Accord. Camry. Accord. Camry. Oh yeah: Altima. These are the mid-priced sedans that top most shoppers’ lists. But amongst the intriguing alternatives to the perennial best sellers is Mazda’s redesigned, second generation 6. And—at least in six cylinder, S trim—it comes across as not only a more well-rounded and characterful choice, but as the superior driver’s car as well.
For a start, its exterior is more cohesive than the amalgam of mismatched shapes that define the Accord. And its more aggressive mien beats even the SE-spec Camry in terms of sports sedan appeal. Its cockpit is much more adventuresome in design and materials (examples include tiger stripe trim in lieu of faux wood) than either, and its control layout is much more clear and logical than the haphazard Honda. Quality is on par with the other Japanese cars, and it boasts a roomier and more comfortable set of front buckets than the Toyota or Nissan.
The Mazda’s powertrain is superior as well. Though its 3.7 liter engine is barely more potent than the competitions’, its six-speed gearbox is smoother and more intuitive, and its extra gear helps the 6 return slightly better real world fuel economy while still running the same low six-second 0-60 acceleration. While the Altima returns similar efficiency, its CVT’s ‘rubber band’ like feel is nowhere near as rewarding for those who enjoy mechanical music.
Like all Mazdas, the 6 has the best steering feel, precision, and weighting of anything in its class. It directs the responses of a chassis that is more comfort-oriented than its predecessor yet no less talented when pushed to extremes. While roll angles might seem greater than the Accord’s, the Mazda’s more neutral, interactive set up does more to reward the driver. The Camry isn’t close as a back road accompanist, nor is the Altima.
Passengers are looked after as well, as road noise has been dramatically reduced; the Mazda is now quieter than the Honda, and on par with the Toyota and Nissan. For enthusiast minded drivers, or simply those looking for something a bit more daring, the new Mazda6 is now the finest mid-priced Japanese four-door extant.
PRICE AS TESTED: $31,120
THE BROKER’S VIEW: The 6 has never held its value like the Accord, or—until recently—the Camry. But Toyota’s reliance on rental fleets to make its sedan America’s best seller has a downside: more depreciation for real-world buyers. Since Mazda has dramatically reduced the number of 6s it puts into fleet service over the last 18 months, residual values of it have climbed, matching the Camry or exceeding it, depending on model. On reliability, they’re about on par: all built in the good ol’ USA by Americans, all using significant local content. The Mazda’s relative rarity on the used market, in my experience, helps it do well in price 3-5 years down the road, and the number I’ve sold that are still on the road with mid- to high- six-figure mileage reflects well on the 6’s ability to provide excellent long-term service.
Here’s what Mazda says.