I drive a lot of cars. A lot of cars. And I've learned one thing throughout the process: First impressions are usually correct.
I had previously attended a media preview of the Mazda6, and we had a couple of hours of presentations and a couple of hours behind the wheel. While I thought the Mazda6 was pretty enough, it didn't wow me.
And this car was meant to be a wow. A flagship for the Mazda brand. So, I was hoping that during a recent weeklong test, I'd get it. I'd get the wow.
Mazda is going to hate me for saying this, but I still didn't get it.
Don't get me wrong, this is a nice car. Mazda did a phenomenal job with the exterior and interior design. The flared wheel wells smack of the RX-8, yet the chrome accents add an upscale feel. The interior is simple and intuitive, and the texture and pattern of the standard cloth seating surfaces were soft and attractive.
The two interior curiosities surrounded the zebra-like black lacquered dash inserts and the red-and-blue accent lighting. Both of these features seemed a bit confusing and overdone, adding complexity where none was needed.
My main beef, however, was--and still is--with the ride and handling. And the four-cylinder engine.
For Chicago driving, there were some red flags:
- Turning radius stunk--trying to get in and out of my tight condo parking space was cumbersome.
- 170 horsepower wasn't nearly enough for the size of the car--acceleration was sluggish, which made traffic merges difficult.
- Engine noise was loud, and not in a good way--a little sound-deadening material would go a long way here.
From the Zoom-Zoom automaker, I expected more. And I love (LOVE) every other car Mazda puts out. Even the quirky little Mazda5. So, perhaps it was just a case of expecting too much.
But, before I sign off, I should point out that there is a lot to love here:
- Optional Bluetooth pairing was easy, and calls through the car were clear and consistent.
- The seats were highly adjustable, and as a petite driver, I got an excellent driving position.
- All gauges and controls are easy to reach and read, and everything is intuitively placed.
Is this car worth checking out? Absolutely. Does it knock the socks off competitors from Toyota, Nissan and Honda? .... Weeeeeeeeeeeeell, hmm.