In recent years, Mazda has begun to develop a reputation for crisp handling and a fun driving experience that far exceeds the sticker price of its cars. The 2008 Mazda Mazda6 is no exception, and the driving experience and performance of this 2008 Mazda leave most reviewers suitably impressed.
The Mazda6 is several hundred pounds lighter than most mid-size sedans, so don't let its unremarkable horsepower figures scare you away. The 2008 Mazda6 has peppy performance with the nice, refined four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, while the V-6 feels torquey and responsive from just about any speed, with either the manual or automatic.
For Mazda, 2008 Mazda6 i models feature a 2.3-liter, 156-horsepower four-cylinder engine that Kelley Blue Book says is "a strong performer, but only when operating in the higher engine speed ranges." They add that "fuel economy and a lower price are the primary reasons to choose the four-cylinder" over the available V-6 that powers Mazda's 2008 Mazda6 s models. Edmunds finds that the "s model upgrades to a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 212 hp and 197 lb-ft" of torque. Edmunds also notes that the Mazda6 s "will run to 60 mph in about 8 seconds flat, which is respectable, but at least a second off the pace of the segment speedsters." ConsumerGuide reviewers say "the base 4-cylinder is acceptably peppy with a manual transmission but is sluggish with an automatic," while the "V6 is noticeably stronger, but best power demands high rpm operation." Car and Driver writes that the entry-level Mazda6 i Sport trim level "is only available as a sedan" and only offers the four-cylinder engine. However, the other trim levels all feature either engine option.
The various trims and engine options on the 2008 Mazda Mazda6 can be mated to several different transmissions. ConsumerGuide writes that the Mazda6 i Sport features only a "5-speed manual transmission," while the Sport VE offers a standard five-speed manual or optional "5-speed automatic transmission w/manual-shift capability" on the i Sport VE and "6-speed automatic transmission w/ manual-shift" on the s Sport VE. Car and Driver rounds out the transmission list by noting that Touring and Grand Touring trims are only available with "a five-speed automatic (four-cylinder models) or a six-speed automatic (V-6 versions)." Cars.com finds that "the five-speed shift linkage is slick and positive, and the clutch action is easy enough that you don't even mind driving in heavy traffic," high praise for a manual transmission. Edmunds also compliments the "smooth, quiet power delivery" of the automatic.
For 2008, Mazda's Mazda6 offers acceptable fuel economy, though unsurprisingly, it varies somewhat between engine and transmission choices. The EPA estimates that the four-cylinder will return 21/29 mpg with the manual transmission and 21/28 mpg when equipped with the automatic. The thirstier V-6 offers 17/25 mpg with the manual and 18/25 mpg as an automatic, thanks largely to the extra gear.
Handling is one of the Mazda6's strongest selling points. It has very crisp, direct steering, and the Mazda6 has great poise in corners, with very little body lean. The ride is quite smooth and absorbent, though there's an underlying firmness, so railroad tracks and potholes can be jarring. Car and Driver summarizes the Mazda6 as an "agile, fun-to-drive sedan." ConsumerGuide expands upon that opinion, adding that "all models use basically the same suspension settings," which result in "agile, confident cornering with modest body lean, plus fine straightline tracking." One complaint that arises concerns the wide turning radius, which Mother Proof says "made U-turns and parking far more difficult than it needed to be" during road tests; ConsumerGuide reviewers add that the "wide turning circle hurts close-quarters maneuverability." However, this seemed to be one of the only handling gripes, as Edmunds says that "communicative steering goes a long way toward making the 6 fun to drive," and ConsumerGuide praises the "strong and progressive" brakes and "generally absorbent" ride on the Mazda6.