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 for a midsize sedan.
Current Mazda 6
Sport, Touring and Grand Touring are the three trim levels for the current Mazda 6. Standard equipment on the base Sport includes alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a Bluetooth-compatible touchscreen stereo and a rearview camera.
Stepping up to the Touring adds items such as keyless ignition and entry, automatic headlights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, imitation leather seats, low-speed automatic braking and blind-spot monitoring. The Grand Touring model adds a moonroof, leather upholstery, LED headlights, a Bose stereo with navigation, and a head-up display along with higher-speed collision warning and automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. Many of the comfort and convenience features from the Grand Touring model can be added to the Touring, and the Grand Touring can be enhanced with an upgraded interior, as well as the i-Eloop system that improves fuel economy by 2 to 3 mpg.
All Mazda 6 midsize sedans come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The Sport model can be had with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles is optional on the Sport and standard on other trim levels.
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 the lack of a more powerful engine option and a ride that some drivers might deem a tad too stiff.
Used Mazda 6 Models
The newest, third-generation Mazda 6 first appeared for the 2014 model year. Compared to the previous-generation model, the latest 6 differentiates itself with sleeker styling, higher fuel economy and added safety features. Mazda made some minor styling changes to the Grand Touring model in 2016, but other than that and some option-package reshuffling, the Mazda 6 remains largely unchanged.
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; the V6 was available only 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, and those with the "s"prefix come with the V6. Base models were respectably equipped, while higher trim levels came with features such 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 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 to '07. There were two basic trim levels: the i and the 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 trim 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 274 hp, a six-speed manual transmission and sports-carlike 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 engines.
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 standard safety features.