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In this ongoing series, Boston.com talks with automotive authorities about why you should consider driving — or avoiding — a specific model.
If you don’t want to drive the same Toyota Camry or Honda Accord as everyone else in the neighborhood, there’s an alternative: the Mazda6, a mid-size sedan that stands out in a competitive class for its smooth steering and below-average starting price.
The five-passenger sedan comes in five trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. Sport and Touring get a 187-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, while the upper three trims come equipped with a turbocharged engine that makes 250 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, but the Sport trim may be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. Expect quick steering, dynamic handling, and satisfying acceleration.
While not a ringer for a luxury model, Mazda’s largest sedan provides a comfortable cabin with plenty of space for passengers. The padded center console measures wide enough that you’ll never bump elbows when riding shotgun. Cloth upholstery is standard, and buyers can upgrade to leatherette or leather upholstery, and power-adjustable, heated front seats. Every model comes equipped with Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging, voice control, a six-speaker sound system, and the Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen.
The 2018 model earned top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All models come equipped with a rearview camera and Smart City Brake Support, which provides automatic emergency braking. Sport trim buyers can add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, which come standard on upper trims.
The Mazda6 earns outstanding fuel economy, delivering up to 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway when equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission. Manual-transmission models get 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
The 2018 Mazda6 starts at $21,950. The Touring and Grand Touring trims begin at $25,700 and $29,200, respectively. The Grand Touring Reserve trim starts at $31,700, and the Signature trim starts at $34,750.
What the experts are saying
“The Mazda6 performs well across the board for crashworthiness, earning ‘Good’ ratings in all six crash tests conducted by IIHS. We also evaluate technology on vehicles that can help drivers avoid some kinds of crashes in the first place. The Mazda6 earns a ‘Superior’ rating for crash prevention with its optional Smart Brake Support, which is a combination of forward-collision warning with an automatic emergency braking system. This is a proven technology that is reducing the rate of front-into-rear collisions reported to police by half. This car doesn’t qualify for our highest safety designations of Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ because we haven’t yet tested its headlights.” –Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
“From a quick glance, most drivers would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this year’s and last year’s model. The exterior updates are subtle and highlight the smooth lines and edginess of its previous design. But the interior is improved, especially in the new top-trim Signature model with premium seat coverings and trim that would look at home on a European luxury sedan. The 6’s 2.5-liter turbocharged engine is torquey, meaning it’s great for the city and, thanks to a sporty suspension and steering setup, pulling out of twisty mountain corners. Its six-speed transmission keeps revs low on the highway for improved efficiency and, along with additional sound-deadening measures, keeps the interior quiet. It’s not the fastest, but it’s one of most dynamic mid-size sedans on the market.” – Calvin Kim, road test engineer at Edmunds
“What we are hearing from our customers has been very consistent and clear. The Mazda6 is much more upscale now. The interior is not only more luxurious but more comfortable than the previous model. The quietness is very noticeable in the cabin, even with the additional power in the turbo. Combined with the additional power of the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine and the very composed feel on the road, the Mazda6 has the flavor of European luxury brands while keeping to its Mazda heritage.” – Joe Shaker, owner of Wellesley Mazda and North Shore Mazda