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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.
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.