2010 Mazda 6 Review

2010 Mazda 6 - Crowded at the top.


Vehicle Tested
2010 Mazda 6i Touring Plus
Base Price: $23,730
At-Tested Price: $24,930
Built in Flat Rock, Michigan.

Audio Package

Engine: 2.5-Liter I4
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

When you think midsize car, most think Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. Mazda would like you to think six, as in Mazda 6. Last year, Mazda introduced a new 6 with the chops, at least on paper, to compete with the big boys for mainstream buyers.

The 2009 Mazda 6 was larger, more powerful, and offered more features that the car it replaced. While it continued Mazda's sporty tradition, it was designed to go head-to-head with the class leaders and, perhaps, give up some "Zoom Zoom" for conventionalism.

For 2010, the 6 stands pat, getting a shuffling of standard equipment a new trim level. Last year, four trim levels were offered: SV, Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. For 2010, Mazda adds the Touring Plus. SV, Sport, Touring and Touring Plus come with a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and are so signified with an "i" designation. The new Touring Plus and Grand Touring get an "s" suffix and a 272-horsepower 3.7-liter V6. Four-cylinder models come with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The V6 comes with a six-speed automatic. Both automatics have a separate shift gate for manual operation.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, stability control, tire-pressure monitor, and dual-front, front-side, and curtain-side airbags. Blind-spot alert is standard on Grand Touring, optional on Touring. Park assist and a rear-view monitor are not offered.

The SV lists for $18,450 and comes with air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt-telescope steering wheel, front bucket seats with driver-seat height adjustment, center console, split-folding rear seat, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital-media player connection, outside-temperature indicator, illuminated visor mirrors, variable-intermittent wipers, rear defogger, automatic-off headlights, theft-deterrent system and 205/65HR16 tires.

Sport model starts at $19,320 and adds to the SV cruise control, keyless entry and steering wheel radio controls.

The Touring lists for $20,900 and adds to the eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment AM/FM radio with in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 changer, trip computer, fog lights, 215/55VR17 tires and alloy wheels.

The new Touring Plus lists for $23,750 in i trim and $26,450 in s trim. It adds to the Touring leather-wrapped steering wheel, power sunroof, Bluetooth cell-phone link and floormats.

The line topping Grand Touring is priced from $25,935 to $28,390. It adds to the Touring dual-zone automatic climate controls, leather upholstery, heated front seats and Bose sound system.

Key options include power sunroof, navigation system, remote engine start, and satellite radio. All models come with a $750 destination charge and are assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan.

Get Up and Go  Be it with the four-cylinder or the brawny V6, the Mazda 6 has the stones to throw down with the big dogs. In the stoplight grand prix, the V6-powered 6 will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about six-and-a-half seconds. Four-cylinder models take about eight seconds to accomplish the same task. Both numbers are on par with the class-leading Honda Accord.

Both engines feel lively in traffic and provide good passing punch. The V6 is more refined, emitting an expensive-sounding growl in hard acceleration compared to the four-cylinder's coarse groan. Both engines cruise quietly, though the gearing on the four-cylinder model is such that it buzzes a bit at speeds over 70 mph.

The automatic transmissions carry out their job admirably. Both are a trifle slow to downshift in passing situations, but upshift slickly and don't hunt between gears on hilly roads. Even with the standard traction control system, wheel spin can be a problem on V6 models, especially when rounding low-speed corners under power.

The four-cylinder runs fine on regular-grade gasoline and is EPA rated at 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Those numbers fall short of class leaders like the Accord and Camry, which rate one or two mpg more in both city and highway driving.

In urban routine driving expect to average about 20-22 mpg. If your commute includes lots of open-road highway driving, you might be able to average as high as 24 mpg. In straight highway driving, the four-cylinder will likely return about 28 mpg.

On the Road  Mazda's 6 has always offered a sport-tuned ride and that is evident with the new Mazda 6.

Most four-cylinder models have 16-inch wheels and a baseline suspension that are tuned more for ride comfort that ultimate cornering grip. They provide a particularly absorbent ride that's free from rebound bounce and pitching. V6 models get 17- or 18-inch tires and a sport suspension that impart a firmer ride that can grow choppy at times and is somewhat tiresome on longer highway trips. No Mazda 6 has a hard ride, but with so many suspension and tire combinations, it is best to take a long test drive to see which combo suites you best.

All models are fairly agile and impart a level of driver confidence that isn't always found in the class. Body lean is modest and the tires have good dry-road grip. The steering is alive with road feel and delightfully weighted when the road grows twisty. Brakes have plenty of stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. Even the turning circle is refreshingly tight.

Cabin noise can be a problem. Wind rush is bothersome at speeds north of 70 mph and tire noise is overly intrusive on models with the 18-inch wheels. Both engines cruise quietly, but the V6 is considerably more refined in hard acceleration.

Behind the Wheel  The 6's interior sports materials are appropriate for the class and there's a fair amount of bright work to offset the stark black dash top. The design is modern and user friendly.

Driver's face a quartet of deep-set analog gauges that look like they were lifted right out of a race car. They feature unique blue and orange lighting, but are easy to read day or night. The center console is nicely arranged with audio/navigation controls on top and climate controls below. The standard audio setup is straightforward, but adding the optional navigation system doesn't confuse too much. Ancillary controls are well placed and illuminated at night.

About the only interior foible comes courtesy of the available keyless starting feature. Instead of designing a second steering-column cover, Mazda has chosen to cover up the ignition-key slot with an inexpensive looking blank and then added an additional button on the base of the center console, where it can be easily bumped.

Front seats are comfortable and supportive and head and leg room are ample. The standard tile and telescope steering wheel is a nice touch as well. Forward visibility is good, but the tall rear and thick pillars make parking and backing more difficult that in some competitors. The available blind-spot warning system works as advertised and seems to err on the side of caution, which is as it should be.

The rear seats offer class competitive head and leg room. Seats are comfortable, if not a bit flat. There's a large driveline hump that precludes three-across seating except for short trips. Large doors are a nice touch and make getting in and out a breeze.

The large trunk has a wide opening and lid that features non-intruding hinges to free up additional cargo space. The rear seats fold nearly flat to increase cargo room. Small item interior storage is limited, but there a large glovebox and deep center console bin.

Bottom Line   Though sales don't really reflect it, the Mazda 6 is one of the best midsize cars on the road. Yes, it will appeal more to enthusiasts than the typical, car-is-an-appliance set.

Prices range nicely from less than $19,000 to nearly $30,000, so there's a 6 for just about any midsize buyer. The Mazda 6 proves that Mazda can go mainstream and still retain the Zoom-Zoom personality that helps set the brand apart from the herd. Big-time midsize cars like the Malibu, Accord, Altima, and Camry now have another competitor to worry about and that's a great thing for new-car shoppers.

Specifications, 2010 Mazda 6i Touring Plus
4-door sedan
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
2.5 / 153
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
170  @ 6000
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
167 @ 4000
Height, in.
6-Speed Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
21 city / 30 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.

Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
3 years / 36,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 100,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
5 years / Unlimited miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
3 years / 36,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.