At once handsome, comfortable and a pleasure to drive, the 2011 Mazda6 is billed as the sports sedan of popularly priced mainstream four-doors and the car lives up to its billing. With a steering wheel sized just right so it feels nice in your hands along with a sporty and practical interior design, the Mazda6 really ought to be a best seller in its segment.
Unfortunately, its segment also includes those perennial customer magnets, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Formidable competitors, mainly because most people really don’t care about driving as much as they care about arriving, the Mazda6’s virtues have gone largely unsung. However, if driving is a conscious activity for you, you’ll do yourself well to give the Mazda6 a test drive.
Parked outside our office window, at just the right angle, the Mazda’s flowing greenhouse, in concert with its bulging wheel arches and mildly pointed prow, really look the part of an affordable sporting automobile. We said, affordable by the way—not cheap—as the look really is quite substantive. A standout in its segment, no other car quite matches the Mazda6 in this regard.
Going down the road, the Mazda6 exhibits outstanding stability. Its steering has excellent on center feel and is both accurate and responsive. Our test car was fitted with the 272-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6, producing 269 ft-lbs of torque. And while we wouldn’t exactly characterize the Mazda6’s acceleration with it as scintillating, it was quite satisfying. Additionally, the engine displayed excellent throttle response in addition to winding freely. The transmission Mazda’s engineers chose to pair with the V6 is a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic with a manual shift mode.
For those more interested in fuel economy than performance, Mazda also makes the Mazda6 available with a 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower inline four cylinder engine. While it wasn’t the subject of this review, we have driven a Mazda6 equipped with this engine. As long as you haven’t driven the six, the four will suffice. But once you experience the car with V6 in it, it might be hard to accept the four.
The six-speed manual transmission you can get with the 2.5-liter engine does quite a bit to alleviate this concern. However, if you go to the dealership thinking the four is the way you want to go, do yourself a favor and don’t drive the six. If it were us doing the buying though, well, performance is the watchword around here, so we gravitate toward the six. Still, the four is a reasonable alternative and will return better fuel economy numbers as well. The EPA says to expect a best of 22/31 from it. With the six, you’ll see 18/27 on the window sticker.
While the Mazda6 does ride somewhat on the firm side, its ride is best characterized as “European”—in that despite its tautness, it won’t rough occupants up. On a scale with ride on one end and handling on the other, the Mazda6 is clearly biased more toward handling. And while it’s tight, the Mazda still rides well. Body roll is minimal, the car feels sharp when asked to change directions quickly, and at elevated speeds the Mazda6 feels solid and secure. An outstanding highway car, the Mazda is clearly designed to go long distances at high speeds.
The interior accommodations deliver a great deal of comfort and utility. All of the usual suspects are present or available. Our test car featured Bluetooth audio and phone, a Sat Nav system, blind spot monitoring, and satellite radio. The overall design is pleasing to the eye and conveys an impression of sumptuousness. Rear seat head and legroom are more than adequate too. Overall, the Mazda6 is a comfortable car all around. The controls are logically placed and the perfectly sized, nicely contoured leather wrapped steering wheel and feels really good in your hands.
All in all, if you’re looking for a handsome car in the mainstream segment—and driving pleasure is a key consideration for you, you’d do well to test-drive the Mazda6. In addition to good looks, you’ll get a comfortable interior, a roomy trunk and an engaging drive.
2011 Mazda6 pricing starts at $19,990.