The Mazda 6 is the company’s mid-size family sedan, and for 2011, the line offers a few minor changes and updates. This year, the Mazda 6 is available in 6 different trim levels. Gone is the base SV trim, and now buyers can choose from the i Sport, (starting at $19,990) the i Touring, the i Touring Plus, the i Grand Touring, and the s Touring Plus and s Grand Touring which tops out at $29,320. The fog lights and headlights have been restyled and integrated turn signals have been fitted to the Touring Plus and Grand Touring models. 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels are now fitted on all but the i Sport model, and 18-inch wheels are fitted to the s Grand Touring model. There are also a few minor changes inside the car with trim pieces and fabric choices.
1. The Mazda6 comes standard with a 170-hp 2.5L 4-cylinder, while an optional 3.7L V6 takes a big step up to 272-hp.
2. Fuel economy is sold for the mid-size sedan class at 22/31-mpg.
3. Pricing starts at $19,990 and tops out at $29,320 with out test car priced at $24,240.
4. The Mazda6 is near the top of the pack for interior volume and comes with a cavernous 16.6 cu-ft of trunk space.
All of the i cars come with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, which puts out 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm (just shy of the red line) and 167 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. The s models are equipped with a 3.7-liter, V6 that pumps out 272-hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is only available on the base model, with 5-speed automatics standard on the i models, and 6-speed automatics on the s models.
4-CYLINDER NOT ALL THAT ZOOMY
Mazda attempts to separate itself from the competition by providing a more sporting and exhilarating driving experience. Our test car was fitted with the 2.5-liter engine and 5-speed automatic, and this car fell far short of that exhilarating driving experience. There is no “zoom-zoom” in the 4-cylinder engine. In fact there isn’t even much “zoom.” Acceleration is leisurely, if not totally anemic. And when pushed to the high end of the rev range, where the power is supposed to be, it’s more noise than power. On a $25,000 car, the engine leaves you wanting.
Gas mileage is, however, solid with the 4-cylinder getting 22-mpg city and 31-mpg highway. Real world driving didn’t deliver numbers as high though, something that could likely be solved through the addition of a 6-speed automatic. Currently the 4-cylinder is only available with a 5-speed.
While most Mazda models deliver in the handling department, the 6 is disappointing. The suspension is overly soft, with too much body lean in turns, and yet it doesn’t provide the smooth comfortable ride quality that usually goes along with a softly sprung car.
Steering is light and the car is tossable, due mostly to its relatively light weight of only 3,329lbs. The all wheel disc brakes with ABS are very good and the manumatic transmission works fine, although if you are shifting yourself, the gear changes occur at a leisurely pace. But the Mazda 6 has a tight turning circle, which is nice in driveway maneuvers.
INTERIOR IS WHERE IT’S AT
Inside, the cabin is a mostly different story, and the redeeming feature of the car. Once you get the car cruising at a steady speed and the engine noise settles down, it’s quiet on the open road, with very little wind noise.
Everything is nicely laid out for the driver in terms of the well-lit electroluminescent gauges and center stack controls. Between the round tach and speedometer is an info screen for the odometer, dual tripmeters and outside temperature. Another small screen above the center stack toggles between the clock, and trip information such as average speed, mileage, distance to empty, etc, as well as the radio info. One major annoyance is that if you have the info screen showing any of the trip information, there is no clock showing in the cabin, unless you toggled through each screen to get to it.
The redesigned tilt and telescope steering wheel has controls for the sound system, telephone and cruise control. Cabin materials are mostly rich looking, while the cloth seats are comfortable and the cloth itself is several grades above the competition and feels nice to the touch. The driver’s side is 8-way power operated. Storage is ample with nice size door packets, center console and glove box.
While this model comes equipped with all the usual power amenities, one outstanding feature that appears on many Mazda vehicles, and not just the higher trim level models, is the blind-spot monitoring system. Each outside mirror has a warning light to tell you when there is a car alongside you in the adjacent lane and in your blind spot, so you know not to change lanes until you are clear. And if you use your turn signal when there is a car there, you’ll hear a chime to warn you. It’s a great feature that is available on some BMW’s costing twice as much, but usually only as part of an expensive option package, and sometimes you have to go deep into the option packages to get that feature.
The standard moonroof on our test car gives a light airy feeling to the whole interior and there is ample headroom up front and decent headroom for the rear passengers as well. And those rear passengers can be six footers and still have plenty of legroom. This is one of the largest interiors in its class, and the space is well used for the comfort of 4 passengers, and even a 5th for shorter trips. But the thing that really surprises is the trunk space. From the outside is doesn’t seem possible to have that large of a trunk with 16.6 cubic feet and a low lift-over height. A family of 4 can stow enough luggage for a long road trip and with the 60/40 fold down seats lowered, you can really haul a lot of cargo.
The mid-size family sedan is a crowded segment of the market, with almost every manufacturer now having a solid product. The Mazda 6 is an acceptable car if you’re looking at cars as a transportation appliance, but for those who demand more out of their $25,000 car purchase, there must be a dozen vehicles that are more attractive.
A move up in trim level and price to the V6 engine would likely change some of our feelings about the Mazda 6, but for this model, we’d look elsewhere for more car.