Avg. Price Paid:$7,452 - $10,363
Original MSRP: $19,140 - $27,750
MPG: 21 City / 29 Hwy
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2008 Mazda Mazda6 Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Mazda Mazda6 was new.

The Mazda6 is particularly sporty for a midsize sedan. The Los Angeles Times reports it "sticks to the road on the curves without tossing driver and passengers all over the inside, accelerates powerfully on the straights ... and stops better than anything else in its class." But the Mazda6's sportiness isn't enough to break the top-five for performance in its class -- it ranks in the middle of a large group of affordable midsize sedans.

The 2008 Mazda6 is available in four- and six-cylinder versions, and with either a manual or automatic transmission. The Detroit News calls the midsize car segment "anonymous and bland," before saying, "Not so the 6. It's entertaining and fun to drive." Yet it's not so sporty as to be impractical. MarketWatch says, "The Mazda 6 remains a wonderful day-in, day-out machine."

Specifically, the Mazda6 distinguishes itself through its handling. On the highway, writes Edmunds, the Mazda6 "delivers as smooth and quiet a ride as anything in its class," but "it's while unraveling a twisty road that the 6 distances itself from its less involving and less athletic peers." New Car Test Drive concurs, saying that "when it comes to sporty handling," the Mazda6 is "among the best in the class." AutoWeek states, "It's an enjoyable car to drive."

Acceleration and Power

The Mazda6 has two available engines: a 2.3-liter in-line four cylinder that makes 156 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque, or a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 212 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque. The four-cylinder engine comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, while a five-speed automatic is optional. The V6 also comes standard with a five-speed manual, while its optional transmission is a six-speed automatic. Edmunds finds: "Neither engine is exceptionally powerful, especially off the line, though the V6's smooth, quiet power delivery offsets this. The four-cylinder is also smooth, but it gets a little noisy at higher rpm." The Chicago Sun-Times reports, "Both engines develop the most punch at high rpm levels with either transmission."

"Considering its modest displacement," Kelley Blue Book says, the four-cylinder engine "is a strong performer, but only when operating in the higher engine speed ranges." Consumer Guide deems it "acceptably peppy with manual transmission," but "sluggish with [the] automatic." New Car Test Drive calls it a "hoot to drive," advising, "Order it with the five-speed manual and the fun zone starts at about 4000 rpm, where the engine is very responsive." Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times states, "The fuel economy champ is the four-cylinder with a manual gearbox." The EPA estimates that the four-cylinder gets 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Equipped with the automatic, the four gets one less mpg on the highway.

Reviewers prefer the V6. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman calls it "a screamer, especially for a modest-size car." Kelley Blue Book says, "Enthusiasts will want the 3.0-liter V6, which features improved low-end torque, more power and a smooth, quick response." "Short shift and you can ease this front-drive family-size sedan up to speed smoothly," writes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "or rev the V-6 up and hold each gear longer to blast onto a highway ahead of all those trucks." With the manual transmission, the EPA estimates that the V6 gets 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

The manual transmission gets mostly high marks. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that on their test drive, the transmission "shifted crisply, but had a rather stiff, long-throw clutch. Still, the manual seems best suited to the sporty Mazda6 and makes it the most fun to drive." While the Los Angeles Times finds that "it seems to hesitate for just a fraction of a second as you shift gears," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the manual "was as slick as a screwdriver dipped in motor oil." As for the automatic, New Car Test Drive finds, "The six-speed automatic is really smooth, yet shifting is crisp," explaining, "Having six forward gears allowed Mazda engineers to select low ratios for first and second to maximize off-the-line acceleration, tall top gears for effortless cruising, and mid-range gears optimized for snappy acceleration from highway speeds." A sport shift feature allows for manual shifts with the automatic.

Handling and Braking

The Mazda6 has impressive handling dynamics. The Detroit Free Press states, "This is undeniably one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars going." Kelley Blue Book reports that it "turns into corners with the level of response and precision you would expect from the best sports sedans." Sporty, in this case, doesn't mean overly stiff or punishing. Edmunds says, "The well-sorted suspension achieves a superb balance between comfortable ride quality and athletic handling." Consumer Guide praises the Mazda6 for its "agile, confident cornering" that produces only "modest body lean," and for its "fine straightline tracking."

For the most part, steering is found to be commendable. "The steering felt light at first, and I expected a squishy front end in cornering," writes the Boston Globe. "Yet it was not to be, and only took some getting used to." The Detroit News finds, "Steering is quick, crisp and responsive, with good feel and just the right effort at higher speeds." Cars.com reports, "Moderate steering effort is accompanied by good feel and feedback." As for the standard anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, the Chicago Sun-Times calls them "strong, with good pedal feel." New Car Test Drive writes, "The brake pedal has a progressive feel in normal everyday driving. The Mazda 6 can stop more quickly than other midsize cars and the brakes resist fading."

Review Last Updated: 3/10/09

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