2012 Mazda MAZDA6 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 25, 2012

The 2012 Mazda6 is just as comfortable, practical, and refined as most other mid-size sedans, but it's a little more enjoyable to drive.

The 2012 Mazda6 is one of the best-packaged and fun-to-drive mid-size family-worthy sedans—one of the best-looking, too, we think—but it's a shame that it never even makes it on most shopping lists.

Though it's essentially the same size as the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, and Honda Accord, the Mazda6 manages to appear a little leaner and more purposeful. It's attractive from any angle, but the sculpted front fenders and broad wheel arches give it an especially aggressive look from the front. It remains a little more conservative (which some might appreciate) from the front compared to other recently redesigned models like the Mazda3 and Mazda5. Inside, the Mazda6 feels sporty, even in base trims, with flowing lines, hooded instruments, and a smaller-size three-spoke steering wheel.

You shouldn't have any reservations about sticking with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that Mazda6 'i' (including base SV, Sport, and Touring) models get. It's reasonably fuel-efficient (not nearly as much as class leaders like the Hyundai Sonata though), and it feels perky whether you go with the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Step up to the V-6, however, and you might not be able to go back; the 3.7-liter engine churns out 272 hp, along with plenty of accessible low-rpm torque, making the Mazda6 feel like a muscle-sedan. It's a hoot to drive, but it's also quite a bit thirstier. No matter what, you get nice capable brakes with a firm pedal feel, reasonably good, athletic handling, and a ride that straddles the line pretty well between comfort and sharpness. Those expecting a serious sport sedan, or moving up from a Mazda3, might want things even tighter though.

The 2012 Mazda6 won't let you down in any way with respect to seating comfort, cargo space, or ride quality. Front seats are a little more supportive than most in this class, the backseat is good enough for adults, and the trunk is the largest in this class, at 16.6 cubic feet. Although the release for the rear seatbacks is a little clunky, they fold forward to a flatter position than most, too. And for those used to the higher levels of road noise in some of Mazda's other vehicles, the 6 is surprisingly refined and quiet inside.

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Safety is one point of concern. The Mazda6 hasn't been crash-tested under the revised federal system, and it earns only 'acceptable' in the IIHS roof strength test and 'marginal' in the seat-based rear-impact test.

But it's very well-featured for the money, and especially in four-cylinder form, a bargain (at around $20k for the base SV) compared to some segment leaders--especially when you consider the Mazda6's more entertaining steering and seating comfort. Bluetooth is still lacking on base models, but the Mazda6 does include air conditioning, a tilt/telescopic stsering wheel, power windows and locks, rear-seat heated ducts, and a six-speaker audio system with aux input. At the top of the range, Grand Touring models gain items like leather upholstery, heated front seats, a multi-information display, keyless illuminated entry, cruise control, a dual-zone climate control system, fog lamps, and a power moonroof.

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2012 Mazda MAZDA6

Styling

If you want to escape the design boredom that often accompanies mid-size sedan ownership, the Mazda6 is the way to go.

Though it's essentially the same size as the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, and Honda Accord, the Mazda6 manages to appear a little leaner and more purposeful.

The 2012 Mazda6 is attractive from any angle, but the sculpted front fenders and broad wheel arches give it an especially aggressive look from the front. It remains a little more conservative (which some might appreciate) from the front compared to other recently redesigned models like the Mazda3 and Mazda5. Last year the Mazda6 earned a slightly different headlight and foglight design, along with a new 17-inch alloy wheel design and side mirrors with integrated turn signals (on top trims), but otherwise it's changed very little in recent years.

Overall, the interior looks and feels sportier than that of most other mid-size sedans. Even in base trims, with flowing lines, hooded instruments, and a smaller-size three-spoke steering wheel, there's an athletic impression. White-on-black instrumentation is standard on the Mazda6 Sport, while red-on-black gauge faces are used on Touring and Grand Touring editions.

8

2012 Mazda MAZDA6

Performance

The 2012 Mazda Mazda6 is simply more engaging and fun to drive compared to other mid-size sedans with comparable specs.

You shouldn't have any reservations about sticking with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that Mazda6 'i' (including base SV, Sport, and Touring) models get. It's reasonably fuel-efficient (not nearly as much as class leaders like the Hyundai Sonata though), and it feels perky whether you go with the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

Step up to the V-6, however, and you might not be able to go back; the 3.7-liter engine churns out 272 hp, along with plenty of accessible low-rpm torque, making the Mazda6 feel like a muscle-sedan. It's a hoot to drive, but it's also quite a bit thirstier. No matter what, you get nice capable brakes with a firm pedal feel, reasonably good, athletic handling, and a ride that straddles the line pretty well between comfort and sharpness.

