2011 Mazda6 GT-V6 Review

2011 Mazda 6 GT-V6

Usually, carmakers get it right when it comes time to redesign their products. They’ll make them bigger, more powerful, more fuel efficient, and competitive with current rivals.

Once in a while, however, despite honestly good intentions a redesign can go wrong. And I’m not saying the 2011 Mazda6 is wrong, but we liked the first-gen 6 so much that it’s hard to find the sheer relevance in drastically changing what was once a great car.

Offered in sedan, 5-door and wagon body styles, the previous Mazda6 had everything going for it. Well, not quite: Its power output trailed the competition, and it was sort of small when parked beside the bigger Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. However, we liked its perfect proportions, its great handling and its decently trimmed cockpit.

The new Mazda6, which was totally redesigned for the 2009 model year, is a lot bigger than the old one. Yes, we know, the goal was to grow the car in size so it would please the high-fructose U.S. market. But for some reason, since the new car hit the market, its sales have dropped. A lot.

That’s a shame, because there’s honestly a lot to like about the 2011 Mazda6.

Big, torque-y V6
As with many midsize sedans, the Mazda6 offers two engine choices: The 170 hp, 2.5-litre inline-4 will do the job for most people, but a 24-valve, 3.7-litre V6 is also on the equipment list in up-level versions.

Producing 272 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft of torque, the V6 provides instant torque for lively takeoffs. Buckets of torque channelled through the front wheels usually translates into torque steer; in the Mazda6, however, it’s not that bad. There are worse offenders in this car category.

2011 Mazda 6 GT-V6

The 3.7L mill is so muscular that you’d actually surprise yourself driving too fast, enjoying an earful of the V6’s soundtrack. Zero to 100km/h takes 6.3 seconds, which is pretty much in line with similarly powered midsize sedans such as the Chrysler 200 and Kia Optima SX. The Mazda6 clears the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds at 158km/h.

The 4-cylinder turbo rivals have an edge on fuel economy. Our GT-V6 tester is averaging 11.1L/100 km with a mix of city and highway driving. And on the highway at 100km/h, the engine spins at only 1,750 rpm, which is good thanks to the 6-speed automatic’s tall 6th-gear ratio.

Hit-and-miss interior
The interior design is spot-on; Mazda did a great job of creating an elegant, tasteful atmosphere with chrome rings on the switchgear, convincing wood-grain trim and decent-quality leather upholstery. The sound system’s output is terrific, and the Bluetooth streaming audio is handy for wirelessly connecting your handheld device full of MP3s.

On the other hand, we wish the seats were more comfortable. The driver’s seat lumbar support is adjusted with a rotary knob; no matter how we twisted it, though, we didn’t feel any extra back support. And the navigation screen gets washed out in direct sunlight.

In addition, the engine start button is placed at the bottom of the centre stack, as if Mazda decided to add the intelligent key system after the interior design was approved and budgeted; if the steering column didn’t have a cheap-looking filler cap and white ring around it, it wouldn’t be all that bad. It all works, but it looks odd.

No complaints about interior space, though. The Mazda6 boasts above-average cockpit dimensions, and also benefits from a huge trunk. At 469 litres, it’s the biggest cargo hold among midsize sedans.

It still got the looks
The RX-8-inspired shape, complete with swoop-y front fenders, a sloping roofline and cheery front fascia continue to provide the Mazda6 with sporty good looks. The design seems to be ageing more quickly than it should, but there’s a darn good reason for that.

2011 Mazda 6 GT-V6

Two good reasons, actually, and they’re named Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. The Koreans probably spent a lot of dough in order to steal a couple of Germany’s best car designers, and it’s currently paying off. The Sonata and Optima both possess striking bodywork and make pretty much every other midsize look (how do we say this politely?) more mainstream.

The Mazda6 in base form starts at $23,995 for a decently equipped GS-I4, before taxes, freight and delivery charges. Our GT-V6 tester lists for $40,040 once you add the navigation system. That’s expensive, especially when you realize that an Optima SX, loaded with navigation and 274 horsepower costs $6,500 less. Those darn Koreans, again.

We like the Mazda6 for its interior space, its level of refinement and its sporty character. However, the competition has improved drastically in the last two years, and the 6 has a hard time keeping up. In fact, nothing really makes this car stand out from its competitors. Personally, we’d prefer choosing a lower-priced Mazda6 than a loaded one; the GS-I4 with the Comfort Package would do the job nicely for us. But we sure miss the old Mazda6.