SEC­OND

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - AUTOS -

some re­ally fine lines when it com­pletely restyled the 6.

The metal­lic-white Grand Tour­ing model I had re­cently wore a big, bold blacked-out grille car­ry­ing an enor­mous black Mazda em­blem in the mid­dle.

Though its main mis­sion in life is to haul people to soc­cer fields and gro­cery stores and of­fice build­ings, its wind­shield was shoved back rak­ishly — like some­thing ham­mered out for the Au­to­bahn.

Un­like most front-wheel-drive cars, the 6 also had a long, broad hood and sen­su­ously curved top that gave it the ag­gres­sive pro­por­tions of an up­scale rear-wheel-drive sedan.

And while the car sported large, prac­ti­cal doors, the sides car­ried three finely etched char­ac­ter lines that gave the 6 some lean, de­fined mus­cle.

It kind of shouted: My dad can beat up your dad, and my mom is hot­ter than yours.

The 6 I had rode on good-look­ing 10-spoke al­loy wheels shod with fairly se­ri­ous 225/45-19-inch tires, fur­ther em­bel­lish­ing its sport-sedan ve­neer.

If you’ve grown weary of busy in­te­ri­ors with large, over-the-top cen­ter stacks, you would have ap­pre­ci­ated the un­usual black and off-white duds in mine.

The black dash­board was old-school flat on top, curv­ing down to a sleek, high-mounted nav­i­ga­tion screen, sub­tle cen­ter stack and large in­stru­ment panel.

That in­stru­ment panel, com­bined with the car’s grace­ful three-spoke Mazda steer­ing wheel, says: “Let’s find a curvy two-lane coun­try road.”

Be­fore we get too car­ried away, though, the car also has a back seat that’s eas­ily big enough to trans­port your moody 14-year-old and two of his large, sullen friends — plus all of their dig­i­tal de­vices and gi­ant clothes.

Mazda, how­ever, worked pretty hard to keep the fam­ily-friendly 6 play­ful. Plopped down in the midst of wellde­signed, highly func­tional in­te­rior pieces were black and off-white seats that looked to have been lifted from Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘58 Caddy.

I only wish Mazda had in­jected a bit more zest into the en­gine com­part­ment.

One of Mazda’s weapons to deal with ever-in­creas­ing federal fuel-econ­omy stan­dards is its new “Sky­ac­tiv” four­cylin­der en­gines. On paper, they look pretty darn for­mi­da­ble, em­ploy­ing di­rect fuel in­jec­tion, tuned ex­haust man­i­folds, good breath­ing and mas­sive 13:1 com­pres­sion.

BUT in re­al­ity, the mo­tors tend to be soft and kind of gut­less down low, de­liv­er­ing far bet­ter fuel econ­omy than pep. STill, the 2.5-litre Sky­ac­tiv four in the 6, while hardly an en­thu­si­ast’s mo­tor, is bet­ter than the 2-litre ver­sion in the Mazda3.

Smooth and re­fined, the 2.5 is as sleepy down low as the 2-litre ver­sion, so don’t ex­pect to wow the boys and girls at the Dairy Queen with smoky burnouts.

Prod it hard, though, and the en­gine slowly awak­ens, pulling pretty well above 4,000 rpm. Its co-con­spir­a­tor in these lit­tle bursts of speed is a solid six-speed au­to­matic.

A hun­dred kilo­me­tres and hour takes nearly 8 sec­onds to ar­rive. Nonethe­less, the 6 feels rea­son­ably quick and gets 8.1 litres per 100 kilo­me­tres in the city and 5.3 L/100 km on the high­way with a man­ual trans­mis­sion and an even bet­ter 7.6/5.1 with the au­to­matic — pretty im­pres­sive num­bers for a 1,400-kg-plus sedan.

And for many buy­ers in the mid­size seg­ment, fuel econ­omy al­ways trumps per­for­mance.

Still, one rea­son the 6 feels kind of spe­cial is its firm, al­most Ger­man-like ride and de­cent han­dling.

While it may be a bit too sport­ing for some, the sus­pen­sion on the 6 keeps body mo­tions in con­trol and is a will­ing ac­com­plice if you get a sud­den at­tack of Boy Racer.

(And just FYI: That ex­cuse does not work with the po­lice. “I got happy feet, of­fi­cer.”)

Turn-in to cor­ners is com­pe­tent, though not es­pe­cially crisp, and the 6 strug­gles a bit to find a line through curves.

But the car main­tains its bal­ance and grip ad­mirably while be­ing sub­jected to abuses most mid­size sedans would avoid.

Like­wise, the steer­ing is quick and well-weighted for a front-wheel-drive gro­cery-get­ter, oc­ca­sion­ally tempt­ing you to do things that will draw sharp re­bukes from your part­ner in the pas­sen­ger seat.

Don’t worry: They’ll get over it af­ter a few hun­dred dol­lars’ worth of gifts.

And with the stylish, spir­ited 6, you may be mak­ing those pur­chases reg­u­larly.

DEREK MCNAUGHTON / POSTMEDIA NEWS

The restyled Mazda 6, 2014 Mazda6 GT is a ‘run­way daz­zler’ with 10-spoke al­loy wheels and a ham­mered out wind­shield.

A three-spoke steer­ing wheel helps keep the in­te­rior play­ful.

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