With models such as Camry, Accord, and Altima, the midsize sedan market is at once the most practical and most boring in the U.S. The 2010 Mazda6 is yet another entrant among a class that appeals to comfort, reliability, and economy, yet Mazda tries to differentiate itself by giving its cars a slightly more sporting character. We set out to see if Zoom Zoom is part of the Mazda6's DNA.
But we weren't off to an auspicious start, as our 2010 Mazda6 was in i Touring Plus trim, which means a four-cylinder engine under the hood and a five-speed automatic transmission. There are seven trim levels for the Mazda6, a slightly bewildering array, and each one comes with a specific transmission and engine. Want the six-speed manual? Then you're stuck with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with no navigation option. To get the more powerful 3.7-liter V-6, you have to choose from the two top trim levels, and settle for a six-speed automatic.
The i Touring Plus trim lives in the middle of this lineup, neither loaded nor stripped, although real cabin tech only starts at the top of the line. The interior features a quality look, but so do the cabins of most competing midsize sedans. Gone are the days when Honda ruled cabin fit and finish--other companies upped their game in this area.
As for Zoom Zoom, the Mazda6's moderate 170 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque sounded more appropriate for mileage over speed. And mileage is good, with an EPA rated 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. We turned in an average of 25.2 mpg, which isn't bad for us heavy-footed drivers who will always take the scenic route over the straight and broad.
In practice, that torque was delivered more punctually than in some competitors' cars. The Mazda6 stepped off quickly enough, even teasing us with a little traction control warning flickering on the instrument cluster as the front wheels fought to maintain grip. However, we found similar performance out of the Nissan Altima Coupe we tested recently.
After the initial thrust, the power from the Mazda6's engine starts to feel like a light wind at your back. Far from overwhelming, the car gains speed at a moderate rate, and even using the automatic's manual mode can't wring much more from it. Definitely more Zoom, than Zoom Zoom, but pretty typical behavior for the class of car coupled with this type of engine.
Technically, the engine is pretty average: four valves per cylinder with variable valve timing on the intake stroke. No turbo, no direct injection. Topping out at five gears, the automatic transmission is a little primitive, lacking a tall gear to maximize economy at freeway speeds. The tach needle hovered around 3,000rpm at 75 mph. But the automatic was happy to step down a gear or two when we gave it heavy throttle, and in manual mode, the shifters were a little more immediate than in other automatics we've used.
As the car didn't rise above its midsize sedan average character in power train performance, we subjected it to a good mountain course, with tight turns that would put some stress on the car. Again, the Mazda6 performed very similarly to the Altima Coupe. There was obvious lean and body roll, although not as bad as you generally find amongst its competitors. Understeer also reared its head, and we had the joy of seeing the orange traction control warning light up again and again. Again, we give it one Zoom--it didn't quite make it to two.