The Mazda6 sold just 1,049 units in Canada last year. We’re not saying that to blame the COVID-19 pandemic once again, but rather to highlight the fact it ranked second-to-last among all midsize sedans, just ahead of the Kia K5 that replaced the Optima late in 2020.
Despite increased momentum so far in 2021, the Mazda6 remains a pretty rare sight on the road. With a competitive base price (MSRP starting at $27,550) and decent incentives, how can that be?
New Special Edition for 2021
The current generation dates back to 2018 and styling is still very much up to date. For 2021, Mazda added wireless Apple CarPlay to the GT model, a first for the brand. Also, the classy Mazda6 Signature at the top of the range boosts peace of mind with new driver attention monitoring technology.
The biggest news is a special edition called Kuro starting at $37,950, which is the one we tested. On a side note, there is no 100th Anniversary edition like several other Mazda vehicles offer. Based on the GT, it comes in either Polymetal Grey or Jet Black with gloss black door mirrors and 19-inch black metallic alloy wheels. That’s nice, but probably not as much as the Garnet Red leather seats that feature unique Kodo centre stitching with grey contrasting thread, and black hairline interior accents on the dash and door panels.
Modern and Safe
Let’s start with the base GS model, which comes standard with 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, push-button start and an eight-inch touchscreen. Thank God for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto because the Mazda Connect infotainment system continues to generate a lot of frustration and distraction, mainly due to the menu structure and the system’s responsiveness.
You’ll also find heated front seats with six-way power adjustments for the driver, dual-zone automatic climate control and essential i-Activsense safety features including automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. To enjoy the full safety net, you have to move up a notch to the GS-L.
Many customers will choose a higher-trimmed Mazda6, particularly the GT featuring 19-inch wheels, heated/cooled front seats with leather surfaces, head-up display (quite useful with traffic sign identification), an 11-speaker Bose premium audio system, as well as navigation and complimentary five-year subscription to SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services.
Beware of That Torque Steer
The 2021 Mazda6 proves a solid enough performer with the base 2.5-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine delivering 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. However, the real fun starts with the Kuro special edition and Signature model, which are exclusively powered by a turbocharged variant of that same mill. With up to 250 horsepower and a class-leading 320 pound-feet, it’s easy to put a smile on your face.
There are two caveats, mind you. First, if you don’t feed the turbo engine with premium gasoline, you’ll lose 23 horsepower and 10 pound-feet, not to mention that long-term durability could be affected.
Second, unlike a growing number of rivals (Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Kia K5), the Mazda6 retains a FWD-only architecture. With so much torque that can be transferred to the front wheels, you need to be more delicate when accelerating from a standstill. We heard the tires screech on multiple occasions and had to keep a tighter grip on the steering wheel. Sure, the road surface was colder than in summer months, but it’s definitely something to watch for.
Out on the open road, the Mazda6 pleases with superb driving dynamics courtesy of precise steering and G-Vectoring Control Plus technology, the latter adjusting engine torque in response to the steering so as to shift weight on the vehicle’s suspension depending on the requirements of the situation. It all works seamlessly and makes the 6 almost as agile as the smaller Mazda3.
On the other hand, for a car that’s being hailed as more upscale than the competition, noise insulation could be better and the ride could be a tad smoother. What’s more, the six-speed automatic transmission, though nicely calibrated and governed by a drive mode selector, isn’t the most fuel-efficient solution by any means. Expect a combined 8.9 L/100 km with the turbo which, as you remember, prefers premium gas. The Honda Accord Sport/Touring and V6-powered Toyota Camry are the only midsize sedans that burn more fuel. Oh, that’s right, we forgot the aging Chevrolet Malibu.
The 2021 Mazda6 will depreciate significantly faster than the Accord and Camry, however. It’s still an attractive and fairly reliable product with a quality interior and pleasant handling, but overall there are better and smarter buys in the segment.
That being said, the next-generation (2023?) Mazda6 could change the game as it will reportedly adopt a new RWD-based architecture and six-cylinder powertrain befitting of luxury cars. How refreshing would that be?