New & Used Mazda 6: In Depth
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The Mazda 6 is a mid-size sedan that offers a stylish design and above-average road manners, as has become Mazda's calling card. With its 2014 redesign, the Mazda 6 also became one of the more efficient family sedans on the market, too.The Mazda 6 is a rival for vehicles like the Nissan Altima, the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry, as well as the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat.
MORE: Read our 2015 Mazda 6 reviewWe're now into the third generation of the Mazda 6. Although due to Mazda's change in nomenclature it's partly a continuation of the 626. The first-generation car hit the market in 2002 as a 2003 model and ran for five years. It was available as a standard sedan, five-door hatchback and five-door station wagon. A choice of 2.3-liter four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V-6 engines were available, and could be paired with a five-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual. A Mazdaspeed version of the sedan was also available in 2006 and 2007, but was discontinued for 2008.
A second-generation Mazda 6 arrived in the U.S. in 2008 as a 2009 model. Its design was specific to the U.S., a sort of Americanization to try and better capture mid-size buyers. Engines got an upgrade in output and size; the four-cylinder grew to 2.5 liters while the V-6 expanded to 3.7. Mazda kept the four-door sedan but dropped the wagon and five-door hatch for this market.
Though it came in just the single sedan body style, this 2009-2012 Mazda 6 offered a full seven trim levels over its life span, across a range of economical family sedan models to luxurious grand tourers. The entry-level Mazda 6 i SV offered a strong base feature set including a six-speed manual transmission, the 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine and standard stability control and anti-lock brakes, but did without alloy wheels, keyless entry, or an advanced stereo system. The Mazda 6 i Sport added the option of an five-speed automatic transmission, keyless entry, cruise control, and steering wheel audio controls among other features. The Mazda 6 i Touring had 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way power driver's seat, halogen fog lights, and an upgraded six-disc stereo system. Upgrading to the Mazda 6 i Touring Plus deleted the option of a manual transmission while it added a power moonroof, electroluminescent gauges, plus blind-spot monitoring and anti-theft systems.
The Mazda 6 i Grand Touring was the highest-end model. It was fitted with the four-cylinder engine, sharing most of its features of the V-6-powered Mazda 6 s Grand Touring except for the six-cylinder car's 18-inch alloy wheels and six-speed automatic transmission. The Mazda6 s Touring Plus offered the same features as the Mazda 6 i Touring Plus, with the substitution of the V-6 engine and six-speed automatic.
From 2009 through 2013, the Mazda 6 changed very little, even though the competitive landscape changed dramatically with the introduction of a new Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, as well in the last year, as new versions of the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, and Ford Fusion.
The new Mazda 6
The third-generation Mazda 6 arrived in early 2013 as a 2014 model, with production of the U.S. version shifted back to Japan instead of Michigan. The car is lighter and leaner, with great fuel economy courtesy of two gas engines from Mazda's SkyActiv family. A diesel has been promised since launch, but delays have kept it from us, and it still isn't available as of the end of the 2014 model year.
In design, the latest Mazda 6 follows the radical Takeri Concept introduced at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. It's sleek, elegant, and noticeable, andin an early drive, we found the new Mazda 6 to be more refined than ever--with a driving feel that's athletic if not overly sharp and sporty. In the sharp-looking new 2014 model, a 184-hp, 2.5-liter gasoline SkyActiv four-cylinder engine is standard, along with the choice of either a new six-speed manual gearbox (a rarity among mid-size sedans) or a six-speed automatic transmission. Mazda's i-ELOOP system, is also offered in the top-of-the-line Grand Touring model, using capacitors to rapidly store energy during braking or deceleration and make a further improvement in fuel efficiency.
Standard features have been boosted throughout the lineup, although we've found that the latest infotainment interface in the 6 is a little disappointing compared to others in the class. But there is plenty of standout active-safety technology in the Mazda 6, including Adaptive Front lighting, Rear Vehicle Monitoring, a Smart City Brake Support system, and a Lane Departure Warning System.