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The past few months at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Bureau has seen some midsize sedans make a second appearance. One has gone the eco-friendly route, another came with some added zip in its sporty model, and the last has undergone some significant changes. The three sedans in question are the Hyundai Sonata Eco, Toyota Camry XSE V6, and 2016 Mazda6.

 

Now if you want to know what we thought of these vehicles originally, you check out our reviews here.

 

2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport
2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring
2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid

 

Next: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco


 

The current Hyundai Sonata is a bit head scratcher. When the new model was shown last year at the New York Auto Show, it looked like Hyundai dropped the ball. While the automaker had made a number of improvements in terms of the interior and the engine, the big item of the exterior design was somewhat forgotten. The sleek shape had been changed for something a bit more conservative. This has caused sales to slump and Hyundai to order a refresh a year sooner than expected.

 

But even with these problems, is there a Sonata model that can stand above the rest? As we found out earlier this year, it isn’t the Sonata Sport 2.0T as it has a number of problems with being sporty. Let’s see if the Hyundai Sonata Eco can do it.

 


2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco 5


What makes the Eco different from other Sonata models is under the hood. Hyundai employs a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 177 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Aside from this and an Eco badge on the trunk, it looks like the standard Sonata. But the Eco doesn’t drive like the standard model. With the torque arriving at 1,500 and continuing towards 4,500 rpm, this means the Eco’s has power readily available when you’re leaving a stop and continues onwards. Power comes on smoothly and linearly. The only downside to this powertrain is the dual-clutch transmission stumbles a bit due to slow shifts and occasional juddering. It should be noted that Hyundai has made some improvements to the DCT since we’ve driven the Sonata Eco, and the improvements are noticeable when we drove Tucson with this transmission.

 

The other difference between the Sonata Eco and other trims comes in the form of fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco at 28 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. This is slightly better than the standard Sonata with 25 City/37 Highway/29 Combined. My week of driving saw an average of 33.4 MPG, slightly above the combined figure.

 

In the ride and handling department, the Sonata Eco is quite a comfortable car as the suspension keeps most bumps from reaching the interior. Road and wind noise are kept to acceptable levels. Those who want a bit of sport should look towards the Mazda6 as it offers the driver a bit more information and enjoyment on the curves.

 

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco starts at $23,275, about $2,125 more than the base SE model. Considering what comes standard - a power drivers seat, backup camera, five-inch touchscreen radio, and a chrome front grille - the Eco is quite a good value. Our test Eco came with the optional tech package which adds $4,100 to the base price. But the package transforms the Eco into a handsomely loaded model with such features as blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control, eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, leather seats, heated front seats, and push-button start.

 

The Eco may be the best all-around trim in the Hyundai Sonata lineup. Not only does it offer impressive fuel economy for a midsize sedan, it comes well equipped and boasts a price tag that will not make you wonder if you spent too much. For many, it might be the right sedan.

 

 

Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonata Eco, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

Year: 2015
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata
Trim: Eco
Engine: 1.6L Turbocharged, Direct-Injected Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual Clutch, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 178 @ 5,500
Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/38/32
Curb Weight: 3,250 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
Base Price: $23,275
As Tested Price: $28,310 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
Tech Package - $4,100
Carpet Floor Mats - $125.00

 

Next: 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring


 

Small changes can make a big difference to a vehicle. No one is a bigger believer to this mantra than Mazda. A classic example is the CX-5. When it launched in 2013, the crossover drew me in with its sharp looks and impressive handling dynamics. But the 2.0L four-cylinder was a bit of a let down as it was a bit underpowered for the vehicle’s weight. Mazda went back and installed a larger 2.5L four-cylinder for the CX-5 and it made a world of difference in overall performance. So imagine taking this idea of making small changes and doing it to another vehicle. Mazda has done that with the 2016 Mazda sedan. Let see what the changes are and if they make the 6 an even better sedan.

