Full 2011 Mazda MAZDA6 Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Mazda 6 receives minor updates. The headlights and foglights have been restyled and the sideview mirrors on the Touring Plus and Grand Touring models now feature integrated turn signals. Mazda has discontinued the base SV trim level and dropped manual transmission availability for the Touring trim. Fuel economy sees a slight increase for models with automatic transmissions. A few features have been shuffled between trim levels as well.
Who says a family sedan has to be sedate? Amid a deep field of competitors, the 2011 Mazda 6 proves otherwise, with athletic performance and little in the way of sacrifice. In addition, sleek styling, comfort for full-sized adults, top safety scores and a price that won't break the bank all combine to make it a worthy choice.
Mazda prides itself in delivering an exhilarating driving experience, and even in the rather tame sedan segment, it manages to inject some personality into the mix. How much fun you'll have behind the wheel of the Mazda 6 largely depends on which engine you pick. The base four-cylinder is just fine for the daily commute, but the lively V6 certainly increases the grins per mile. Handling is admirable for every Mazda 6, and anyone can appreciate this car's spacious interior and large trunk. There's not much to complain about, with subpar fuel economy and the use of some chintzy plastics in the cabin being the car's only notable drawbacks.
That said, competition in the family sedan class has gotten more formidable with the introduction of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the 2011 Kia Optima. Both trump the Mazda 6 in terms of price and features and are competitive in regard to performance, though they lack the interior space of the Mazda. Other top choices include the sporty Nissan Altima, the very impressive Ford Fusion and the stalwart Honda Accord. At the end of the day, there isn't a bad pick among these choices, and the 2011 Mazda 6 is certainly worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mazda 6 is available in seven trim levels: 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 i Sport comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, a manually height-adjustable driver seat, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo system with an auxiliary audio jack.
The i Touring model steps up the feature content with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a trip computer, a power driver seat, an in-dash six-CD changer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, upgraded interior trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Opting for the i Touring Plus will get you a sunroof, a blind-spot monitoring system, electroluminescent instrument gauges and outside mirrors with integrated turn signals. The i Grand Touring model adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a multi-information display 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. The s Grand Touring adds 18-inch cast-aluminum 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, automatic wipers, heated outside mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, an auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirror, satellite radio, driver memory settings and a power passenger seat. A voice-activated navigation system is available only for Grand Touring models and comes with a 7-inch touchscreen display and real-time traffic. 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 engine start.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 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 Sport. A five-speed automatic with manual shift control is offered on the i Sport and is the only choice available on i Touring, i Touring Plus and i Grand Touring models.
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 Edmunds testing, a V6 model reached 60 mph from a standstill in a quick 6.5 seconds, while the four-cylinder automatic required a more pedestrian 9.1 seconds.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg in combined driving for the four-cylinder i Sport with the five-speed manual. The Mazda 6 i models with the automatic are rated at 22/31/25 mpg and the V6-powered versions stand at 18/27/21 mpg, which is at the low end for this segment.
Standard safety features for all 2011 Mazda 6 models include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, both the i and s Grand Touring models came to a stop from 60 mph in about 125 feet.
The Mazda 6 has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) resulted in a perfect 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 and side impacts, while roof strength tests yielded a second-best "Acceptable" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Mazda 6 features an interior that is attractive and modern in design. A gracefully arching center stack sweeps from the top of the dash down to the center console. Some of the controls, however, are a bit more complicated than those of its competitors. Red electroluminescent gauges further enhance the visual appeal, and the roomy backseat (even for 6-footers) is a definite plus. Legroom and headroom are plentiful in all seats, but the wide front seats might lack lateral support for narrower occupants.
Despite the Mazda 6's attractive design, some cheaper plastic materials are scattered throughout the cabin. Higher trim levels have odd black-and-silver-patterned flourishes that might be an acquired taste for some. Points are also deducted for the underperforming standard audio system, and even the upgraded Bose system could 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 the 60/40 split-folding rear seats further enhance cargo-hauling capabilities.
Among competing family sedans, the 2011 Mazda 6 is notable for its nimble handling. It's certainly more confident in the curves than the Honda Accord, and almost as accomplished as the class-leading Nissan Altima. This athleticism results in a slightly firm ride quality, however, and road noise is also a bit more prominent, but neither is particularly bothersome, even when riding on the big 18-inch wheels.
While the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder will likely satisfy most drivers, its leisurely acceleration and wheezy engine note may be a bit of a turnoff. Opting for the higher Mazda 6 s trim levels will get you a significant increase in power as well as improved handling with wider tires. Unfortunately, this added performance is tempered by a transmission that is slow to react in both automatic and manual modes.