The Mazda6 is not among the top-selling midsize sedans – not even close. The facts are undeniable, but the explanation is harder to fathom. Perhaps the market for midsize sedans has ossified to the point where the style’s remaining aficionados gravitate almost robotically to Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, and of course Ford and Chevrolet. Yet in many respects, the Mazda6 stands among the top performers.
Mazda, a Japanese automaker that builds its cars in Japan, using almost exclusively Japanese components, produces sedans, sport-utility vehicles and the iconic MX-5 Miata roadster for the U.S. market. Our favorite model is the CX-5, a compact SUV. But people who are in the market for a midsize sedan would be remiss in skipping a trip to the Mazda dealership.
The Mazda6 is handicapped by a lack of available all-wheel drive and a name that suggests, but doesn’t deliver, V-6 power. In reality, just one engine is available in the Mazda6 – a 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower inline Four. Wedded to a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, it is rated at 35 mpg on the highway. The Nissan Altima does better (39 highway mpg) with a 179-horsepower Four.
The Mazda6 S, with the standard transmission, appears to be the lowest-priced midsize car. That isn’t the case in models equipped with automatic transmissions, however. Nissan, Hyundai and Kia are priced a little lower.
Mazda’s decision to continue to offer a stick shift in its flagship sedan may seem odd, but it makes sense on two levels. First, it provides an alternative that’s unavailable in competing models. Second, the Mazda6 corners and accelerates well enough to justify an extra dose of driver involvement.
We already knew the Mazda6 was unusually nimble for its class, but a somewhat rushed drive on the back roads of Bethel, Conn., provided a lesson in the car’s capabilities. We drove as fast as we dared, keeping the possibility of prowling police and wandering deer in mind, but the car practically begged us to drive even faster. The automatic is exceptionally responsive, but the 6-speed stick would have doubled the fun.
Like BMWs, Mazdas are all about balance, not raw power. While the horsepower numbers seem modest, the Mazda6 feels quick and agile, even if it won’t blow the doors off its more muscular competitors on a straightaway.
A sporty personality isn’t the Mazda6’s only asset. The ride is firm but composed, and interior comfort, materials quality and room are of a high order. The conveniently located Commander switch, which operates the radio and other infotainment features, spares the driver from reaching for the console to change the settings.
Safety is another Mazda6 strength. Rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it received 5-star ratings in government crash tests. Our high-end Grand Touring model had a blind-spot warning system, rear-view camera, lane-departure warning system and Smart City brake support, which stops the car when the sensors detect a hazard in front. All Mazda6 versions are equipped with rear-view cameras.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring
Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four, 184 horsepower, 185 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,305 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19-in. alloy
Tires: P225/45R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 14.8 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 16.4 gallons
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline