The Mazda6 offers elegant design and engaging handling. Mazda drapes the 6 with few straight lines and lots of sensuous curves. It feels quick and composed, even if the comfort- and economy-minded tires slightly dull the experience. Some competitors offer more efficient base engines, hybrid variants, more space, or superior technology, but Mazda’s midsize offering is a compelling alternative. Its design, driving experience, and premium interior all remind us what Mazda does well.
For 2021, the Mazda6 is offered in five trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve and Signature. The Grand Touring, Reserve and Signature trims offer a turbocharged engine.
Unlike most mid-size alternatives, the Mazda6 does not offer a hybrid option instead Mazda fits a 187-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 in the base Mazda6 sedans, and teams it with a 6-speed automatic. In the more premium models the addition of a turbo and the 227-hp (87 Octane) / 250-hp (93 Octane) and 310 pound-feet of torque Mazda6 lives up to its sporty promise better, with enough power in most situations. The significant increase in power and torque make for cut-above acceleration, with a dip in fuel economy. The torque helps in and around town, when the six-speed automatic quickly drops a gear to provide more motion when needed. Despite the front wheels doing all the work, there isn’t a hint of torque steer to be found. However it does feature some excess engine noise when it’s merging or for highway passing. The tires are never quite sure if they want to prioritize comfort or performance, a theme that makes itself apparent in the ride quality, as they produce more noise then need to.
The steering is heavy but direct and feels nice no matter the speed. The brakes are easy to modulate during the daily commute, and the sedan has no problem stopping in a hurry. Despite using cylinder deactivation, the 2.5-liter turbo I4 does not return the best fuel economy. The EPA rates the Mazda6 at 23 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg highway.
On the inside the design is sophisticated and uncrowded, incorporating high-quality materials that feel premium in this non-luxury segment. Front seats offer generous legroom, and the rears include adequate space, if not quite as much as the Honda Accord. Mazda‘s midsize sedan seats five with a good amount of legroom for the segment. The 6 offers 42.2/38.7 inches of legroom front/rear compared to 42.3/40.4 inches in the Honda Accord and 42.1/38.0 inches in the Toyota Camry. At 14.7 cubic feet, the cargo capacity is about even with that of the Camry (15.1 cubic feet) but can’t compare with the 16.7-cubic-foot Accord trunk. The rear seats do fold down, but for big cargo space, you’ll want to go for an SUV.
All Mazda6 models come standard with dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry. Regardless of trim, the Mazda6 is equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Wireless CarPlay is available on Grand Touring models and above. A six-speaker audio is standard, and an 11-speaker Bose premium system is available. Higher trims also include a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display and a windshield-projected head-up display. However I do wish the Mazda6 utilized the same technology as its smaller sibling, the Mazda3, while it isn’t terrible the infotainment system is just a little longer in the tooth compared to other brands.
In 2020, Mazda included its suite of driver-assist active safety technologies on all trims of the Mazda6. That means lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control are standard on all models. Another bonus is the Mazda6 is very safe, according to the NHTSA and the IIHS. This means a five-star overall rating, with a four-star rating for front-passenger and rollover protection. The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+, with a score of Good in every crash test, as well as a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test. Mazda’s industry-standard powertrain warranty is class competitive and no complimentary scheduled maintenance is offered, which puts the 6 at a disadvantage compared with the Toyota Camry, which provides two years of coverage.
Even though people are moving to crossovers en masse and sedan sales are falling, the midsize sedan segment remains the best it’s ever been. Whereas competitors such as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord have taken to bold exterior designs with plenty of exaggerated creases and folds, the 2021 Mazda6 keeps it simple. The Mazda6 feels a fancy step above most of its competition despite staying well below the $40,000 mark.