The 2021 Mazda 6 isn’t just the prettiest family sedan, it’s also more enjoyable to drive and ride in than most of its peers. While the Mazda isn’t as flawless as the Honda Accord or as fresh as the Hyundai Sonata, it definitely delivers a more expensive-feeling experience than either of those top-flight alternatives. Neither its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or the more potent turbo version are particularly compelling, and there’s currently no eco-friendly hybrid model, but the 6 drives with a mix of athleticism and refinement that broadens its appeal. We wish Mazda would make the car’s fanciest features available across the board, but even the lower end of the lineup has a host of standard driver assists and popular technology. Although the 2021 Mazda 6 isn’t perfect, it’s one of the classiest entries in this class of family-oriented four-doors.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Unlike most mid-size alternatives, the Mazda 6 does not offer a hybrid option. Mazda does provide a choice of two responsive 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, though. The standard engine makes 187 horsepower, while the available turbocharged engine generates up to 250 horsepower. The turbo 2.5-liter gained 10 pound-feet of torque for 2021, raising that output to 320 pound-feet, but this requires using premium fuel. Every engine pairs with an excellent six-speed automatic transmission that’s proficient at finding the right gear, whether downshifting for extra oomph or upshifting for steady cruising. The Mazda 6 offers above-average driving satisfaction for a family sedan, with a fluidity to its controls and handling that is uncommon at any price. And Mazda manages to provide the thrills without sacrificing refinement or ride quality. In our testing, the top-of-the-line Signature model had less absolute grip and longer braking distances than the 2016 model. Chalk this up, at least in part, to the new tires it wore, which the company fitted to help reduce tire noise. None of this can diminish how well the Mazda 6 drives and rides, especially considering how quiet the cabin is. Make no mistake, it’s still the most fun-to-drive sedan in this segment.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
This sedan should earn 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway when equipped with the base four-cylinder, according to the EPA. We don’t know yet if the turbocharged version’s increased torque rating will affect its fuel economy, but the 2020 model had estimates of 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The last turbo 6 we tested exceeded the government’s highway estimate on our 200-mile real-world route, earning a C/D rating of 36 mpg. The model with base engine that we previously tested delivered 37 mpg on that route, a 2-mpg advantage versus its EPA highway rating.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the 6 looks like a much pricier car than it is. The quality of the materials impresses, as does the upscale, mature design and restrained detailing. Aside from a few minor annoyances with the way some of the controls work, the cabin is first rate and best in class. Surprisingly for a sedan with so sexy a shape, the Mazda 6 is no less practical than other mid-size offerings. In terms of the car’s cargo capacity, the six carry-on bags we fit in the trunk and the 17 we fit with the rear seats folded put the Mazda at the head of the segment. Our only complaint? The rear seats can’t be folded from inside the car. You have to pull the seat-release handles in the trunk to accomplish this.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Operated primarily by an upscale-feeling control knob on the center console similar to those used by BMW and Audi, Mazda’s infotainment system has the tactility and visual punch to impress. The dashtop display doubles as a touchscreen, albeit one that works only when the car is stationary. As satisfying and easy as that knob is to use, the menus it commands aren’t as intuitive as they could be. Every model includes popular connectivity features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Wireless CarPlay software comes standard starting on the Grand Touring model.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Mazda 6 earned a five-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the last version it evaluated a Top Safety Pick+. The sophisticated sedan also has some standard driver-assistance technology and can be equipped with i-Activsense, Mazda’s suite of active safety stuff.