At first look, there's nothing special about the Mazda6: There's no radical new design, there's no longer a performance version; it doesn't even have an identifiable name. It may just be a family sedan, but when the ordinary is done extraordinarily, it deserves recognition.
Appearance: First off, it doesn't have the smile — which some might call goofy — of some Mazda models. It's still a happy face, but much more subtle and mature, kind of old-school Mazda. The profile is standard sedan, save for a few extravagances that give it a sleeker look: pronounced fender flares; sharp, angled xenon headlights; wraparound LED taillights; and 18-inch alloy wheels. The lines are fluid and aerodynamic. Our tester also had a little bling: chrome tips on the dual exhaust and chrome trim that set off the navy blue exterior.
Performance: Our tester had the powerful-for-the-segment 272-horsepower V-6 with a 6-speed automatic. It has a manual mode, but no paddle shifters. The V-6 has snappy acceleration, but comes with only average mpg: 17 city, 25 highway. With the help of the dynamic stability control and traction control, the Mazda6 felt solid and planted, with light steering response and a comfortable ride.
Interior: The quiet cabin is attractive, with a three-spoke steering wheel and sporty cluster of red-backlit gauges. Lyra found the gauges to be hard on the eyes. Like other Mazdas, this one has the red digital screen on the dash, at a separate focal point from the navigation display. The dash and console are plastic, but of good quality. The dials and buttons were intuitively placed and solid. We liked the perforated leather front seats, which are firm, comfortable and heated. The driver's seat has a three-setting memory and the passenger also has a power seat. In the rear, the seats are deep and roomy, but center arm rest feels a bit flimsy. The trunk can fit a couple of large suitcases, and the rear seats fold down for longer items. Minor nit: Why does it have to beep when you unlock the doors? Other goodies include a Bose surround-sound system, keyless entry/start and auto-dim mirrors, auto on/off headlights, Sirius satellite radio and blind-spot monitoring system.
Our 3 favorites
Blind spot: There is monitoring on side mirrors, and it beeps if you try to change lanes.
Controls: The center stack has solid, simple and intuitive gauges and controls.
Cockpit design: For a sedan, it's sporty, down to the round, louvered air vents.
Solid: Not much tinny about this car. The door closes with a nice "thud."
Stylish: Sharp and contemporary look.
Sound: The cabin was quiet, almost like a luxury car.
The bottom line: The Mazda6 offers seven trim lines, starting with a base manual version that lists for less than $19,000. From the variety of price points to the solid "thud" of the car doors, the 6 may just be your lucky number.