2012 Mazda6 GT-V6 Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Published on January 10, 2012

Perfectly proportioned, the Mazda6 has a sweeping, coupe-like roofline. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

For 2012 the colour palette is new, but otherwise the Mazda6 carries over unchanged from 2011. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

The original Mazda6 quickly became known as a driver's car and the 2012 model, although bigger, upholds that reputation. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Leather seating comes standard on the 4-cylinder GT and all 6-cylinder models. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

The split-folding back seat comfortably fits three adults. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

Metallic accents and black zebra-wood trim give the cleanly-styled interior an air of sophisticated simplicity. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

A commodious trunk makes grocery shopping and family trips equally easy. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

Power for the Mazda6 comes from either a 2.5-litre inline-4 or, as in the test car, a powerful 3.7-litre V6. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 10, 2012

Published on January 10, 2012

Introduced in 2002 as the replacement for the Mazda 626 (a.k.a. the Mazda Cronos), the Mazda6 quickly established itself as a bit of an enthusiast driver's family car, a reputation that was bolstered in 2006 with the introduction of the high-performance, all-wheel drive Mazdaspeed6.

A second generation Mazda6 was introduced in Europe for 2008, but North Americans got a different car in 2009, a widened and lengthened version of the car sold elsewhere in the world. It meant the loss of some of the original car's sporty edge, but it also meant that it now measured up in terms of size against its chief rivals such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord (which itself is sold in different-sized versions for world markets and North American markets).

The 2010 and 2011 model years saw various minor revisions and improvements to the Mazda6, but with the next redesign expected for 2013, the 2012 model carries over unchanged from 2011 save for some paint colour choices.

Despite the compromises made in order to appeal to a broader range of North American consumers, the Mazda6 still remains a bit of an enthusiast driver's family car. It has a sportier look and feel than the Accord, Camry or even the Ford Fusion, with which the Mazda6 shares its platform. I was given a crimson red GT-V6 to try out for a week, and it left me wondering, "Why don't we see more of these cars on the road?"

Certainly the Mazda6 has the looks of a winner: perfectly proportioned, it has a sweeping, coupe-like profile, curvaceously bulging fenders and a front end that manages to capture Mazda's "smiling" look without becoming a caricature. A couple of short years ago it would have been easy to describe the Mazda6 as the best-looking midsize family sedan on the market, and while the new Korean contenders (the Hyundai Sonata and the Kia Optima) have now made the choice far less obvious, the Mazda still remains a serious contender for the style podium.

Mechanically, the Mazda6 is available with either a 2.5-litre inline 4-cylinder engine that develops 170 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.7-litre V6 that develops a healthy 272 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. The 4-cylinder is available with either a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission, while the 6-cylinder comes with a 6-speed automatic.

The V6 in my test car proved plenty powerful, with gobs of torque available across the rev range, although it would have been nice if Mazda offered paddle shifters for manual control of the transmission (there is a manual mode available, but shifting is accomplished exclusively using the shift lever). Acceleration with the V6 is brisk, taking just 6.5 seconds to go from 0-100 km/h, while 4-cylinder cars turn in a more pedestrian but still perfectly acceptable time of just over 9 seconds. Fuel economy (city/highway) for the V6 is a moderately thirsty 11.9 / 7.9 L/100km, with the 4-cylinder turning in reasonably thrifty ratings of 9.8 / 6.6 L/100km.

Handling has always been a bit of a Mazda strong point, and the 2012 Mazda6 doesn't disappoint. In a straight line on the highway, it impresses with an exceptionally quiet ride and a solid "carved from granite" feel. In the corners is offers quick, precise steering with responsive handling and good grip during reasonably spirited driving. It's not flawless - I found the electric power steering to be rather on the light side, and once the limits of adhesion are reached the chassis serves up heaping dollops of understeer - but the Mazda6 is still a good couple of notches above most of its direct competitors.

Inside, the Mazda6 offers what is perhaps best described as "sophisticated simplicity." It's not all flash and bang, but the basic comforts and gadgets you'd expect to find are all accounted for, and everything is cleanly styled and built of good quality materials. The dash and door panel uppers (both front and rear) are soft-touch, with appropriate hard-touch plastics used elsewhere. Metallic accents surround the instruments and brighten up the centre stack, and there's nice convincing-looking black zebra-wood trim splashed about the cabin. I particularly liked the instrument lighting, which is mostly red with deep indigo-blue rings highlighting the instrument scales.

My test car's pushbutton start was perhaps a little less impressive: it looked and worked fine, but its location at the bottom of the centre stack seemed a little like an afterthought, an impression highlighted by the rather crude-looking cover where the normal column-mounted ignition switch would be. I was also less than thrilled with the Bluetooth interface. It offers audio streaming as well as cell phone connectivity, but like some other similar systems I've tested, the audio streaming didn't get along well with my phone (it would automatically disconnect my phone functions and start streaming audio instead, without being asked), so I had to remember to go through the phone connect procedure at the beginning of each drive. Other phones might not suffer this problem, but it's worth checking out if the compatibility of your particular phone is important to you.

Pricing on the Mazda6 starts at $23,995 for the 4-cylinder GS model, which includes all the expected safety equipment (multiple airbags, ABS brakes, traction control) and a fairly comprehensive list of comfort and convenience equipment including such niceties as heated mirrors, trip computer, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, rain-sensing wipers, external temperature sensor and six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input. A $1,940 comfort package adds a power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power driver's seat and 6-changer CD player. The 4-cylinder GT is priced at $29,395 and includes everything from the GS and the comfort package, then adds such items as bigger wheels (18-inch alloys instead of 17-inch), leather upholstery, fog lights, LED taillights, HID headlights and an auto dimming rearview mirror. A $2,595 luxury package adds pushbutton start, 10-speaker BOSE audio with Sirius satellite radio, a power passenger seat, blind-spot information system, rearview camera and more. An automatic transmission is available as a standalone option with all 4-cylinder models for $1,200.

The 6-cylinder GS starts at $31,995 and is equipped similarly to the 4-cylinder GT model, while my GT-V6 test car, at the top of the range, came in at $37,440 (plus destination fees of $1,695) and was equipped similarly to a 4-cylinder GT with the luxury package. For the GT trim only (4- or 6-cylinder), a navigation system is available as a separate $2,600 option.

With this range of pricing the Mazda6 is right in the mix with its rivals from Honda, Toyota and Hyundai and others such as Chevrolet's Malibu. Kia's Optima continues to challenge with a strong value proposition, and Ford's Fusion, which shares a platform with the Mazda6, also has some very competitive starting prices. What the Mazda6 offers is distinctive good looks and a uniquely sporty character, and this makes it a car that shouldn't be overlooked if you're in the market for a new midsize family sedan.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Mazda, 2012, Mazda6, $30,000 - $39,999, Midsize,

Organizations: Mazda

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