 


2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring 5


The outside get some minor changes such as the grille slats draped in chrome and a longer chrome bar that runs underneath the grille. The big changes for the 2016 model are for the interior as Mazda has taken the interior from 3 and placed it into 6. The new dash brings forth improved materials to make it look and feel more premium, along with Mazda’s new infotainment system. This system is a massive improvement over the older one in terms of performance and overall usability. However, Mazda’s system has an odd problem with the navigation system as it shows you traveling on a different road a few hundred feet away than the one you are currently on. Now the system does correct itself, but it takes up to half a minute.

 

One other change for the 2016 Mazda6 is the optional i-Eloop system. This is a regenerative braking system that recycles the kinetic energy that is moving the vehicle into electricity that is stored in a capacitor. The capacitor then feeds that power to various electronic components to help reduce the load on the alternator and improve fuel economy. Now Mazda says the system delivers up five percent better fuel economy. This shows in the 2016 Mazda6’s fuel economy numbers of 28 City/40 Highway/32 Combined, slightly better than the 26 City/38 Highway/30 Combined on the 2014 model. So does it make a difference? Most likely as my average for the week in the 2016 model was 31 MPG, three MPGs higher than the 2014 model.

 

Aside from all of these changes, the Mazda6 is still one of the best driving midsize sedans on sale. The 2.5L Skyactiv-G engine gets up to speed at a quick rate, while the six-speed automatic is one the fastest and smoothest shifting transmissions on sale. Mazda also hasn’t changed the fun-to-drive characteristics we loved in our original road test of the 6. One item we wished Mazda would work on is noise isolation. Road and wind noise were very apparent when driving the 6 on the expressway.

 

The 2016 Mazda6 shows the little changes can take a sedan that is considered by many to be one of best and make and make it that much more.

 

 

Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

Year: 2016
Make: Mazda
Model: 6
Trim: Grand Touring
Engine: Skyactiv-G 2.5L DOHC Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Skyactiv-Drive Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700
Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/40/32
Curb Weight: 3,250 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan
Base Price: $30,195
As Tested Price: $33,395 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
GT Technology Package - $2,180
Door Sill Trim Plates - $125.00
Cargo Mat - $75.00

 

Next: 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6


 

Can a Toyota Camry be sporty? Before you start writing comments saying no and telling me that I’m crazy, it is a legitimate question. Consider Toyota’s pledge a couple years ago where it pledged to make their vehicles more engaging. So far, Toyota’s vehicles have looked more exciting. In terms of making them more engaging with driving, it has been mixed. The Avalon Hybrid we thought was a good driving vehicle, while the Corolla S wasn’t. So with that in mind, let us see how the sportiest Camry, the new XSE fares.

 

The 2015 Camry went through a substantial refresh with most of body being changed - aside from the roof. It’s quite dramatic when compared to the previous model. The Camry XSE gets some unique tweaks to make it stand out further such as new mesh grille insert, 18-inch wheels, and dual-exhaust ports. The changes do make the Camry XSE stand out, but it also makes the XSE look like it's trying a bit too hard. Inside the XSE features a number of changes that we delved into our Camry Hybrid SE review including the revised dash with stitching. The only differences for the XSE is a set of faux-suede seats and red stitching. It would be nice if Toyota could do something more to differentiate the Camry XSE from other Camry models in the interior like some new trim pieces specific to the XSE.

 


2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 5


Power for the XSE comes in the form of a 2.5L four-cylinder as the base, with a 3.5L V6 as an option. Our XSE tester came with the optional V6 which packs 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet. No matter which engine you pick, a six-speed automatic comes standard. The V6 is quite the surprise as it pulls very strong through the rev range and will cause the front wheels to break loose if you aren’t careful with the accelerator. Toyota should also be given some credit for building one of the smoothest and quietest V6 engines on sale. The six-speed automatic shares the smooth characteristics of the engine. Fuel economy for the Camry V6 is rated at 21 City/31 Highway/25 Combined. I saw an average 24 MPG for the week.

