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Mazda6 not content just to sit pretty

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2014 Mazda6

Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder

Wheelbase: 111.4 inches

Cargo space: 14.8 cubic feet

EPA rating (city/highway): 28/40 mpg

Fuel consumption: 33 mpg

Base price, base model: $20,990

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Larry Printz
Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

It's easy to be swayed by a pretty face in a new-car showroom. Even if buyers know that a car's true beauty is more than skin deep, style has a greater impact than they realize.

But build a car with great performance to match its stunning looks, and, most likely, you'll have a hit on your hands.

Which brings us to the 2014 Mazda6, which is beautiful not just for what you see, but for what you experience behind the wheel.

Let's start with what's most apparent: the styling. The Mazda6's gorgeous, graceful lines emanate from a new five-point grille and flow over the rounded roof, integrating smoothly into the rear deck. It's a marvelous piece of work that captures what Mazda calls its “Soul of Motion” design language.

By contrast, the interior seems rather pedestrian, as if stylists spent too much time creating the exterior.

Although Mazda rates the Mazda6 as a five-passenger car, four is more realistic. Still, the cabin is roomy and seat comfort is very good, front and rear.

That said, storage space is far from ample. Thankfully, the trunk is wide, goes far forward and seems generous.

So, you might wonder, where is the beauty that you don't see? Hit the road, Jack.

Handling is taut and responsive, with a firm ride that's never jarring. The lack of body lean in corners is impressive. It will leave you with a grin on your face as you thank yourself for not buying a more popular car.

The 2.5-liter four's power is ample once speed builds, although it feels meager off the line. The six-speed transmission is geared for fuel economy; manual shifting reveals the engine's true potential.

The Mazda6 combines an impressive balance of power, handling, fuel economy and style that makes this car seem like more than just another mundane, mainstream, midsize sedan.

Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.

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