The Mazda6 re­mains an ex­cel­lent choice for those who love to drive. Larry Printz shares his ex­pe­ri­ence

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In an era where some mid­size sedans have styling that call to mind kabuki masks, while oth­ers are dis­ap­pear­ing al­to­gether, the Mazda6 re­mains the choice of those who love to drive, and who find the thought of au­ton­o­mous cars nau­se­at­ing. Af­ter all, when a car is as en­joy­able to drive as the Mazda6, why would you leave driv­ing to a com­puter?

Art­fully ren­dered and skill­fully en­gi­neered, the Mazda6 main­tains its at­trac­tive al­lure this year, re­ceiv­ing new stan­dard LED light­ing, re­vised in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als a new front grille de­sign, re­vised wheels and a cabin makeover.

What’s un­changed is this car ’s in­cred­i­ble good looks, with a nat­u­rally flow­ing belt­line and rak­ish green­house. The new grille adds an ad­di­tional dash of sporti­ness, and is framed by an el­e­gant ac­cent of chrome trim. It looks racy, and it has the goods to back up its ex­quis­ite ap­pear­ance.

Credit the new tur­bocharged 2.5-litre four-cylin­der en­gine, which is the same en­gine found in the Mazda CX-9 cross­over. Rated at 250 horse­power and 310 pound-feet of torque, it mates to a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. A six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion is avail­able, but comes only with the nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated ver­sion of the same en­gine that pro­duces 187 horse­power and 186 pound­feet of torque.

Step on the throt­tle and you’ll find gen­er­ous amounts of power, al­though ini­tial ac­cel­er­a­tion could be a lit­tle stronger. The trans­mis­sion shifts smoothly, un­ob­tru­sively fir­ing off the shifts that keep this car cook­ing. Han­dling is quite good for a front driver, with lit­tle body lean and no torque steer.

There’s a se­lectable Sport mode, but since it only changes the trans­mis­sion’s shift points, its use­ful­ness is triv­ial. Be­sides, the stan­dard tun­ing works ex­tremely well; this thing is a hoot to drive. The re­tuned chas­sis and sus­pen­sion pro­vide a ride that’s firm and fairly ab­sorbent, al­though the largest bumps crash through un­com­fort­ably. The cabin is fairly quiet, with only the worst road sur­faces pro­duc­ing too much racket.

In­side, Mazda fully re­designed the seats to bet­ter ab­sorb vi­bra­tions. Bet­ter yet, they can be equipped with seat heaters and ven­ti­la­tion up front, and heated seats in the rear. The cabin is spa­cious, with gen­er­ous front seat legroom and a de­cent amount in the rear. Of course, if there’s not enough space, there’s al­ways the gen­er­ously sized trunk.

The in­stru­ment panel is new as well, de­signed in a sleek min­i­mal­is­tic id­iom that seems above its sta­tion. Opt for the top trim level and you’ll be treated to wood, suede and leather ac­cents, which merely gilds the lily, trans­form­ing this sub­lime ride into one that’s af­ford­ably pre­mium.

Avail­able in as­cend­ing Sport, Tour­ing, Grand Tour­ing, Grand Tour­ing Re­serve, and Sig­na­ture trim lev­els, the Mazda6 ben­e­fits from a large 8-inch touch­screen that houses Mazda Con­nect, the brand’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. Its in­tu­itive in­ter­face makes it easy to use, and pair­ing a mo­bile phone is easy and quick. Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto are now avail­able.

Like many new rides, the Mazda6 comes with an im­pres­sive num­ber of driv­ing as­sis­tance aids, in­clud­ing blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing, lane-keep­ing as­sist and adap­tive cruise con­trol are stan­dard on all but Sport mod­els, where they’re part of an op­tional $625 pack­age.

There are newer com­peti­tors in the mid­size sedan seg­ment, but few of­fer the so­phis­ti­cated mix of adept han­dling, am­ple power, rea­son­able fuel econ­omy and the lat­est in tech all wrapped in a be­guil­ingly beau­ti­ful pack­age.

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