 

Now Toyota has made a number of improvements to the XSE to make it sporty such as firmer shocks and springs, new bushings, and a revised ­electric power steering system. So does it make a noticeable improvement to the Camry’s handling? Somewhat. The changes to the suspension do help in terms of body control. But the steering feels a little-bit rubbery and doesn’t provide any increased weight from the standard Camry. At least the Camry XSE provides a somewhat smooth ride.

 

The big problem for the Camry XSE is the value proposition. The base price of the Camry XSE V6 starts at $31,370 and includes LED headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system and navigation; power seats, and dual-zone climate control. However, our test vehicle was fitted with a number of options such as blind-spot monitoring, a JBL audio system, radar cruise control, and lane-departure warning which caused our as-tested price to be $35,768. Considering what you get and how the model doesn’t live up to its sport pretensions, it makes us question whether or not the XSE is worth it.

 

While the XSE is a step in the right direction for in terms of making the Camry a bit more sporty, we think Toyota could have gone a little bit farther in this regard. Also, the value for money equation doesn’t quite work for the Camry XSE. It is a good effort, but Toyota needs to do a bit more work.

 

 

Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry XSE, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

Year: 2015
Make: Toyota
Model: Camry
Trim: XSE V6
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve w/Dual-VVTi V6
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 268 @ 6,200
Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 4,700
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/25
Curb Weight: 3,480 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
Base Price: $31,370
As Tested Price: $35,768 (Includes $525.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
Entune Premium JBL Audio with Navigation - $805.00
Technology Package - $750.00
Blind Spot Monitor with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert - $500.00
Remote Start - $499.00
Special Color (Ruby Flare Pearl) - $395.00
Four Seasons Floor Mat Package - $325.00
Illuminated Door Sills - $299.00


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Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

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Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

 

Can I be honest for a moment? Is there any midsize sedan that has passion? I would argue that the Mazda6 is the most passionate of the bunch since it has a distinctive look and is one of the best driving models in the class. (I can't say anything about reliability though since I only get vehicles for a week - Mazda, could you hand over a 6 for a few months? ;-)

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Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

 

Can I be honest for a moment? Is there any midsize sedan that has passion? I would argue that the Mazda6 is the most passionate of the bunch since it has a distinctive look and is one of the best driving models in the class. (I can't say anything about reliability though since I only get vehicles for a week - Mazda, could you hand over a 6 for a few months? ;-)

 

Point well made, :P Your right what mid size sedan that the masses can own really has any passion. It would be great to get one for a few months. I would submit the request to Mazda and see what they say. :D

So in your opinion how does these three stack up against what Ford, GM and Chrysler / Dodge has?

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Every time they redesign the Camry, it essentially catches up to the outgoing generation of midsizers. I've seen several 2015 Camries up close and the build quality and body complexity is where the class was in 2012-2013. That doesn't sound like a big stretch, but consider that the 2012 Camry was already a redesign, one that barely caught up to the 08-10 vehicles like the Malibu, Fusion, and Sonata both in interior and exterior design.

 

Having driven a 2014 SE V6 extensively, I know how much the underpinnings of the "new generation" Camry are lacking dynamically. The car sells on a Toyota reputation for quality and innovation that no longer exists. The V6 remains the best part of the car, but dates back to 2007. Surely if Toyota cared about its product, they could have designed two new engines since then.

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I Had a rental 2014.5 Camry SE 2.5 and was shocked at the abysmal interior quality and the fact it died right in my driveway with a low battery that couldn't start the car the following morning. Apparently this very rental car was to Toyota before for this exact issue and they couldn't find the problem. Luckily I had a battery charger on hand to get the car going and back to the rental agency. Inside the passenger side A-pilar molding plastic piece was coming apart due to a broken plastic clip, the center dash vents popped out onto my drink going over a set of hearty railroad tracks, the cloth seat material was some of the cheapest sand paper like crap i have ever sat in and actually caused a skin rash on the back of my legs on a long trip! That black and painted on fake silver was more appropriate for a 18k Corolla, not a 26K Camry! Haven't driven a new 2015 yet but several interior touch points still feel really cheap starting with the wafer thin headliner, the carryover garbage seat material and the flimsy cup holder divider which always pops out if you have an oversized drink in there.

