A used Mazda6 looks quite similar to the new model, but there are fair number of differences under the hood and in the cabin.
On sale for just about 20 years, the Mazda6 has historically been lauded for offering the Japanese automakers’ signature “Zoom-Zoom” philosophy in a family-friendly sedan. Since 2012, the third-generation model has added to this with the company’s Kodo “Soul of Motion” design language that is intended to create a sense of motion, even at standstill. It is certainly a striking look in comparison to the mid-size sedan competition and Mazda continues to apply their practice of constant innovation and improvement. So, even though a lightly used Mazda6 looks quite similar to a brand-new model, there are some key differences worth exploring if you’re in the market.
The 2021 Mazda6 offers a pair of engine options, but looking back to 2017 for the used example, there was only a single motor in use across the lineup. This naturally aspirated, 2.5L inline four-cylinder setup was good for 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Like the current model, it featured Mazda’s SKYACTIV-G technology that uses a high compression ratio of 14.0:1 to improve fuel efficiency and torque by 15% over the company’s standard gas-powered mill.
Back in 2017, a 6-speed manual transmission was standard equipment on Sport and Touring trim with a 6-speed automatic found on the top-spec Grand Touring (GT). In either case, power was routed to the front wheels. The same configuration applies to a 2021 Mazda6. However, the transmission options have been reduced to the automatic only.
Another key difference between the two is the addition of a turbocharged motor on the new model. It produces 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on regular unleaded or 250 and 321, respectively, when sipping on premium. This helps with the roughly 300-pound weight gain of the new model over its predecessor, but other than that, these two vehicles are identical in size and general spec.
Mazda, like many automakers, extols the driving and performance abilities of their vehicles’ with slick marketing language. However, Mazda makes serious effort to back this up with what they term “Jinba Ittai” or “horse and rider as one”, through technologies like G-Vectoring Control (GVC). Standard on 2017 models, this automated system uses engine output to induce subtle load transfer in response to steering input. This is not torque vectoring, it is a method for integrating control of lateral and longitudinal acceleration forces while optimizing the vertical load on each wheel for smooth and efficient vehicle motion.
While that is a technical mouthful, it speaks to the automakers’ “human-centered development philosophy” that aims to make owners feel at one with the car. It gets to the heart of their “Zoom-zoom” tagline from that past that continues to be applicable today. Point being, a used Mazad6 is fun to drive. It’s also reasonably frugal at the fuel pump with an EPA estimate of 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway for the manual transmission and 24/34, respectively, when equipped with the automatic.
For 2021, the Mazda6 comes with GVC Plus that adds braking control to further enhance handling stability. The same base, naturally aspirated four-cylinder is on hand making 2 more horses and 1 more torque than the 2017 model, but there is also a turbocharged version that answers a prior nag – the car needs more power. This beefier mill features paddle shifters and larger front rotors to go with its performance aspirations. That also translates to weaker fuel efficiency, which is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
The new Mazda6 easily bests its used counterpart in the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) department. In 2017, you’d need at least a mid-level Touring model to access blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert or Grand Touring for radar cruise control and lane keeping assistance. For 2021, those systems are standard fare along with automatic high beams and smart braking support. Higher up the trim ladder, a new Mazda6 also features a driver attention monitor, traffic sign recognition, and 360° camera view.
Dimensionally, a new or used third-gen Mazda6 is identical with 55” of rear shoulder room, nearly 39” of rear legroom, and a trunk that will hold just under 15 cubic feet of cargo. Cloth upholstery is the fabric for entry-level models with the option for Nappa leather in both cases, though only the 2021 Carbon Edition has snazzy red hides with gray stitching.
Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard equipment on the 2021 lineup, but you’d need at least a Touring model to access this feature in a used Mazda6. Amenities like auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, heated seating, and a moonroof can be found in a used or new model. However, a 2021 Signature model has higher-end touches, not found on older models, like Ultrasuede and Sen Wood trim and frameless rearview mirror that elevate the Mazda6 into luxury territory.
In 2017, the Mazda6 was offered in three flavors – Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring, all of which came with the same engine. Sport models came with 17” wheels, cloth seats, and a 7” infotainment touchscreen. At Touring level, 19” rims and rain-sensing wipers were fitted along with a power-adjustable driver’s seat and faux-leather upholstery. For features like full exterior LED lighting with adaptive headlamps, a moonroof, navigation, and all the ADAS, a Grand Touring model was required. There was also a Premium package for the GT that brought Nappa leather upholstery with contrast piping and heated rear seats.
The trim ladder grows to six variants for 2021 with GT Reserve, Carbon Edition, and Signature sitting above the previous three models. An 8” infotainment display with Android and Apple phone mirroring software is standard across the board as is a long list of ADAS. To access the turbocharged mill, you’ll want at least a Grand Touring model with ventilated leather seats and a heads-up-display featured on the GT Reserve. Carbon Edition nets an exclusive Polymetal Gray paint job and red leather upholstery, while the Signature trim goes all out with Nappa leather, wood trim, and a 7” digital gauge cluster.
If cost is the main factor in your decision-making, a used Mazda6 is the way to go without doubt. A 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring model with about 45,000 miles can be found in the $23,000 ballpark versus a $31,000 starting point for the 2021 version. And of course, if a row-your-own-gearbox sedan is a priority, there are not many manual options left these days and it is simply not a possibility on a new Mazda6. That being said, the new model offers more power, more standard amenities, and additional standard safety features over its 2017 predecessor. With its roughly $25,000 entry point, a new Mazda6 is the way to go.