2012 Mazda MAZDA6 Sedan - FROM $20,480
The well-rounded 2012 Mazda 6 ranks highly among family sedans for its sporty driving dynamics and spacious interior.
What's New for 2012
The Mazda 6 cruises into 2012 with no significant changes.
Practical doesn't have to be another word for boring -- the 2012 Mazda 6 is proof. This good-looking hauler is one of the more fun-loving choices in the family sedan segment, with nimble handling that adds enjoyment to mundane commutes. Add its affordable price and comfortable cabin to the mix and you get a car that covers all the bases.
With the 6, it's clear that importance was placed on creating an involving driving experience. It offers one of the best driving positions in the segment, with relatively high seat placement that gives you an expansive view of the road. Handling is keener than that of most others in this class, and the buttoned-down chassis results in a ride quality that feels more European than Japanese. Other pluses include a spacious interior and a large trunk.
The Mazda 6 does have a few minor shortcomings, the most notable being middling fuel economy and the cabin's occasionally cheap plastics. At the same time, there are some newer family sedans that might hold more appeal. The smooth-riding Hyundai Sonata is worth a look, as is the undeniably handsome Kia Optima -- both come chock-full of unexpected standard features and are more affordable than the 6. The Volkswagen Passat offers European refinement, and the sporty Nissan Altima, spacious Honda Accord and engaging Ford Fusion are also fine choices. Despite these talented rivals, the 2012 Mazda 6 is still a very worthy pick, especially for those who love to drive.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mazda 6 is available in six 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 adds 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, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, 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 2012 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 6.5 seconds, which is quick for its class. The four-cylinder automatic required 9.1 seconds, an average time for a four-cylinder family sedan.
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, both of which are at the low end for this segment.
Standard safety features for all 2012 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 a slightly longer than average 125 feet.
In government crash tests, the Mazda 6 received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with three stars for frontal-impact protection (four stars driver, three stars front passenger) and four stars for side-impact protection. 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 aesthetic within the 2012 Mazda 6's cabin is thoroughly modern, with lots of curves and sweeping lines, and the car's red electroluminescent gauges are a handsome addition. The center stack forms a graceful arch; it looks great, but some of its controls are less intuitive than those seen in competing models. There's ample headroom and legroom all around, and the backseats are especially spacious, comfortably accommodating even the most long-limbed passengers. If you've got a narrow build, though, you might find the wide front seats lacking in lateral support.
Though the cabin design is attractive, the 6's interior is marred by the presence of some low-grade plastics, and more expensive trim levels come with odd black-and-silver accents that may be a turn-off for some. It's also worth noting that the sound system's performance trails that of others in this class; 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.
The 2012 Mazda 6 stands apart from most other family sedans on the strength of its nimble handling. It enters curves more confidently than the Honda Accord, and ranks almost as highly on the fun-to-drive meter as the class-leading Nissan Altima. Its athletic demeanor comes with a ride quality that can be a bit taut, however, and road noise is also more prominent. Still, neither is particularly bothersome, even when riding on the big 18-inch wheels.
Most drivers will find the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder to be a suitable match, but those who want gutsier performance will find that the higher Mazda 6 s trim levels offer 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.