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We had a 2014 Mazda 6, the first year of the 'current' gen model. 

 

When we got it there was a rattle in it.....took it to the dealership and they took care of it right away as a Technical Service Bulletin was out on in.  Other than that, 50,000+ miles later and not a single problem.

 

That was a huge relief coming off our our 2008 Saturn Vue before it, which had a remarkable list of things that broke or just weren't right that required well over 10 trips to the dealership (seriously, it was like 12 or 13 times we were back while still under warranty)

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      The front seats in the Tiguan SE offer a power recline and manual adjustments for fore/aft and height. I really liked the seats in the Tiguan as they provided excellent comfort and firmness for any trip distance. But the Tiguan really surprises in the back seat with head and legroom similar to what you’ll find on a full-size SUV. Passengers sitting back here can also move the seats back and forth, and recline to make themselves more comfortable. The long length of the Tiguan allows for a third-row seat. The seat is standard on front-wheel drive models and optional for all-wheel drive variants. The third-row should only be used for small kids as there is a minuscule amount of legroom. Another downside to the third-row is cargo space. The third-row causes a significant reduction in cargo space. With the third-row folded, it offers 4.6 cubic feet less than the two-row variant (33 vs. 37.6). Fold the second-row and the reduction becomes larger - 7.8 cubic feet. I would recommend skipping the third-row option if you opt for an AWD Tiguan.
      Like the exterior, the CX-5’s interior stands out. The dash shows Mazda’s effort on trying to make their interiors feel more like a luxury vehicle with sculpted contours, brushed aluminum, soft-touch plastics with a grain texture, and stitching on certain trim pieces. Compared to the Tiguan, the CX-5’s control layout is more spread out, making it somewhat difficult to find and reach certain controls. 
      The Grand Touring tester featured power adjustments for both front seats. The seats will feel a bit too firm for some passengers, but I found them to be just right. It would have been awesome if Mazda provided ventilation for the front seats to bolster their premium ambitions. The CX-5’s back seat offers a decent amount of headroom for those under six-feet. Legroom is somewhat lacking when put against the competition. I found that my knees were almost touching the back side of the front seat. Cargo space is right in the middle with 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 59.6 when folded.
      Infotainment
      A seven-inch touchscreen featuring the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a rotary knob controller is standard on all CX-5s. Grand Touring models get navigation as standard, while the Touring gets it as an option. Mazda Connect is a mixed bag. The interface is beginning to look somewhat old due to the use of dark colors and a dull screen. Also, trying to figure out which parts of the system are touch-enabled becomes quite tedious as there is no way to tell except through trial and error. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, but I’m hoping the 2019 model will get it.
      For the Tiguan, Volkswagen offers three different infotainment systems ranging from 6.5 to 8-inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. The current Volkswagen infotainment system is one of the best thanks in part to snappy performance and a simple interface. You can do various smartphone gestures such as swiping to move around the system. One disappointment is the lack of any sort of haptic feedback when touching any of the shortcut buttons sitting on either side of the screen. We would also recommend keeping a cloth in the Tiguan as the glass surface for the infotainment system becomes littered with fingerprints.
      Like in the Atlas I reviewed a few weeks ago, the Tiguan experienced an issue with Apple CarPlay. Applications such as Google Music or Spotify running in CarPlay would freeze up. I could exit out to the CarPlay interface, but was unable to unfreeze the applications unless I restarted the vehicle. Resetting my iPhone solved this issue.
      Powertrain
      Under the CX-5’s hood is a 2.5L four-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet (up one from the 2017 model). Mazda has added cylinder deactivation for the 2018 model that allows the engine to run on just two cylinders to improve fuel efficiency. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. For the Tiguan, Volkswagen has dropped in a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive complete the package.