Those expecting a serious sport sedan, or moving up from a Mazda3, might want things even tighter though; the current 6—especially in V-6 form—can feel a little too heavy and isolated.

9

2012 Mazda MAZDA6

Comfort & Quality

There are few practical consequences to the Mazda6's racy styling and zoom-zoom driving feel; it's roomy, refined, and comfortable.

Even though its appearance is a little racier than that of most mid-size sedans, the 2012 Mazda6 won't let you down in any way with respect to seating comfort, cargo space, or ride quality.

Front seats are a little more supportive than most in this class—with good side bolstering—and the backseat is good enough for adults. The nice cloth and leather upholsteries are as good or better than those in rival models, although some might consider the look of the dash and door trims a little low-budget in some trims. The trunk of the Mazda6 is the largest in this class, at 16.6 cubic feet.

The rear seatback folds forward to a flat position, allowing more of a pass-through to the trunk than is typical, although the release itself can be a little hard to reach.

One remaining complaint is that the electroluminescent gauges features in the more luxurious trims are actually a bit harder to rear in bright sunlight, where they can get bleached out.

Road noise is an issue in some of the smaller Mazda models, but the 6 is different; it's surprisingly refined and quiet inside.

7

2012 Mazda MAZDA6

Safety

In a class of high-achievers, there's nothing all that impressive about the Mazda6's occupant protection.

Safety is one point of concern, especially if you're considering the 2012 Mazda6 as a primary family car. While it has all the safety features you can expect to find in this class of car, its occupant protection (crash-test) ratings aren't at all impressive.

In the federal government's NCAP testing system, the 2012 Mazda6 earned just three our of five stars for frontal impact, along with four stars for side impact and a four-star overall score. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Mazda6 offers 'good' protection for frontal and side impact but just 'marginal' for rear impact. Furthermore, in the new IIHS roof strength category, the 6 scored just 'acceptable.'

The one concerning part of the IIHS results is their contention that "forces on the right tibia indicate that injuries to the lower leg would be possible."

Otherwise, there's a complete set of safety features here; front side airbags, side-curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and dynamic stability control are all standard, as they are among most mid-size sedans. Mazda's blind-spot monitoring system is available too.

We appreciate how the Mazda6 has a rather high seating position and clear sightlines, which helps afford good outward visibility.

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2012 Mazda MAZDA6

Features

The base 2012 Mazda6 lacks Bluetooth, but at the top of the range the Grand Touring is a surprisingly well equipped sport sedan.

The 2012 Mazda6 is very well-featured for the money, and especially in four-cylinder form, a bargain (at around $20k for the base SV) compared to some segment leaders--especially when you consider the Mazda6's more entertaining steering, and seats that are better than others in this price range. 

Bluetooth is still lacking on base models, but the Mazda6 does include air conditioning, a tilt/telescopic stsering wheel, power windows and locks, rear-seat heater ducts, and a six-speaker audio system with aux input.

At the top of the range, Grand Touring models gain items like leather upholstery, heated front seats, a multi-information display, keyless illuminated entry, cruise control, a dual-zone climate control system, fog lamps, and a power moonroof.

Push-button start, an audio system with satellite radio and a built-in hard drive, a navigation system, and rain-sensing wipers remain on the options list.

7

2012 Mazda MAZDA6

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Mazda6 isn't a gas-guzzler, but you'll have no problem finding sedans with better EPA mileage numbers.

If you go strictly by the EPA ratings, the 2012 Mazda Mazda6 doesn't have gas mileage that's especially noteworthy—or even close to class-leading.

Its EPA ratings, of 18 to 22 mpg city and 27 to 31 highway are merely average, or a bit below average, among mid-size sedans. But based on our real-world results, we think these ratings might be slightly pessimistic in this case; we've seen toward the high end of EPA Combined figures with the four-cylinder and the V-6.

Nevertheless, you won't see anything close to the Hyundai Sonata's 35-mpg highway rating in the Mazda6. Strictly by the numbers, there are plenty of greener options.

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April 17, 2015
For 2012 Mazda MAZDA6

Overlooked great sedan!

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  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
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Sport model with a 6-speed manual transmission is both practical and fun to drive. And this is prior to the "Skyactiv" technology improvements. For a $17K car (after incentives) it has been an amazing bargain... + More »
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Styling 9.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 7.0
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Fuel Economy 7.0
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