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.
Our Mazda6 also had warning lights in its sideview mirrors, as part of the blind-spot detection system. As one of our favorite driver aid features, we were pleased to see blind spot detection in a car that's far from a tech powerhouse. These warning lights turn on when a car is riding in the Mazda6's blind spot, off either rear quarter. The system seems about 90 to 95 percent effective--we saw a few glitches, such as the light remaining on as we drove on a bridge, with the superstructure next to the car. But that wasn't typical behavior.
The only other tech feature we didn't expect to see in the Mazda6 was Bluetooth streaming to the stereo. As you would expect, the car also had a Bluetooth phone system for hands-free calling. This system relies on voice command for number input, and although it has an onboard phonebook, you can't transfer contacts from your phone to the car. After we paired an iPhone to the system to check the hands-free calling capabilities, Bluetooth streaming was also ready, without any additional setup. As typical with current Bluetooth streaming technology, you can merely pause or play the music using the car's stereo, and there is no artist or song display.
Other audio sources included an MP3 compatible six-CD changer and satellite radio. The satellite radio installation looked a little slapdash, with an exposed wire leading out to the antenna, which was stuck to the trunk lid. True iPod integration isn't available in the Mazda6.
After listening to the stereo, we were surprised to see it only uses six speakers. Audio output is very crisp, and sounds well-amplified. Bass is also very strong for a system lacking a subwoofer.
Although a little short on Zoom, the 2010 Mazda6 delivers decent fuel economy and the kind of comfortable, practical interior space one would expect from a midsize sedan. The exterior styling stands out a little, with pronounced front fenders. But as for tech, the Mazda6 is largely average to mediocre. The lack of a navigation option in all but the V-6 trims is particularly troubling. And while Bluetooth streaming is useful, it doesn't beat full iPod integration, which generally offers a usable interface through the stereo. Blind-spot detection is the most useful tech feature in the Mazda6, but nothing else is notable. Tech-wise, the engine and transmission don't stand out, either, delivering the kind of power and economy we would expect from the spec sheet.
|Model||2010 Mazda Mazda6|
|Power train||2.5-liter inline four|
|EPA fuel economy||21 mpg city/30 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||25.2 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible six CD changer|
|MP3 player support||None|
|Other digital audio||Satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||6 speaker|
|Driver aids||Blind-spot detection|
|Price as tested||$25,030|