Mazda6 Sedan Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
Question. How does one make a family sedan that looks like a sports coupe, drives like a roadster and doesn't eat up an entire year's budget to buy? The answer could be: Make it a Mazda. Or more specifically, make it a 2012 Mazda6 midsize sports sedan.
Mazda has thrived for several years with its “Zoom-Zoom” mantra, so familiar now one doesn't even need to say the name of the car. Hear that advertising shtick and you just know it's going to be a Mazda, and that it's a joy to drive.
Of course there are some tradeoffs when you streamline a vehicle to the point it looks really sexy, and make it so squat with a close-to-the-road profile it develops sports car envy. That kind of appearance presupposes the necessity of cutting into some interior space. So expect a little less trunk room and a shade lower rear seat headliner perhaps, so someone in the six-foot plus range could get a crick in the neck sitting in back. The solution? Let the tall person sit up front.
But bashing the Mazda6 is not what we're here for. It's to determine its usability as a true sedan, capable of hauling a family of five as well as chauffeuring a hot date to the latest rock concert -- or being chauffeured if you're willing to turn over the keys for the evening.
In the multi-tasking world these days, life doesn't seem to come in precise packages. Not only do we want a vehicle that can serve our practical needs, but can squeeze out the last ounce of fun in the process. One look at the Mazda6's exterior tells why this one could serve both masters.
Somehow Mazda always seem to get the proportions just right. Its face wraps smoothly around to encompass features -- headlamps, air intake, logo grille -- with an eager, action-ready appearance. The body lines are sleek and uncomplicated, with just the right amount of swell over the wheel wells to lend a sense of speed. The interior is well-laid out, usable without adding unnecessary complexity. You know this is a vehicle intended for driving more than as a parking lot concert hall.
Want a stick shift when you get behind the wheel? Having one available on the Mazda6 is a given.
A six-speed manual links to the standard 2.5-liter “MZR” inline four cylinder engine in the iSport version, the base of six available Mazda6 models. That base engine generates 170-horsepower and earns a 21/30 EPA fuel economy rating. Other “i” models going up the scale get five-speed automatics (22/31 EPA), with the two top “s”Touring editions fitted with six-speed automatics (18/27 EPA) when paired with Mazda's 3.7-liter, 272-horsepower V-6. (Those also have a 6,500 rpm redline for the enthusiastic.)
The 2012 model year brings only a few minor tweaks to the Mazda6 that's essentially a carryover from 2011. Steel Blue, Polished Slate, Autumn Bronze, White Platinum Pearl and Fireglow Red replace Kona Blue, Comet Gray, Black Cherry, Techno White Pearl and Sangria Red in the exterior color palette. Inside, Touring, Touring Plus and GT models lose the blue LED overhead console down light. But a wide range of high tech amenities remain available depending on price point.
Base price for the manual iSport model is $20,240. And pricing ratchets up to $29,570 for the top sGrand Touring. Mazda6 models gain standard Bluetooth phone and audio from Touring on up. Expect to pay $430 more if you also want SIRIUS Satellite Radio on Touring models and an additional $2K for the Grand Touring's navigation system. All safety systems are standard, with anti-theft security and blind spot monitoring on mid- to upscale models.
We're very aware that after four years of the present generation Mazda6, including some midterm freshening for 2011, that it is due for an update. We're not sure how well that could function. For right now, the 2012 seems just right, just fresh and just sassy enough to give us the kind of kick we want in a practical way without spoiling the fun. We'll choose Fireglow Red, of course.
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