Test Drive: 2010 Mazda6 i sedan

Mazda's midsize model delivers on promise of sporty nature, even with four-cylinder engine and automatic

by James M. Flammang

2010 Mazda6 i Grand Touring Sedan

Like other Mazda models, the Mazda6 sedan strives to be something more than a conventional midsize model. Even since the first Mazda6 debuted as a 2003 model, it promised customers a sportier nature than the competition. Redesigned for 2009, the Mazda6 gained about 7 inches in overall length, and both available engines promised increased power.

Little has changed for the 2010 model year beyond what Mazda calls "minor trim and package enhancements." New Touring Plus models have been added to both the 6i and 6s series. Each includes a power moonroof, ground illumination, electroluminescent gauges, a Blind Spot Monitoring System, anti-theft alarm, and Bluetooth connectivity. Grand Touring models can have a new Technology Package.

According to its chief designer, Youichi Sato, "time to be Japanese" was to be the theme of the Mazda6. Among other goals, Mazda sought to "evolve the Zoom-Zoom spirit" to another level, while reflecting "Japanese culture, aesthetics, and spirit." Evidence of the latter isn't easy to see on the finished product, but Mazda did create a sedan with a distinct personality. Black body trim is said to yield a "rich, sporty look that's unprecedented in the mid-size segment."

Front fenders are said to have kinship with Mazda's RX-8 sports car. Large areas of the doors have been kept "smooth and taut to exhibit blank-space beauty," though lack of bodyside moldings is no benefit in the event of parking-lot mishaps. Inside are round instruments and a three-spoke steering wheel, ahead of a T-shaped instrument panel. Grand Touring models contain leather upholstery in a choice of black, beige, or gray.

Two engines are available. The Mazda6 i uses a four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 167 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with five-speed automatic transmission option. Only a six-speed automatic is offered with the Mazda6 s, which holds a 3.7-liter V-6 that generates 272 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 269 pound-feet at 4250 rpm. Mazda claims this V-6 is the "most powerful engine in its class." Automatic transmissions include a manual shift mode.

Mazda6 sedans include a feature adapted from the RX-8 sports car. Active Adaptive Shift (AAS) control senses winding-road conditions and selects the best gear ratio (usually third) for optimum acceleration when exiting a corner. When slowing down into a curve, AAS quickens the transmission's downshift speed to deliver maximum engine braking. While passing after a merge into traffic, AAS holds the lower gears longer than usual to maintain peak acceleration.

Six airbags are standard, including side-impact and side-curtain units. The Mazda6 earns five-star crash-test ratings all around from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): frontal, side-impact, and rollover propensity.

Four-cylinder models with the automatic transmission get a fuel-economy estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of 21 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. Manual shift drops the estimate to 20/29 mpg. With its V-6 powertrain, the Mazda6 s gets a less-thrifty EPA estimate of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

Mazda calls its Mazda6 a "mid-size sedan that doesn't behave like one." Sounds like typical automaker hyperbole; but there's a fair amount of truth in that claim.

Push the gas pedal and you can tell immediately that you're in a four-cylinder Mazda, due to its slightly growly sound as well as the lack of exuberant takeoff power that a V-6 version would provide. Does it matter? Not at all. The four-cylinder Mazda6 moves out, if a tad leisurely, at a pace suitable for the vast majority of drivers. Few are likely to complain about any shortage of performance. Manual shift would improve acceleration a bit, but most likely buyers will almost certainly pick an automatic, which shifts smoothly, crisply, and effectively.

Although the ride isn't as gentle as typical midsize family sedans, Mazda's brand of taut handling and moderately sporty feel make up for the occasional noticeably-felt bump. Roomy inside, the Mazda6 may be equipped with excellent orange-lit gauges that are highly readable, day or night. These are the kind of instruments that all cars should have, so no one has trouble reading them at a glance.

Pricing for the Mazda6 starts at $19,200 (including the $750 destination/handling charge) for the "entry-level" Sport Value sedan. Topping the four-cylinder lineup is Mazda6 i Grand Touring Sedan, which stickers for $26,685. With V-6 power, a Mazda6 s Touring Plus sedan goes for $27,200, versus $29,140 for the top-of-the-line model.

Attention Editors: This complete 2010 Mazda6 review is available now for your publication. Please contact us at JF@tirekick.com for details.

© All contents copyright 2010 by Tirekicking Today
Text and photos by James M. Flammang