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The Mazda6 has, for several years, remained one of the best-driving, best-packaged family sedans on the market. Yet this responsive, roomy, and good-looking American-built sedan has never found much appeal in the U.S.--to the extent that beginning next year, Mazda's moving production of the '6' back to Japan—with next year's new version getting an even more exciting design and fuel-efficient new Skyactiv powertrains.
In the meantime, the very appealing current Mazda6 makes its appeal for one more year. The Mazda6 hasn't changed much in appearance since its model-year 2009 introduction, but at that time it had one of the most aggressive, crisp, and cohesive designs of any sedan. Only for 2013, after the introduction of another new wave of mid-size sedans like the redesigned 2013 Honda Accord and Ford Fusion is the Mazda6 even starting to look a little ordinary. That said, it still looks leaner and more purposeful than most other mid-sizers, and the lean, cockpit-like interior layout might have aged in the details but it still stands out as refreshingly different--with its flowing lines, hooded instruments, and smaller-size, three-spoke steering wheel showing synergy with Mazda's other recent models.
The 2013 Mazda6 comes in two different flavors, with four-cylinder 'i' versions and V-6 's' versions. The Mazda6 'i' (including base SV, Sport, and Touring) models are just perky enough for daily driving yet reasonably fuel-efficient; and unlike some models they're offered with a choice of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Take a short test drive in the V-6 though, and you might be smitten; the Mazda6 has an extremely capable chassis and athletic handling, and the 272-hp V-6 makes the most of it, with plenty of accessible low-rpm torque, making the Mazda6 feel like a muscle-sedan. This version is definitely a fair bit thirstier, but a hoot to drive. And no matter which model you get, you get nice, capable brakes with a firm pedal feel as well as excellent (precise and well-weighted) steering.
Despite the spirited driving feel and rakish exterior, the interior of the 2013 Mazda Mazda6 is an unexpected strength. Whether speaking of seating comfort, ride quality, or cargo space, the Mazda6 is one of the better offerings in this class. Front seats are a little better-bolstered than what you'll find in other affordable sedans, while the backseat is good enough for adults and, at 16.6 cubic feet, the trunk is one of the largest among mid-sizers. The rear seatbacks fold forward to an almost flat position, although the release is a little clunky. Otherwise, refinement is better than you might expect if you've spent time in the smaller Mazda3; there's not much road and wind noise are well sealed out.
In safety, the Mazda6 has been a little disappointing--especially when in other ways it's close to the perfect family car. It's only earned three out of five stars for frontal impact in the federal NCAP program, with a four-star overall score, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given it 'good' scores for frontal and side impact while its 'marginal' rear-impact and 'acceptable' roof-strength results are both worrisome. Feature-wise, the Mazda6 has all the safety checkpoints, and a blind-spot monitoring system is even available.
At just $21,520 for the base Sport, the 2013 Mazda6 is a strong value and includes air conditioning, a tilt/telescopic stsering wheel, power windows and locks, rear-seat heated ducts, and a six-speaker audio system with aux input. But with the Tech Package and navigation, a top-of-the-line s Grand Touring (V-6) costs nearly $35k, and it's harder to make a value argument for that model, as glorious and refined as it might be to drive. The Grand Touring does however include 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. The real sore point from a features standpoint is that Bluetooth is still lacking on base Sport models.