The Mazda 6 first appeared in 2002, a complete renovation of the previous 626, a not overly attractive family sedan. Where the 626 failed to impress in looks and performance, the Mazda 6 more than delivers. Available in sedan, hatchback, and wagon body styles, there is a Mazda 6 for every taste. Not only this, but Mazda 6 comes in a range of trim levels, from base to sport to luxury, which can become confusing if you're trying to compare prices.
The independent double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear suspension help with cornering flawlessly, much more so than the previous generation, but some may note the suspension a little stiff at low speeds. The first-generation Mazda 6 was Powered by a 2.3L i4 engine mated to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. The torque curve is ideal for negotiating stop-and-go traffic, which city drivers will appreciate. Both transmission choices aren't particularly show-stopping but enough to get the job done. To get the most driver satisfaction, go for the manual. Once you get out on the open road, the Mazda 6 isn't particularly heady, but it keeps up with traffic without sucking too much out of your wallet.
The second-generation Mazda 6 upgraded to a 2.5L or 2.0L turbo diesel, making improvements in the power department, but more so in the area of fuel consumption. The transmissions changed over to 5-speed automatic and 6-speed manual, which smoothed out shifting, especially in the automatic, perhaps one of the most refined available mated with a 4-cylinder engine. On the other hand, perhaps the only fault of the 2.0L turbo diesel was the fact that it was only made available mated to a 6-speed transmission which didn't sway a whole lot of buyers.
The 2.3L i4 engine is rated at 122kW and delivers 207Nm of torque as low as 1,900 rpm. It isn't particularly powerful, especially at highway speeds, but it really shines getting around urban areas. While it doesn't seem particularly impressive, it is perfectly matched to the Mazda 6 chassis in terms of capabilities, but don't expect it to put you in your seat. Still, the small-engine big-car combination puts fuel consumption around 8.8L/100km. The electronic-controlled automatic transmission was also fairly capable of matching shift points with driver intentions, and it drives smoother than some other i4/automatic combinations.
The second-generation upgraded to a 2.5L i4 and added a little in power to 125kW and a little in torque to 226Nm, which isn't all that impressive for 0.2L increase in displacement. It did manage to improve fuel consumption slightly to 8.4L/100km. The 2.5L is smooth and quiet. The transmissions each gained a gear, to 5-speed automatic and 6-speed manual, and they are adequate to get the job done. Even the base-model Mazda 6 with a 6-speed manual feels pretty sporty.
The 2.0L i4 turbo diesel, available from 2006, offered more torque than the petrol version, 360Nm to the 2.3L's 207Nm, but it only came with a 6-speed manual transmission. For most, this was an immediate turnoff, but the turbo diesel engine is flexible enough to keep shifting to a minimum. Aside from excellent torque, the 2.0L turbo diesel consumes as little as 5.9L/100km, making it a much better option for the fuel-conscious driver. Since this model wasn't as popular, it'll probably not command the price of a similarly equipped petrol version.
The Mazda 6 Limited started out as a low-priced sedan with most of the safety features that one would expect, such as air-conditioning, but it was missing a few options like cruise control and alloy wheels. Standard are 6 airbags and anti-lock braking, as well as electronic brake force distribution. Eventually, electronic stability control became standard on all Mazda 6 variations.
The Classic mid-price Mazda 6 was available in all three body styles, and it included pretty much everything you would need in a mid-size family car, including 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control, fog lights, and even a leather steering wheel.
The Luxury model added additional audio options, power windows and locks, leather seating, trip computer, sunroof, power seats, side and curtain airbags, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Luxury models were the highest-priced Mazda 6 options in the line. The Sport model only comes in a hatchback version, but it offers upgrades such as Bose audio with steering wheel controls, 18-inch alloy wheels, a body kit, and some interior trim enhancements.
The Toyota Camry powered by an i4 is comfortable and comes with an array of safety and convenience features, but performance-wise, it doesn't really impress. The Camry, of course, is known for reliability and longevity, admirable qualities in a used car, but it has a softerMcPherson strut front suspension with makes for less sporty handling than the Mazda 6. For the same price, though, the Camry usually offers more standard options.
Honda Accord usually ranks more comfortable than the Mazda 6, but it comes up somewhat lacking in performance and handling. Even though powered by similar engine technology, the Accord fails to deliver and isn't quite as fun to drive. The Mazda 6, though, usually ends up running cheaper than the Accord, even with better performance and better options – including cruise control, climate control, anti-lock brakes, and side and curtain airbags – making the Mazda 6 a sure winner for safety.