      With a higher torque figure and being available between 1,600 to 4,300 rpm, the Tiguan should leave the CX-5 in the dust. But at the stoplight drag race, the CX-5 bests the Tiguan thanks to a sharper throttle response and a steady stream of power. The Tiguan’s turbo-four gets hit with a double-whammy of turbo-lag and a somewhat confused eight-speed automatic transmission, making it feel anything but eager to get off the line. As speeds climb, the story changes. The Tiguan’s engine feels more willing to get moving whenever you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway. The CX-5’s engine runs out of steam and you’ll need to really work it to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      The EPA says the 2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD will return 24 City/30 Highway/26 Combined, while the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan AWD returns 21 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. Both models returned high fuel economy averages; the CX-5 return 28.5 while the Tiguan got 27.3 mpg during my week-long test. Both models were driven on mix of 60 percent city and 40 percent highway.
      Ride & Handling
      When I reviewed the 2017 Mazda CX-5, I said that it carried on the mantle of being a fun-to-drive crossover set by the first-generation. Driving on some of the back roads around Detroit, the CX-5 felt very agile and showed little body roll. The steering provides sharp responses and excellent weighting. The sporting edge does mean a firm ride, allowing some road imperfections to come inside. Not much road or wind noise comes inside.
      Volkswagen took a different approach with the Tiguan’s ride and handling characteristics. On rough roads, the Tiguan provides a very cushioned ride on some of the roughest payment. This soft ride does hurt the Tiguan when cornering as there is slightly more body roll. But that doesn’t make the Tiguan a bad driving crossover. The chassis feels very willing when pushed and the steering provides a direct feel.
      Value
      The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE AWD begins at $30,230. This particular tester came to $31,575 with the optional Habanero Orange Metallic and fog lights. But the 2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring comes with more equipment such as radar cruise control, lane departure warning, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, and power adjustments for the driver for only $2,175 less than the Tiguan SE’s base price. You can add navigation, Bose audio system, and sunroof as part of $1,200 Preferred Equipment package. When it comes to the midlevel, it is no contest as the CX-5 walks away.
      The script flips however when you put the 2018 CX-5 Grand Touring under the microscope. The AWD version begins at $30,945 and with a few options such as the Soul Red paint and Premium package, the vehicle seen here comes to $34,685. But you can get into the Tiguan SEL AWD that adds adaptive cruise control, power liftgate, and navigation for only $2,295 less than our as-tested CX-5. While the CX-5 does offer more of a premium interior, the larger interior and slightly better infotainment system give the Tiguan a slight edge.
      Verdict
      It feels weird to describe the verdict between the two compact crossovers as a decision to satisfy your desires or needs. The 2018 Mazda CX-5 falls into the former as it boasts a handsome look that very few models can match, luxurious interior, and handling characteristics that make you feel like you’re driving a sports car. As for the Tiguan, it falls in the latter camp by offering a spacious interior, smooth ride, and a better infotainment system. I consider these two to be the best-in-class. But deciding which one is better will ultimately come down to deciding whether to give into your wants or needs.
      Disclaimer: Mazda and Volkswagen Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: CX-5
      Trim: Grand Touring AWD
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/30/26
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $30,945
      As Tested Price: $34,685 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Package - $1,395.00
      Soul Red Crystal Paint - $595.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Plates - $400.00
      Retractable Cover Cover - $250.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Tiguan
      Trim: SE 4Motion
      Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged 16-Valve DOHC TSI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 4,400
      Torque @ RPM: 221 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/27/23
      Curb Weight: 3,858 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico
      Base Price: $30,230
      As Tested Price: $31,575 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Habanero Orange Metallic - $295.00
      Front Fog Lights - $150.00

      View full article
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