Pros: BMW-like handling at around 25K loaded, terrific looks
Cons: Somewhat questionable build quality in some minor areas
I bought one of the first Mazda6s available in the US in late November of last year. Options: V6, Bose, sunroof, leather, comfort, auto. I paid 23K (about 1800 off sticker). I consider that to be an excellent deal for such a terrific car.
As several other reviews here have noted, the options packages are very strange for the 6. I did not get the sports package: it's pretty crude looking, IMO. Although, by giving up the sports package you're forced to get a tan interior and do without the "Optitron" LED gauges. Other examples: if you want a sunroof, you have to get the Bose. Also, heated seats are only available with leather. Mazda is retooling their packages and this should soon be a non-issue.
The car's looks initially attracted me to it. It's somewhat more compact-looking than the Accord or Camry, more on the lines of an A4 or 3-series. The color choices are not the greatest: either too boy-racer-ish (a very electric blue or too-yellow) or too staid (your standard black, white, silver and gray). The Sepang Green is very nice, but hard to find. I bought a Redfire 6 which is the same color used on Jaguar S-series cars here in the US. The 6 has been available in Japan and Europe for a while now and several exterior mod kits are available from both import and domestic sources. Almost all look better than the sport package.
The rims of the car are not very attractive, particularly the 16 inchers. Aftermarket wheels will improve the car's looks.
The car's tail lights "bulge" slightly, a look I happen to like. Their overall design recalls the '03 Corolla though.
The chrome "milk mustache" on the grille (a Mazda design standard) is very wide on the 6. Check out the Sport Grille accessory for a better look.
Interior room is about average in the current market: a little larger than the size of my previous car, a 99 Accord 4 door. The current Accord and Camry have a little more room. Front seat comfort is superlative: tons of headroom, shoulder room and leg room. I've also never seen a better driving position: the wheel is dead center and the pedals are well spaced. Headroom in the back is a little tight but legroom is surprisingly good. The view is terrific. This car has a very long hood-line, which makes it slightly difficult to park. Take it easy in the dealer parking lot.
Interior materials are generally good except on the doors, which are slightly chintzy. The dash is solidly made and features soft-touch coating throughout. The interior is well put together with zero panel gaps and smooth rattle-free operation. The seats themselves are terrific: highly bolstered and very supportive. Because the car was designed for the world market, rather than "expansive" American physiques, I would not recommend this car if you are an especially large person. I'm 5 10" and it fits me to a "T", though. I happen to like the interior size. This is a car you "wear" and its snug interior enhances the sporty feel.
The dash design is OK. A little too much silver for my taste, but I guess that's what's cool these days. The stereo, climate control and time readouts are all combined into one display at the top of the center stack, a design I find very practical. The switchgear is Honda-quality, which is to say superb.
All and all, the interior is probably better looking and more functional than most cars. I like it.
The trunk is one of the better features of this car. It's huge due to the innovative design of the rear suspension. The trunk lid is lifted on struts rather than tension bars, this also enhances the available space. I also find the remote levers in the back of the trunk that allow you to fold the seatbacks down to be a very practical and useful feature.
It's a Duratec (Ford) sourced block with Mazda internals. VVT has that old-school Honda rush I loved in the previous generation VTEC. The engine positively sings with a reedy growl. Revs easily to redline. This engine takes about 500 miles to break in, initially it's not very exciting. Give it some time and this is a real screamer.
Not the best. Honda and Toyota are smoother. The auto is rough in shifting between second and third. In "sportmatic" mode, a downshift from second to first is never smooth. You might want to think about the manual if you can stand it.
This car handles like a dream. Believe the hype. It carves turns while staying extremely flat. It is Mercedes-stable at highway speeds. It can handle anything you throw at it and remain composed. This is a terrific driver's car, particularly for a FWD. The steering is a little too light. It's also very quick. The car oversteers which is a rare and wonderful thing these days. It's pure pleasure driving this car. One note: this car has a noticeably wide turning radius. It's much bigger than my '03 CR-V.
The car has a very firm-but-compliant ride. No crashing over bumps but no numbed isolation either. It strikes a nice compromise between American comfort and Euro-tautness. This is not a comfort-mobile like a Camry, but it's also not buckboard harsh like a WRX.
Best in class. I tested an Accord, Camry and Altima: the 6's brakes are smoother, more powerful and more linear. Terrific stuff. You feel very in control in this car in any situation.
I've got the upgraded Bose and it's terrific to my ears. Much better than the Accord's or Camry's and about equal to the awesome Bose in the Altima. Bass response is tight and deep. Treble is nicely detailed. It's not extremely powerful, but anyone who wants trunk-shaking bass will probably go aftermarket anyway. I highly recommend upgrading to the Bose, the standard stereo is really no good.
1. Suspension noise. Many 6 drivers (including myself) in my owner's club have noted "clunking" in the front suspension and through the steering wheel. Consumer Reports did as well. Mazda is currently looking into these complaints. This problem appears to be very common, but it should be emphasized that this is not a deal breaker, IMO.
2. Little-to-no service history. This is a new car with very few TSBs. This means that it might be difficult to fix. Keep that in mind.
3. The sunglasses holder is extremely cheesy. It's Hyundai quality.
4. The mirror adjustment switch is slightly cheap feeling.
5. You will constantly be barraged with questions about this car. Most people haven't seen one and want to know about it.
That's it. It's a great car, give it a try.
One year update:
Now that I've owned the car for close to a year, I thought that it might be time to update this review.
Overall, I've grown to love this car. I still look forward to my daily commute, which is sort of unbelievable. If anything, the car has improved over the last year. The most noticible improvement is in the transmission: the shifting has become MUCH smoother and refined while maintaining its trademark swiftness. The engine has also broken in and is running like a sewing machine: very fluid and powerful. This is an extremely fast car, its stability is truly amazing at top speeds. The car is constantly pushing you to go a little bit faster.
I have had no maintainence issues outside of the two recalls (both of which were minor and preventative). The brake pad seem to be wearing slowly, probably more a function of the large amount of freeway driving I do than anything else.
The car had developed two squeaks over the past year (console and passenger seat) both of which took a while to pin down and eliminate. Other than that, the interior has held up well, the leather seems pretty tough and there are no scratches on any part of the car.
I recently had an opportunity to drive a current model Accord and compare it to my car. I'll say at the outset that the Accord has a more upscale interior: the materials used are top quality. While they don't put the 6 to shame, they're clearly a step above. The Honda also seemed a little more thought out in interior design, it's a litlle less flashy and everything is where it should be. I'd give the edge in overall interior quality to the Accord, but it's fairly close.
The big difference came in the driving. No question, the 6 blows the Accord out of the water in overall road feel and handling. The 6's structure seems more rigid than the Accord and the suspension much more responsive. I noticed a lot of wallow in the corners with the Accord that is simply absent in the 6. I was also surprised to find that I prefer the ride of the 6 to the Accord: I thought that the stiff suspension in the 6 would make it a little more harsh than the Accord but that was certainly not the case. In fact, the 6 has a markedly better highway ride than the Accord: it glides along with no feeling of effort.
I still prefer the 6, but I can see how people like the Accord. It's a superbly engineered car and has a feeling of tremendous quality. The tradeoff is that it seems to have very little personality compared to the 6.