2021 Mazda 6 Review

2021 Mazda 6 - Refined with the fit and finish of a luxury sedan.


The Mazda6 is a mid-size five passenger, four-door sedan that has been produced since 2002 and was a replacement for the former 626 which dates all the way back to 1970 in the Japanese market. Since its debut, the Mazda6 has always been a stylish sedan that offers a more exciting driving experience than competitors like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. With each generation the Mazda6 has only gotten better both under the hood and in its style and refinement. 2021 models rival entry level German luxury sedans with high quality materials and top notch fit and finish. The Mazda6 offers two engine variants and six trim levels with starting prices ranging from $24,325 up to $35,750. While a few manufacturers have bid farewell to their mid-size sedans, there is still a fair amount of competition with the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat.

New for 2021 is the addition of Apple Car Play and Android Auto to base models and the launch of the new Carbon Edition model. The Carbon Edition adds an exclusive color scheme to a package similar to the Grand Touring Reserve. It features a polymetal grey exterior paint, gloss black rear lip spoiler & door mirrors, and 19-inch black metallic aluminum alloy wheels. The interior has red leather seats with black cross stitching and black hairline interior accents on the dash and door panels. The dash and center console armrest add red stitching to help bring the color scheme together. Other trims available on the Mazda6 include the base sport, touring, grand touring, grand touring reserve, and signature.

Beginning with the Mazda6 styling, it is a captivating vehicle. The current style has remained relatively the same since the third generation debuted for 2013. It did receive a mild mid-cycle refresh in 2018 which included new front and rear fascias, a larger front grill, new wheel designs, updated interior materials and new trim levels. The profile of this car continues to be unique to the class with curves in all the right places. The front fenders feature character lines that give the illusion of sporty fender flares and highlight the well-designed wheel options.  The roofline swoops down into the trunk seamlessly providing fluid feel without compromising visibility inside. Up front Mazda has created a signature shield-like grill that is seen across its model line. While the grill has gotten larger, it's not off-putting as Mazda has incorporated chrome accents that blend it into the design of the fascia and LED lights. Around back, you'll have to look closely to see changes in design. The standard LED taillights now wrap around the chrome strip and the lighting design is different. Overall, this car stands out with some great angles and a well sculpted design that is subtle but impactful. This is a design that paid close attention to the details which has helped it age well over the last eight years.

Under the hood of the Mazda6 are two options that both mate to a 6-speed automatic transmission and are front wheel drive. The first option is a Skyactiv 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that makes 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes standard on the entry level Sport trim as well as the Touring models. This engine runs on regular unleaded fuel with an estimated 26 MPG city, 35 MPG highway, and 29 MPG combined. Beginning with the Grand Touring trim level and up, a Skyactiv 2.5L turbo 4-cylinder with VVT is dropped in the engine bay. The 2.5L turbo gets up to 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque when filled with premium octane fuel. If you opt to fill the turbo engine with regular unleaded 87 octane, the performance will drop to 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimates on the turbo engine are 23 MPG city, 31 MPG highway, and 26 MPG combined. Over the course of weeks' worth of primarily suburban driving, I averaged 28 MPG.

My test vehicle was equipped with the 2.5L turbo and the car continued to have the zoom-zoom spirit Mazda is known for. The engine is smooth as it transitions through gears in the 6-speed automatic. Put it in manual position and select the sport mode for an even sportier ride. The 6 offers plenty of passing punch and responsive steering. The 6 absorbs bumps in the road, feels well-grounded on the highway and maintained a quiet cabin as road noise was minimal even at highway speeds. The Signature model test car rode on Falken all-season P225/45/R19 tires that wrapped 19-inch aluminum alloys that looked great on this car. Only the base Sport trim comes with 17" rims while all five other trims get the upgraded 19" wheels.

Jumping Inside, the 6 has one of the best looking and functional interiors in the class. Stepping up to the higher trim levels such as the Signature model test car will include materials that challenge entry level luxury sedans. Stretching across the dashboard was plush suede material with tight seams against brushed silver accents and soft touch materials. Signature models add Nappa leather-trimmed sport seats with power front seats and power lumbar support. Heated & ventilated front seats are also available and a very nice feature that can be utilized year-round. Other features such as a heated steering wheel, Bose 11-speaker audio, and a power moonroof add to the serene vibe of the Mazda6 interior.

Mazda incorporates an 8" touchscreen that stands alone atop the dash. The infotainment system operates both through touch or via a control knob located near the shifter. After a few times utilizing the control knob, it became second nature and I even began to prefer that to the touchscreen. The volume knob for audio is located adjacent to the control knob on the center stack which was an unusual place at first but makes sense as you become accustom to the control knob. Mazda's system includes a four camera 360-degree view monitor and integrates with both Android Auto and Apple Car Play. The Apple Car Play has a wireless connection if the phone's Wifi is enabled.

Behind the steering wheel are traditional gauges including a large speedometer flanked on either side by the RPM gauge, battery strength and fuel consumption. A digital view of the fuel levels will display how many miles when the tank was full and how many remain until empty. The 6 offers a customizable heads-up display that is readable and non-intrusive. The placement reduces distraction and helps the driver maintain focus ahead. The system will show speed, safety warning systems, traffic sign recognition, road speed limits and more.

Mazda has incorporated i-Activsense vehicle safety features into all trims of the Mazda6.  This system enhances safety with driver assist technologies that will minimize distractions and help avoid collisions. Standard features include an advanced smart city brake support with pedestrian detection that includes nighttime pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and smart brake support with collision warning. All of these features and more are available on the base Mazda6 Sport which starts just over $24,000 making this a safe and affordable sedan. The warning levels on all of these systems can be adjusted based on sensitivity and notifications. The standard levels all seemed appropriate and were no overly sensitive as seen in other manufacturers. Additional features like the auto-hold function which will allow you to take your foot off the brake but keep the car stationary are nice features when waiting in line on at the drive-up.

As many manufacturers shift their focus to crossovers and trucks, Mazda is remaining dedicated to its Mazda3 and 6 sedans. The Mazda6 is the whole package that proves sedans still have a place on the roads. While the price may be slightly higher than some mainstream competitors, the Mazda6 is anything but mainstream. High quality materials inside and a sportier attitude on the roads make this sedan a stand out. The Mazda6 offers a luxury sport sedan feel at a more affordable price. Mazda has built a car that is still striking almost 10 years after the generation was introduced. There are still many competitors in this segment and the Mazda6 should be on your list for a test drive, it might just surprise you!

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.