dealership and test drive the exciting Mazda6 today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.