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 and an Editors’ Choice winner.
What’s New for 2021?
The 2021 Mazda 6 benefits from the addition of a few new features and an appearance package called the Carbon Edition. The latter inherits all the equipment of the Grand Touring Reserve trim and wears a Polymetal Gray paint color, black exterior accents, and a set of dark 19-inch wheels. The theme continues inside with black trim pieces and red leather upholstery with gray stitching. Every Mazda 6 now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability (and any trim above the Touring comes with wireless CarPlay). Mazda also retuned the 6’s turbocharged engine to make an extra 10 pound-feet of torque (for 320 total), but you’ll need to run 93-octane fuel to achieve that. Lastly, the Signature model adds rear automated emergency braking and a driver-attention monitor. Mazda has also announced that the 6 won’t return for the 2022 model year, as the company plans to discontinue it. However, there are rumors the mid-size sedan could return for a new generation with rear-wheel drive and an inline-six-cylinder engine.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The Grand Touring is the least expensive way to get the 250-hp turbocharged engine, which helps the 6 feel more like a proper sports sedan than the base four-cylinder ever could. It also comes with several upgrades over the less-grand Touring model, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles, a Bose audio system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless Apple CarPlay capability, and more. The trim level’s lack of options makes the build process easy. The only other thing you’ll need to select is the paint color. And may we say that the 6 looks especially attractive wearing Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal metallic?
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.
Michael SimariCar and Driver
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.
Michael SimariCar and Driver
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. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-traffic alert
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Mazda’s industry-standard powertrain warranty is class competitive but nothing special. No complimentary scheduled maintenance is offered, which puts the 6 at a disadvantage compared with the Toyota Camry, which provides two years of coverage, and the Chevrolet Malibu, which covers the first visit.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2021 Mazda6 Turbo Carbon Edition
front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED
$34,245 (base price: $33,745)
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
152 in3, 2488 cm3
250 hp @ 5000 rpm
320 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 12.6-in vented disc/10.9-in disc
Tires: Falken Ziex ZE001 A/S, P225/45R-19 92W M+S
Wheelbase: 111.4 in
Length: 191.5 in
Width: 72.4 in
Height: 57.1 in
Passenger volume: 97 ft3
Trunk volume: 15 ft3
Curb weight: 3538 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 6.1 sec
100 mph: 15.4 sec
130 mph: 31.4 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.3 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 6.2 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.0 sec
1/4 mile: 14.7 sec @ 97 mph
Top speed (mfr’s claim): 149 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 164 ft
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 24 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 34 mpg
Highway range: 550 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 26/23/31 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
More Features and Specs