With a few well-established vehicles dominating the midsize sedan segment, and numerous likable competitors trying to unseat them, it's tough for any particular vehicle to stand out. But the Mazda 6 has often offered something most competitors don't: charisma.
While just about any car in this segment will get the job done, the Mazda 6 manages to engage the driver in the process. This was particularly true of the first-generation 6, which had a relatively compact, European-size footprint and sporty suspension tuning that gave the car a remarkably nimble feel. For the second- and third-generation 6, Mazda enlarged the dimensions but retained much of the original model's handling panache. Whichever vintage you choose, the Mazda 6 is a solid choice as a midsize sedan.
Current Mazda 6
The Mazda 6 midsize sedan comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Two transmissions are available: a six speed manual or a six-speed automatic (with shift paddles on the steering wheel).
Sport, Touring and Grand Touring are the three trim levels for the current Mazda 6. Standard equipment on the base Sport with the manual transmission includes a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a 60/40-split rear seat and a six-speaker sound system. The automatic transmission-equipped Sport gets Bluetooth, an infotainment touchscreen and a rearview camera.
Stepping up to the Touring adds items such as keyless ignition and entry, blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control and a power-adjustable driver seat. Options for the Touring include automatic headlights, a sunroof, an upgraded sound system, navigation and a frontal collision mitigation system. The Grand Touring gets all the standard and optional features from the Touring, plus bi-xenon headlights, foglights, leather upholstery and heated front seats. Notable options for the Grand Touring include adaptive cruise control and the i-Eloop system that improves fuel economy by 2-3 mpg.
Visually, the 6 is no wallflower, with a distinctive face and a sleek profile that stands out in a crowd. In terms of practicality, the Mazda 6 also stacks up well against class leaders such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry with regard to passenger space and cargo volume. Moreover, most midsize sedans can't match the Mazda's entertaining character on twisty back roads. The car's main downsides are an electronic interface that's a little behind the times and a ride quality that some drivers might deem a tad too stiff.
Used Mazda 6 Models
The newest, third-generation Mazda 6 appeared for 2014. Compared to the previous-generation model, the latest 6 differentiates itself with sleeker styling, higher fuel economy and added safety features. Mazda hasn't made any major changes since.
The second-generation Mazda 6 debuted for the 2009 model year and was produced through 2013. There were two available engines: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque or a 3.7-liter V6 that put out 272 hp and 269 lb-ft. The four-cylinder was paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic, while the V6 was only available with a six-speed automatic.
In its second generation, the 6 was available in five trim levels: i Sport, i Touring, i Touring Plus, i Grand Touring and s Grand Touring. Models with the "i" prefix come with the four-cylinder engine, while those with the "s"prefix come with the V6. Base models were respectably equipped, while higher trim levels came with such niceties as a sunroof, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control and an audible blind-spot monitoring system. Other notable options included xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, satellite radio and a navigation system.
As with other Mazda 6 models, we appreciated this generation's sporty handling. It was also pretty practical thanks to a roomy interior and a big trunk. On the downside, though, fuel economy wasn't the best in the segment and interior materials were lackluster. In its final couple years, this 6 also seemed increasingly outdated compared to newer rivals from Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota. But overall we think it's still worth considering as a used family sedan.
Launched for the 2003 model year and produced through 2008, the first-generation Mazda 6 was initially available only as a sedan, while a four-door hatchback and a wagon joined the lineup from 2004-'07. There were two basic trim levels: i and s. The Mazda 6 i was powered by a 160-hp four-cylinder engine mated to either a manual or an automatic transmission. The s came with a 220-hp 3.0-liter V6 -- also available with a manual transmission or an automatic.
The Mazdaspeed 6 was a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive variant of the Mazda 6 sedan that was only offered in 2006 and '07. Boasting 278 hp, a six-speed manual transmission and sports-car-like handling, this European-style sedan delivered great driving excitement. As a used car, it's a compelling package for those with a need for speed, not to mention all-wheel-drive traction.
With power accessories, cruise control and pleasant cloth upholstery, even base models were reasonably well equipped. Optional features included a rear spoiler, foglights, leather seating, a power sunroof and an upgraded audio system with a CD changer.
We like the original Mazda 6 for its edgy, handsome design and stylish interior. Even more impressive were its communicative steering and tight suspension. Both the hatchback and wagon were fun-to-drive and sensible alternatives to other sedans and even SUVs. On the downside, the first-gen Mazda 6's interior quality was lacking, and the sedan was relatively short on passenger space. Moreover, the V6 lacked the punch of rival uplevel motors.
There were a few changes made to the first-generation Mazda 6 over the years. In 2005, a six-speed automatic replaced the five-speed unit on V6 models. For 2006, four-cylinder cars received an upgraded five-speed automatic in place of the old four-speed, and all Mazda 6 models were treated to minor styling updates. The 2006 and '07 models benefited from additional safety features being made standard.
Read the most recent 2016 Mazda 6 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Mazda 6 page.
For more on past Mazda 6 models, view our Mazda 6 history page.