2011 Mazda MAZDA6 Review: Introduction
Mazda enjoys a richly deserved reputation for building fun to drive cars. From the RX-7 to the MX-5 and on into the company’s hatchbacks and sedans, you can always count on Mazda to infuse a car with qualities conducive to enjoyable driving.
With the MAZDA6, the company offers a sedan that is also handsome and comfortable. Leading the market with attributes such as a steering wheel sized just right to feel nice in your hands, along with a sporty and practical interior design, the MAZDA6 really ought to be a best seller in its segment.
We say ought to be, because, well it isn’t.
You see, its segment also includes America’s best selling four-door sedans; Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. These cars are formidable competitors for the Mazda, because more shoppers in this category care more about arriving than driving. Thus, other than in reviews like this one, the MAZDA6’s virtues have gone largely unsung.
2011 Mazda MAZDA6 Review: Exterior
Viewed 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. Notice we used the word affordable by the way—not cheap—as the MAZDA6 is blessed with a quite substantive look.
Seven trim levels are offered for the MAZDA6: i Sport, i Touring, i Touring Plus, i Grand Touring, s Touring Plus and s Grand Touring. You can tell which trim you’re looking at based on some external cues. Steel 16-inch wheels characterize the i Sport, while 17-inch alloy wheels grace the Touring models. If you’re looking at a set of 18-inch alloys, you’ve found the s Touring version of the MAZDA6.
Wondering about the difference between “i” and “s”? Six-cylinder models are designated “s”, four-cylinder models use “i’.
2011 Mazda MAZDA6 Review: Interior
MAZDA6 interior accommodations deliver a great deal of comfort and utility. As you might expect, the trim level you choose guides the level of equipment you’ll encounter.
Opt for the Sport; you’ll get a height-adjustable manual driver seat, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo system with an auxiliary audio jack.
Go Touring to add foglights, a trip computer, a power driver seat, an in-dash six-CD changer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, upgraded interior trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Touring plus gets you all of the above and a sunroof, a blind-spot monitoring system, electroluminescent instrument gauges, and outside mirrors with integrated turn signals.
The full boat Grand Touring is the ultimate hookup. It adds; leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a multi-information display and a 10-speaker Bose sound system.
The overall interior 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.
2011 Mazda MAZDA6 Review: Performance
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 V-6, 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 V-6 it might be hard to accept the four.
The six-speed manual transmission you can get with the 2.5 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, don’t drive the six. The EPA says to expect 22/31 fuel economy 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 doesn’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.
Safety gear is comprised of all the features we’ve come to expect in a well-equipped mid-size sedan; antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
2011 Mazda MAZDA6 Review: Summary
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.
Fun to drive
Broad equipment choice
Interior’s a bit plastic
Resale value not as strong as Accord & Camry