When most Canadians think about shopping for a new mid-size sedan, they tend to gravitate towards well-entrenched models like, oh, Accord, Camry, Sonata, Fusion, and possibly Malibu. Between them, these five own a big chunk of this market while other manufacturers fight over the scraps when the dust settles. In some cases, this means conventional four-door sedans are duking it out with SUV crossovers such as the Chevy Equinox and Honda CR-V.
One model that buyers seem to be overlooking is the Mazda6. This is not one of the company’s hot sellers and its sales have been going down steadily over the past year or so.
It’s hard to understand why. In most respects, the 6 is easily up to snuff with the rest of this group.
Let’s start with price. A base 6 will run you from just less than $24,000 before taxes and extras, as will a Camry LE. The Accord SE starts at just less than $25,000, meanwhile, and the Ford Fusion S has a starting price below $20,000. The Hyundai Sonata, meanwhile, is somewhere in the middle, at around $23,000. These models may have various incentives and reductions going on, but these are the prices currently posted on their websites. So, while the Ford has the edge here, the 6 is definitely in the thick of things.
Base engine for the 6 is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder good for 170 horsepower. Again, typical of this market and no better or worse than the rest.
My tester, the GT version, had a 3.7-litre V-6 that develops 272 horsepower. Again, the 6’s competitors all offer a similarly sized V-6 engines and there are no real disparities when it comes to power.
Only one transmission is available with the GT: a six-speed automatic with manual shift mode. As far as that goes, some have this type of gearbox, others don’t, so again, the GT6 is representative of this market.
What about styling? That’s a personal issue, of course. I think the Accord is the best looker here, but the 6 is far from an ugly duckling. It has a European sophistication about it and is a little less mainstream than the rest. This may appeal to some buyers, but apparently not everyone. Manufacturers go crazy trying to be all things to all people, and, in the end, they have to just grab the ball and run with it. Either you like the 6 or you don’t. I do.
As far as Consumer Reports is concerned, the 6 is one of its “Recommended” models and gets top marks in just about every category. According to this organization, reliability has been “above average,” so that’s a good thing.
On the other hand, the magazine observes, fuel economy is not what it could be with the V-6. My V-6 GT is rated at 11.9 litres/100 km in town and 7.9 on the highway, while an Accord is at 10.3 city/6.5 highway and a Camry is good for 10.6 city/6.8 highway, according to Natural Resources Canada.
Behind the wheel, no complaints here. Engine noise and refinement used to be an issue with the 6, but no more. My GT was as lively and responsive an automobile as you could ask for in this price range. Let’s be serious; if you want a pavement-burner and feel you must tear up the corners at every opportunity, this is not the market for you. Spend a few bucks more and BMW and Audi will no doubt give you what you need. I’d say that the 6 handles better than the Sonata or Camry, and is on par with a similarly equipped Accord or Fusion.
Comfort level is just fine, thank you. Standard equipment includes the usual mod cons, such as air conditioning, one-touch-up/down driver’s-side window, cruise control, keyless entry, tilt-telescoping steering and a full complement of airbags.
My GT also had leather upholstery, heated front seats, Sirius satellite radio, back-up camera and so on. These extras bump the price up to the mid-$30,000 range, and, frankly, change the picture for me. I like them, yes, but can do without them. The GS V6 version of this car goes for some $6,000 less and it has everything I need.
In fact, that applies to the 6, overall. This car should be selling better than it does and stacks up favourably, feature for feature, with anything else in this segment.
This is a very competitive market, with lots of choices, and it’s a double whammy for Mazda; most buyers equate this company with the phenomenally successful Mazda3, and when it comes to mid-size sedans, they seem to be infatuated with the Hyundai Sonata or Ford Fusion.
Incidentally, my test GT was a 2012 model, but there are virtually no differences between it and the 2011. If you can find a 2011 (and there should be no problems there), prices may be discounted accordingly.
2012 Mazda6 GT
Type: Mid-size sedan
Base Price: $37,440; as tested: $39,135
Engine: 3.7-litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 272 hp/269 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.9 city/7.9 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Nissan Altima