Entry Price: $21,945
Price as tested $34,580

This week, we’re driving the 2017 Mazda6, a mid-size sedan that looks good inside and out. Good looks aside, Mazda6 delivers an outstanding 35-MPG highway EPA number along with peppy performance thanks to Mazda’s respected Skyactiv powertrain combination.

Our tester arrived in top class Grand Touring trim, pushing the base price to $30,695 from the entry level Sport model, which starts at impressive $21,945. A mid-level Touring model begins at $24,195 and offers consumers an excellent mid-point to join the Mazda family of consumers.

New for 2017 is the Skyactiv Vehicle Dynamics G-Vectoring Control that allows achieving a smooth, less fatiguing drive according to Mazda information. Drivers will notice the control dynamics especially when cornering as on initial turn-in and throughout this system works effortlessly by adjusting power delivery and shifting vehicle weight. The effect is subtle, but you’ll know it is working when you exit after hitting the apex of a corner.

As for drivetrain, all Mazda6 models come with the respected Skyactiv technical/mechanical combination that zeroes in on stronger, lightweight alloys and perfectly matched powertrain assemblies. Mazda6 features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that delivers 184 horses and 185 lb. ft. of torque coupled to a fine shifting and precise six-speed automatic geared for both acceleration and performance.

For those who like to shift, a six-speed manual is available with the Sport and Touring models, although the Grand Touring comes only with the automatic. Not surprising nowadays is the fact that if you choose the six-speed manual you’ll get less fuel mileage than the high-tech automatic as manuals deliver 24 city and 34 highway.

Just about every comfort and safety convenience imaginable is standard on the Grand Touring, including dual-zone climate control, heated power front seats, leather trim, rear view camera, Bluetooth, USB, navigation, heads-up display, blind spot with cross-traffic alert, remote start, alloy pedals, cargo and floor mats, Bose “Centerpoint2” 11-speaker Bose HD/stereo, Mazda Connect infotainment system, Smart City brake support, push button start, paddle shifters, XM/Sirius satellite, power moonroof, high intensity headlamps, fog lamps and much more.

A major option on our tester is a recommended $2,500 Grand Touring Premium technology package featuring I-Eloop regenerative engine braking, high beam control, radar cruise control, forward obstructive warning, lane departure warning and active front grille shutters. The I-Eloop (“intelligent energy loop”) improves city fuel efficiency by one MPG thanks to storing energy to a capacitor that allows air-conditioning and other accessories to work while the engine is shut down at a stop sign. Your dealer will fully explain how this system helps fuel economy.

This all leads back to fuel mileage as a Mazda6 with I-Eloop delivers 27 city and 35 highway with the automatic, a most significant improvement compared to the last generation which ended in 2013 where similar Mazda6 models delivered 21 and 30, respectively. Overall, Mazda engineers added five more MPG highway thanks to its Skyactiv system. If you buy a Mazda6 without I-Eloop, you’ll still get a most impressive 26/35, so the additional cost versus return on investment will be a decision you’ll have to make when deciding on which Mazda6 you want.

As for handling, Mazda6 Grand Touring comes with 19-inch tires on beautiful alloys and delivers many of the handling characteristics Mazda learns on the nation’s major road racing circuits. The “6” sticks well in the turns and delivers a more solid ride in selectable “Sport Mode,” which this scribe likes very much.

To engage Sport Mode, drivers simply press a sport mode button and automatically the Skyactiv computer adjusts engine throttle response and transmission RPM shift points. This mode delivers more performance by allowing the engine to operate in the upper RPM ranges that affect torque and horsepower ratings to the positive. Yes, you’ll lose an MPG or two, but the Mazda “Zoom Zoom” theory of having fun while you drive becomes clear.

Inside, everything is within reach for driver and passenger. I really like the dashboard layout, speedometer and gauges but there’s still a console mounted color display that is cumbersome to learn. The radio volume is controlled either by a volume control knob on the console or by steering wheel buttons if desired. As for Navigation, there’s a learning curve there, also, but you’ll figure it all out once you have a “6” in your driveway. Rear legroom is quite good even for taller adults and there’s more than enough cargo room.

In addition to our Grand Touring tech package, other options include a rear bumper guard for $125 and door sill plates for another $125. This brought the final tally to $34,580 with $835 delivery included.

If you can afford one of the $30,000 Grand Touring model, that’s great. However, if you start with the entry Sport model and add a few options you can park a brand new 2017 Mazda6 in your driveway for less than $25,000 retail.

Safety features on every Mazda6 include all the airbags, four wheel disc ABS, electronic brake assist, dynamic stability, traction control and more.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 111.4 inches, 3,305 lb. curb weight, 14.8 cu. ft. of cargo space, 6.7-inch ground clearance and a 16.4 gallon fuel tank.

In summary, 2017 Mazda6 is athletic, looks great and delivers good economy. Many consumer magazines and auto publications recommended Mazda6, while owners and predicted reliability ratings are excellent.

Motif selection aside, the 2017 Mazda6 is a winner.

Likes: Fuel mileage, reliability, new Skyactiv technology.
Dislikes: Stereo/NAV learning curve, interior wind noise, not much else.

— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications. He welcomes reader questions at greg@gregzyla.com.