By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 4/28/2011
With this iteration of the Mazda6, the product team at Hiroshima aimed for the sweet spot of the mid-size market in the U.S. In short, the team targeted the Accord and Camry with a North American-specific model larger than that sold in Europe and Asia. The hopes were as big as the Mazda's new, larger footprint - but Mazda marketers have discovered that Accord and Camry loyalists need a compelling reason to change, while in a recession everyone needs a compelling reason to buy. And despite attractive bodywork and feature-laden content, the new Mazda6 hasn't enjoyed many more handraisers than the old Mazda6. With modest enhancements for 2011, Mazda will keep trying.
If you've been impressed by Mazda's previous lineup - including its volume leader, the Mazda3 - the Mazda6 is an excellent way for a growing family to move up. While not the sport-oriented platform enjoyed by its predecessor, the newest Mazda6 retains fun-to-drive elements, while offering far more interior volume for passengers and cargo. And with a base price of under $21,000, it's perfectly positioned for a consumer's cautious return to the market.You May Not Like This Car If...
Mazda's recipe for its mid-size sedan has gone mainstream, while (historically) its core audience has been anything but. In the same manner that the Mazda3 wasn't a Civic or Corolla, the previous Mazda6 worked hard to differentiate itself from Accord and Camry. For some, this Mazda may be too much like Camry-lite.
Mild enhancements for 2011 include a new headlight and fog light design, along with a new 17-inch alloy wheel. Upgrades inside include a new steering wheel and premium trim accents on the center instrument panel. Grand Touring models receive a Multi-Information Display, Bluetooth controls and a rearview camera as standard equipment, while the Touring model receives Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio in its standard menu.Driving It Driving Impressions
For Mazda's mid-size sedan, those elements to modify "sedan" with "sport" are all in place. The Mazda6 i Sport and i Touring enjoy a responsive - and torque - 2.5-liter in-line four, all-independent suspension and 4-wheel disc brakes. And while the available 3.7 liter V6 isn't in a particularly high state of tune (with but 272 horsepower), neither does it unbalance the 6's front-wheel drive platform. The end result is a more mature architecture than previously offered, and while refinement is up those more visceral - and often intangible - qualities of its predecessor are missing. This, in the final appraisal, is a mid-size sedan with sporting ambitions, while prior to this iteration's 2009 intro the Mazda6 was closer to a sport sedan with mid-size ambitions. The platform is, however, viable, as demonstrated by a Mazda6 pace car massaged by the folks at MazdaSpeed. "Zoom-zoom" can still be added, but consumers will have to do the heavy lifting themselves.Favorite Features
While we still have a manual in a mid-size, volume-targeted sedan, it shall be celebrated. And in an era of distracted driving, a component that demands a driver's undivided attention can't be a bad thing, can it? Happily, not only does Mazda still provide the ability to shift manually, but they equip their 6-speed manual with one of the very best linkages. Go forth and shift!
The Mazda Showroom
As any manufacturer will tell you, its retail network isn't owned or controlled by the manufacturer. With that as a given, the Mazda showroom can still generate excitement for the enthusiast. Even when shopping for something mildly prosaic - Mazda6 sedan, Mazda5 mini-minivan or the Tribute - the glow of Mazda's RX-8 and Miata continue to shine on the process. A Mazda dealership remains an import store, while its more volume-oriented brethren present themselves (with varying degrees of success) as "domestic."