Reviews

2012 Mazda 6 Walk Around

If you were to stretch the shape of the Mazda6, you'd find the influence of the RX-8 sports car in numerous places. This is a distinctive car, and if you like modern design, you'll like the Mazda6.

The Mazda6 does not look like a big car. With its flowing roofline, wraparound overhangs that appear shorter than they are, classy grille and front fascia, and sleek lines overall, the Mazda6 comes across as a smaller, trimmer, tidier car than some of its competitors.

The headlights are housed in sleek and stylishly shaped housings, each headlamp like a squeezed trapezoid or pea pod with pointy ends, inlaid on the graceful front fenders. An upper body crease that would normally go to the front wheel stops just shy of the fenders, and the rear wheel arches have double creases to mirror the front.

The Mazda6 five-sided grille has a deep V-shape to it and it's all body-colored, except for the chrome winged Mazda logo. The fog lights are set in horizontal openings surrounded by some light gray plastic and horizontal character lines in the air dam. At the rear, the horizontal taillamps wrap around the sides, and our four-cylinder had neat twin pipes coming out the right rear, connected to a twin-outlet muffler. The 17-inch alloy wheels on our Mazda 6i Grand Touring were beautiful, and bore Michelin P215/55R tires.

Interior

The Mazda6 cabin uses contemporary materials, with metallic-finish surfaces rather than phony wood trim. The exception is the console trim that slashes across the passenger's dash which, on some models, appears a cross between silver-veined black granite and ash-black burnt wood with wide rings in it. It's a look we've not run across recently. We especially liked the brushed aluminum look of the rings around the instruments on our car.

The seats are cloth on the Sport, Touring, and Touring Plus, and have good support and comfort. It's a new cloth that was first appeared on 2011 models, but it's sporty and rugged like the previous material. Mazda has long been a leader in cloth upholstery. Our Mazda 6i Grand Touring had perforated black leather and was beautiful.

The seats are comfortable front and rear, regardless of upholstery. There is generous room inside, so even six-foot-plus bodies can sit in front and then jump in back without moving the front seat, even on cars with the moonroof. The rear seat offers plenty of room, a center armrest (no pass-through), and a 60/40 split seatback that's easy to fold.

Visibility is good in all directions. The hood slopes out of sight, common in this aerodynamic era. The roof pillars are not so wide that they obstruct vision; the outside mirrors are fairly low and so is the dashboard, all adding up to a good view out. Xenon headlights are included with the Grand Touring Technology Package. Dash and cabin lighting are more than adequate with either set of gauges.

Instruments are laid out with fuel and tachometer to the left, speed and coolant temperature to the right. Between the two are the odometers, outside temperature. When shifting an automatic manually the gear selected is shown above the odometers.

At top center of the dash is a deep red digital display for climate, radio and clock that's easily read by anyone in the car. Below it are center vents, the audio system or navigation if so equipped, and basic three-ring climate controls. Big omnidirectional round vents are on each end of the dash for ventilation. Lights and wipers are on stalks. Some secondary controls are to the left of the steering wheel next to a small storage tray. Redundant audio, telephony and cruise controls are on the steering wheel.

All the systems are simple to use. Our biggest complaint is the beep that accompanies every volume adjustment made by the steering wheel toggle. But this is probably one of the 24 adjustments, including door lock programming, turn signal click volume, and blind spot monitor, the dealer can alter for you.

The navigation system worked without error, and gave good voice responses. The standard Bose sound system with 10 speakers including a 9-inch subwoofer sounded good.

Good storage space can be found in the center console, doors, and glovebox.

A Blind Spot Monitoring System comes on Touring Plus and Grand Touring models, though we have noted no significant blind spots on the Mazda6. At speeds greater than 20 mph the system senses vehicles adjacent; it casts an orange image onto the exterior mirror if it senses your car going where another car is, and makes a noise if you signal while it senses a vehicle in the way. It can be a very helpful feature. We found it worked better on the Mazda6 and caused fewer false alarms than similar systems we've tried on some other brands.

Cargo space is one of the strong suits of the Mazda6. With 16.6 cubic feet of volume, the Mazda6 is at or near the top of the class in cargo space. It also boasts a low liftover height: One needs to lift cargo only to the top of the bumper and slide it in, the car's sweeping roofline making the vertical opening much larger than the depth aspect. There are no hinges or trunk arms within the opening nor cargo shelf impediments, and the rear seatbacks can be released from the trunk.

The chassis structure is very stiff, which is a good thing. Chassis rigidity is a key element in allowing a smooth ride and sharp handling. We noted no creaks or squeaks from the Mazda6 while entering steep driveways or taking angled traverses of sharp bumps.

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