The Mazda 6 is a fine car if you’re looking for a mid-size family sedan. The V-6 is strong and smooth, the six-speed automatic selects gears smartly and without drama, and the ride is comfortable without being flaccid. Mazda also has the best-looking car in the segment with those dynamic, shapely fenders. Yet, when Mazda enlarged their American-market mid-sizer for the 2009 model year, they lost the biggest thing they had going for them: a car that supported their uniquely sporty image. Unlike the engaging Mazda 3, the 6 doesn’t have that nimble, faster-than-it-actually-is feel.
Since last year’s sales numbers aren’t comparable to previous years, we can’t say if the upsizing is paying off. However, I do know that the auto market can’t support every Mazda, Suzuki, or Mitsubishi as a mainstream manufacturer. If you want your brand to embrace a niche ideal, you have to be willing to accept the niche market. I hope Mazda isn’t abandoning its beliefs for volume, as the company has traditionally been one of the best at building entertaining vehicles in practical packages at affordable prices.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I agree with Eric. The Mazda 6 drives really well and feels quite solid and refined, but in making the 6 larger and, presumably, more attractive to a larger number of consumers, the company also removed much of the sporty appeal of the previous 6. Now instead of driving like a slightly larger Mazda 3 as the last generation 6 did, this new 6 feels like many of its competitors from behind the wheel. Although, considering the company it’s keeping, this isn’t all bad, it’s just unfortunate that Mazda went more mainstream instead of staying true to its “zoom-zoom” mantra.
That being said, I do appreciate the extra interior space in this new 6 and its improved fit and finish. The interior is attractive with good ergonomics and a straightforward layout. My only issue with the cabin was that the oversize lumbar support and undersize bottom cushion of the driver’s seat prevented me from getting completely comfortable behind the wheel.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
Yes, the 6 has migrated to the center of the mid-size sedan bell curve. And though like everyone else, I’d prefer spunky, lithe family sedans (both the Suzuki Kizashi and the Volkswagen Jetta fit that bill), you can’t really blame Mazda for the decision. Most Americans still want as much sheetmetal as they can afford.
The 6 remains more enjoyable to drive than most V-6-powered, front-wheel-drive sedans, but the differences are now mostly in the details — steering that’s slightly quicker and more natural feeling than that of competitors, and a somewhat firmer-than-average ride.
Given that the 6’s packaging and driving dynamics are now similar to the rest of the segment, it may rely more on its styling to stand out. I personally appreciate the “Nagare” themed styling, but I believe several of my colleagues disagree. That leaves me to wonder, like Eric, how Mazda expects its more mainstream mid-size to take market share from the more established competition.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The Mazda 6 is a fine automobile but not particularly noteworthy or outstanding, in my opinion. That’s unfortunate, because, as my colleagues have intimated, the previous-generation 6 was more of a sporty free spirit than the new car, which seems to just want to blend in with its mainstream peers.
I expected a mid-size car with this much displacement — 3.7 liters — to feel quicker than this Mazda, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have plenty of passing power. The steering is too light for my liking but it is very accurate. Handling is better than most mid-size sedans’, but the ride quality is average at best. Cabin materials inside are average, too, but the fits are quite good. This is a personal preference thing, but I’m not a big fan of the new 6’s styling, which tries to be more organic than before; unlike Eric, I prefer the looks of the Chevy Malibu and the Ford Fusion to this 6’s appearance.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I know we all loved the previous Mazda 6 – but customers didn’t buy it, and that’s what counts. I don’t agree with some others that Mazda abandoned its Zoom-Zoom image with this car: buyers in this segment who choose a V-6 do it for passing power and refinement, not for sportiness.
Yes, this 6 is less sporty than the previous one — but it definitely answers what mid-size sedan customers want: smooth, refined power; elegant looks; and a nicely equipped, spacious interior.
I have a few frustrations with the 6’s six-speed automatic transmission, the biggest being that it still downshifts in manual mode, and in drive mode, it sometimes refuses to downshift all the way.
But get the 6 out on a mountain road and you’ll feel the Zoom-Zoom for sure, especially compared to its other enormous competitors (Accord and Camry.) Torque steer is remarkably well controlled, and this despite the engine’s big thrust and the rack’s communicative nature.
If I were shopping in this segment, there’s no question the 6 would be at the top of my list.
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
2010 Mazda 6 Grand Touring
Base price (with destination): $29,140
Price as tested: $33,120
3.7-liter V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
18-inch alloy wheels
Heated front seats
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Bose 10-speaker stereo system
AM/FM/6-disc CD changer
MP3 playback capability
Auxiliary audio input
Sirius satellite radio
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Traction and Stability control (ESP)
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls
Power windows, locks, and mirrors
Blind spot monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation package — $2000
Technology package — $1980
Advanced keyless entry
Auto on/off Xenon headlights
Heated auto dimming outer mirrors
Sirius satellite radio
Push button start
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Key options not on vehicle:
17 / 25 / 20 mpg
Size: 3.7L 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 272 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Curb weight: 3547 lb
18-inch aluminum wheels
235/45ZR18 Michelin Pilot all-season tires