2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring: Still a zippy, fun sedan?

Price: $34,230. ($30,695 for the GT; $75 for cargo mat; $125 for door sill plates; and $2,500 for GT Premium Package, on which I explain below.)

Conventional wisdom: Motor Trend says "You'll like: Sporty driving dynamics, excellent fuel economy, interior feels upscale; you won't like: only one engine option; multimedia interface has a tendency to crash; transmission shifts can't beat the smoothness of a CVT."

Marketer's pitch: "Is it possible to engineer a feeling?"

Reality: The answer is yes, and that feeling is fun.

What's new: The Mazda6 receives some slight modifications for the 2017 model year. The company touts its G vectoring control, which it says allows the engine, transmission, and suspension to perform in better harmony. But beyond that, it's the same sedan I've known and loved.

Up to speed: The 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G four-cylinder creates 184 horsepower, a little low for today's sedans. Power is plentiful but not astounding. Sixty mph comes in 7.9 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Shifty: A six-speed manual is available, but the test model came with a shiftable six-speed automatic, with both paddle shifters and a shift lever. It all functioned admirably.

Drivers need to downshift for maximum power, but the torque of second and third gears can be swallowed by hills. If ever a company needed a seven- or eight-speed transmission, it's Mazda.

On the road: The zoom-zoom lives on. Handling is crisp and sharp, and butterflies were released often in the making of this review. I guess the G-vectoring control is really something.

Nappa leather seats are available in the Grand Touring trim level of the Mazda6. They’re supportive but firm.
Nappa leather seats are available in the Grand Touring trim level of the Mazda6. They’re supportive but firm.

Driver's Seat: Nappa leather seats (new for 2017) are part of the GT Premium Package, which also heats them, trims the steering wheel in leather, and turns the headliner black.

But, Mazda, as much as I adore thee, I remember from the long-ago Sturgis Family Protege5 that your leather seats can be a challenging ride. Even 10-Years-Ago Mr. Driver's Seat found them firm on long trips. The Mazda6, like the CX-9 and other current models, still keeps things on permanent press.

I confess I have since been caressed by the siren Lexus and massaged tenderly by Fords, and I now yearn for something with a little more give. And I'm getting old. So, yeah, stay off my lawn.

Friends and stuff: Backseat passengers fare no better. The corner seats are spacious and legroom, foot room, and headroom are plentiful for a midsized sedan. But a bit of a lumbar bump makes the seat a tad less than pleasing.

The middle passenger had better enjoy a strong sense of balance, or a close relationship with his seatmates. A tall seat hump and a taller foot hump make for a tippy ride.

A cubby in the console offers some room for storage, and a slot in front of the gear shift holds phones and such. Like most Mazdas, the storage space is well arranged, just in case your only Mazda experience has been the cramped CX-3 and its cup-holder arrangement.

Trunk space is 14.8 cubic feet.

Inside: The Mazda does have a fairly inexpensive look and feel. Door leaners will find their elbows get sore on the hard-plastic covering.

Play some tunes: Mazda's premium sound system comes with the usual tablet-looking screen and a dial control. Though I'm a fan of the setup, I did find the dial control's Achilles' heel; when you can't decide on a station and just want to fish around from song to song, the control can be awkward. Dial once to move to station list, click, then dial to move to the station of your choice.

Sound is good, probably about a B+. I guess some other stereos have surpassed the Mazda, because I used to think it was the bomb, and now I'm a fan of Ford and Volvo.

Night shift: The headlights shine brightly and illuminate the road well. The map lights are bright and diffuse, so it's hard to drive with them on.

Fuel economy: I averaged just under 30 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat array of testing.

Where it's built: Hofu, Japan.

How it's built: Consumer Reports gives the Mazda6 a predicted reliability of 4 out of 5, the same as the previous three years.

In the end: If you like a little fun in your family sedan, the Mazda6 remains the life of the party. The Honda Accord is not quite as fun, but a worthy competitor these days, though.