When the four-cylinder Mazda 6 i Touring showed up to our office, I had my doubts that the 170-hp engine could keep up with the larger body style of the 6, especially when mated to the automatic transmission. But 120 miles later, I can say that I was wrong. The Mazda’s engine is more than capable, and the five-speed automatic transmission isn’t lazy. As a result, the Mazda6 is actually a peppy car.
The interior is fantastic; the quality of materials is pleasant to look at. It’s easy to think you’re in a much more expensive car than the $24,500 base price. Our test unit was not optioned out very much, receiving only the aforementioned five-speed automatic and satellite radio.
Unusually for a Mazda, however, the 6’s steering felt numb on center and tended to float at high speeds. I noticed it a lot on the highway, where the steering wheel took constant adjustment to keep the car centered in the lane. I didn’t feel the road like I have in other Mazda products, or even our Four Seasons Mazda 3 for that matter.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
This Mazda 6 was a bit of a letdown for me. When Mazda launched its newest-generation 6, the company didn’t bother trying to hide that this American-specific model was a bigger, softer car tuned more for the masses. But bigger and softer are quite the opposite of the Zoom-Zoom mantra we appreciate in Mazda cars. Predictably, then, there are shortcomings.
The steering is vague and lifeless on-center, and turn-in feels sluggish. Once you get the wheel turning, things do feel a bit more solid and confident, but it’s still far short of my expectations. Handling has also been compromised for the sake of ride comfort.
Despite those shortcomings, there’s still plenty to like about this four-cylinder 6. The five-speed automatic in our tester was excellent, making quick, hardly perceptible shifts. The interior is absolutely perfect, both from quality and style perspectives. I was especially intrigued by the wavy gloss black trim pieces with their pattern mimicked in the central seat panels. The four-cylinder moves the car with sufficient authority, but it does groan a bit under moderate acceleration.
When the results are totaled, this Mazda 6 amounts to little more than a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord in my mind. It’s a perfectly acceptable mid-size entry for most drivers, but Mazda has lost the edge that used to differentiate this car.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
The Mazda 6 is one of the car world’s great unsung heroes. Shoppers fixated on Accord, Camry, and Malibu would do well to give this low-profile mid-size family sedan serious consideration. Powered by a smooth but strong 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the 6 runs as smoothly and quickly as some of the larger, heavier, V-6-motivated alternatives. Mated to a five-speed automatic, it delivers the magic 30-mpg number in EPA highway tests along with enough punch to run at the front of the traffic stream and full manual control over gear changes. Crisp steering response, well-damped body motions, and a supple ride hurdle the line distinguishing boring transportation from rolling entertainment. There’s ample room for five thanks to a well designed back seat and easy entry under the sleek roofline. My only gripes are the tacky antenna stuck to the decklid when you opt for Sirius satellite radio and the lack of interior releases for folding the rear seatback.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
The Mazda 6 is a very nice, slightly sportier alternative to most players in the vast phalanx of mid-size cars. Like my colleagues, I was pleased by the performance of the four-cylinder/automatic pairing, but the powertrain still requires some extra planning and lots of throttle for highway-merging exercises. Cruising down the road, the 6 provides a very comfortable ride, although it felt a bit oversprung and harsh at times.
The front seats definitely lend to the Mazda’s general feeling of comfort. I was even refreshed by their grippy, old-school-looking cloth covers. As a father, though, I’d be very hesitant to buy a car with this particular cloth interior, because it looks like it’d be quite hard to clean. Plus, Mazda no longer offers a versatile 6 wagon, which would also turn me off as a potential buyer.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Mazda may bill the 6 as its midsize sport sedan, but don’t let the advertising fool you. As my colleagues have noted, the new 6, at least in this four-cylinder guise, seems to trade in its racing shoes for a pair of comfortable loafers.
That spells bad news for the enthusiast looking to wring a four-door across mountainous switchbacks, but for most shoppers, the latest 6 won’t disappoint. Mazda mixes a good helping of style and content into its bread-and-butter sedan, and the interior alone – the microsuede door inserts and plush seat fabrics go a long way to clean up the cabin – is out of this world.
I’ve been rather impressed with Mazda’s automatic transmissions as of late — they’ve been both silky and responsive, and this five-speed is no exception. I’m a little surprised Mazda passed on a six-speed – not only does the 6’s kissing cousin, the Ford Fusion, offer such a transmission on its four-cylinder model, but it could boost fuel economy figures over the already impressive 21/30 mpg city/highway figure…
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
It’s not really a surprise that this Mazda 6 doesn’t have the same enthusiast appeal as its predecessor, because it is aimed squarely at Toyota Camry and Honda Accord shoppers, who have signaled their preference for utility over performance. And this particular vehicle, the 6i with the 170-hp four-cylinder, is the economy model of the Mazda 6 lineup. So, while it may be a little underwhelming performance-wise, it definitely stands up as a good value. For less than $25,000, you get a nice-looking sedan with a well-designed interior, seating for five people with a roomy back seat, and a good-sized trunk. Any buyers who need a little “zoom zoom” from of their Mazda 6 need to opt for the 6s with the 272-hp V-6.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I understand why Mazda plus-sized the 6 for our market, but doing so sacrificed most of the car’s distinctiveness. No doubt, the 6 remains a comfortable, nicely-appointed, efficient, and decent-driving sedan that provides great value for its sticker price. But I could say the same about the Accord, Malibu, Fusion, and several others. Like all those cars (with the possible exception of the Accord), the 6 could do with a bit more direct, heavier steering and a more aggressively tuned chassis.
Why would one choose a 6 then, you ask? Styling would be my reason. Mazda has done a great job translating its new design language from wild showcars like the Nagare to its production vehicles. The sharply arching fenders and unique seat fabrics might still be a bit much for conservative buyers, but they help the 6 stand out just a bit in its competitive field.
The other thing the 6 has going for it is its little brother, the Mazda 3, which offers similar content and a bit more “zoom-zoom” in a smaller, lower-priced package. That car’s obvious appeal to younger, more performance-oriented customers means the 6 doesn’t have to be all things to all people.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2010 Mazda6i Touring Plus
Base price (with destination): $24,500
Price as tested: $24,930
8-way power driver’s seat
Tilt and telescoping steering wheel
6-disc CD changer
Auxiliary audio input
Sirius satellite radio compatibility
Leather steering wheel and shift knob
Side and side curtain airbags
Blind spot monitoring system
5-speed automatic transmission
Options on this vehicle:
Sirius satellite radio – $430
Key options not on vehicle:
Remote engine start – $350
21 / 30 / 24 mpg
Size: 2.5L DOHC VVT four-cylinder
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 167 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Weight: 3309 lbs
17 in. aluminum wheels
215/55-R17 all season tires