What's New for 2010
Coming off a complete redesign just last year, the 2010 Mazda 6 sees little in the way of change. A new optional audio and Bluetooth display debuts, as does a new Touring Plus trim level. Features have also been shuffled among trim levels to lower the vehicle's base price.
The midsize sedan market is crowded with competition, and until a major redesign last year, the Mazda 6 seemed to flounder at the back of the pack. As Japan's self-proclaimed performance brand, Mazda focused more on exciting driving dynamics than what American family sedan buyers were really looking for -- comfort, reliability, safety and affordability.
The re-imagined Mazda 6 that debuted last year was bigger in nearly every dimension than the previous generation. This provided occupants with one of the roomiest cabins in the midsize sedan class. When vehicles make substantial gains in size, we usually expect a corresponding drop in handling ability, acceleration and overall excitement. But that's not the case with the newest Mazda 6, as we've been pleasantly surprised to find that much of the previous athleticism is still intact.
For 2010, the Mazda 6 capitalizes on last year's gains by lowering the price on many of its trim levels. The resulting savings to buyers is not without a few sacrifices, though, as many standard features have been relocated to higher trim levels. New for 2010 is a Touring Plus model (it slots in just below the top-of-the-line Grand Touring) and a reworked display for Bluetooth and audio information.
Carrying over from last year are some of the Mazda 6's best attributes like an impressively large trunk and the most powerful V6 in this price range. Stacking the 2010 Mazda 6 against the competition will reveal that it is one of the most fun-to-drive sedans, second only to the considerably lighter Nissan Altima. Other suitors for your attention include the heavily updated Ford Fusion (it won our most recent sedan comparison test) and the always popular Honda Accord. While these cars have their own strengths and weaknesses, the Mazda 6 is one of our top picks and it's definitely worth adding to your consideration list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mazda 6 is a front-wheel-drive midsize sedan, available in seven trim levels: i SV, i Sport, i Touring, i Touring Plus, i Grand Touring, s Touring Plus and s Grand Touring. Models with the "i" prefix come with the four-cylinder engine, while models with the "s" prefix come with the V6.
The base i SV comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, a manually height-adjustable driver seat, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo system with an auxiliary audio jack. The i Sport adds cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and keyless entry. The i Touring model steps up the feature content with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a trip computer, a power driver seat, a six-CD changer and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Opting for the new i Touring Plus will get you a sunroof, electroluminescent gauges, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a blind-spot monitoring system. The i Grand Touring model adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker Bose sound system. The s Touring Plus model is outfitted identically to the i Touring Plus, except for the engine, transmission and some exterior trim and badging. The range-topping s Grand Touring adds 18-inch alloy wheels.
We expect one of the more popular options will be the Technology package, which is available for Grand Touring models. It includes automatic xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry, auto-dimming mirrors, satellite radio, an additional Bluetooth and audio display, driver memory settings and a power passenger seat. A voice-activated navigation system is available only for Grand Touring models. Stand-alone options vary in availability with trim levels and include many of the above-listed features as well as a rear spoiler, a chrome fuel filler door and remote ignition.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Mazda 6 i versions are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the i SV, i Sport and i Touring. A five-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only choice available on i Touring Plus and i Grand Touring models and an available option on i Sport and i Touring versions.
Mazda 6 s models are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 272 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque and are available only with a six-speed automatic. In testing we reached 60 mph from a standstill in only 6.5 seconds in a V6-powered Mazda 6, while the four-cylinder automatic required a listless 9.1 seconds.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 21 mpg city/30 highway and 24 mpg in combined driving for the four-cylinder engine running through the five-speed automatic. Models with the manual transmission are expected to achieve 1 mpg less overall. These figures are competitive among midsize sedans, but opting for the V6 will yield only 17 mpg city/25 highway and 20 combined, which is at the low end for this segment.
Standard safety features for all 2010 Mazda 6 models include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In government crash tests, the Mazda 6 earned a perfect five out of five-star rating for frontal and side impact protection for all occupants. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Mazda 6 its highest score of "Good" for frontal offset impacts. In brake testing, both the i and s Grand Touring models came to a stop from 60 mph in about 125 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Mazda 6 sports an attractive and modern cockpit. Controls are a bit more complicated than those of competitors, but they reside in a gracefully arching center stack that sweeps from the top of the dash to the center console. Other interior features like the red backlit gauges and roomy backseat (even for 6-footers) also gain our praise. Legroom and headroom are plentiful in all seats, but the wide front seats may lack lateral support for narrower occupants.
Despite this pleasing design, some cheaper plastic materials are scattered throughout the cabin. Higher trim levels have odd black-and-silver patterned flourishes that may be an acquired taste for some. As one unimpressed editor remarked, "The odd decorative trim pieces resemble piano black trim that's been mauled by a bear." Points are also deducted for the underperforming standard audio system, and even the upgraded Bose system may disappoint some listeners. On the plus side, the Mazda 6's 16.6-cubic-foot trunk is one of the biggest in its class, while the trunk's unobtrusive hinge mechanisms and 60/40-split-folding rear seats further enhance cargo-hauling capabilities.
As far as big family sedans go, the 2010 Mazda 6 is fairly nimble -- it's sharper than the Honda Accord, but not quite as athletic as the class-leading Nissan Altima. Road noise is a bit more noticeable than on competing vehicles, and the ride quality is on the firm side, but neither is particularly bothersome even when riding on the big 18-inch wheels.
Besides the power advantage gleaned from the upper trim levels, handling also improves as the tire size widens. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder will be adequate for the vast majority of drivers, but its wheezy engine note and lukewarm acceleration will likely disappoint more spirited pilots. For them, the muscular but smooth 3.7-liter V6 would be a more appropriate choice, but the slow-shifting automatic transmissions have a tendency to put a damper on the fun -- even in manual mode.
Read our Mazda 6 Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test