Final Test: 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition


by Kivi



Farewell To a Standout Midsize Sedan

This pains me to say the Mazda6 has been discontinued after the 2021 model year. This sedan has been at the top of my list for many years, providing style, comfort, handling and performance at a reasonable price. If you are looking for a standout car to drive, then checkout the 2021 Mazda6 before it is gone.

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition
Leaving on a high note

Driving Experience: Powertrain

Powered by a smooth and responsive turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the performance numbers are 310 pound-feet of torque, and then either 250 horsepower using 93 octane or, if on a budget, using 87 octane dropping that number to 227 horsepower. We didn’t notice a significant drop in performance running the lower octane, so over many years of ownership there could be a substantial savings in fuel cost not going for high-test.

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition
It starts with the Skyactiv-G

Clean Fleet Report’s Mazda6 Carbon Edition, which is offered only in 2021, is equipped with the only transmission available, a six-speed automatic, with paddle shifters and a Sport mode. The EPA rates the Mazda6 2.5T at 23 mpg city/31 highway/26 combined. In 257 miles driving through Southern California, Clean Fleet Report averaged 27.8 mpg. However, with the adaptive cruise control set to 65 mph, an all freeway run of 125 miles returned an average of 32.1 mpg. Mazda achieves these numbers through its Skyactiv-G engine and vehicle design philosophy–a slick-shifting automatic transmission and a coefficient of drag (Cd) of 0.285. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience. Your numbers may differ.

The base engine in the Mazda6 Sport and Touring trim lines is a 2.5-liter non-turbo with 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. This engine, with cylinder deactivation, is rated at 26 mpg city/35 highway/29 combined.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Mazda6 has always been one of our favorite riding and handling sedans. The sporty, confident nature of the front-wheel drive handling comes from the MacPherson strut, multi-link independent suspension, stabilizer bars and rack & pinion electric power-assisted steering. Clean Fleet Report’s Carbon Edition, with a low 6.5-inches of ground clearance and weighing-in at 3,582 pounds, was equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and shod with Falken P225/45 all-season tires. Grip was good, but replace the all-season tires with summer tires–and hold on!

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition
Hungry for the open road

With this combination the ride was compliant, but allowed for better handling than in most five-passenger, midsize sedans. Enthusiasts will appreciate the cornering ability of the Mazda6, which in large part is due to Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system. Mazda prides itself on being a company staffed with driving enthusiasts who put their heart into design and technology. Starting with the accelerator pedal being hinged to the floor (as opposed to being suspended), the ability to get on-and-off the gas is nicely sensitive to the touch. The driving dynamics for G-Vectoring basically help the front tires get into a corner more smoothly. Rather than walk through the details of G-Vectoring, let’s let Mazda do it here.

Stops were solid and predictable with a power-assisted braking system consisting of vented front and solid rear discs, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution. The latter adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo, and even adjusts as fuel is consumed. This is invisible and instant to the driver and passengers, making for a comfortable and controlled ride.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Mazda6’s chiseled exterior catches your eye from every angle. Clean Fleet Report’s was painted in Poly Metal Gray Metallic, which was unique to the limited Carbon Edition as were the black metallic alloy wheels. The Mazda6 has an air of premium styling that isn’t weighed down with fake scoops or vents.

Starting with slim LED daytime running and headlights and a deep-set grille, the sculpted front fenders lead to a roofline that softly arches at the B pillar, then gently slopes to a short deck lid and an integrated lip spoiler. The rear features LED taillights, a chrome eyebrow framing the trunk lid, and twin bright exhaust tips. The strategic use of chrome enhances the design, and is never busy or too much. Overall, it’s a very stylish design that will hold up well over its lifetime.

Driving Experience: Interior

Red leather seats, exclusive to the 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition, are eight-way power adjustable (with lumbar) and two-memory settings for the driver, while the passenger gets heated and ventilated six-way power adjustments. The seats, constructed with high-density vibration-absorbing urethane foam, provided comfort and support.

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition
Home for a driver

The Mazda Active Driving Display includes the head-up display (HUD), which is projected onto the windshield, directly in front of the driver. Being able to keep your vision straight ahead is a major safety factor as it minimizes distractions. The HUD shows driving speed, the speed limit, a red box if you exceed the posted speed and street signs, such as “Stop” and “Do Not Enter” as well as lane departure and brake warnings. The head-up display feature is valuable to keep the driver’s eyes on the road and should be standard equipment on all cars. The large, round gauges are black with white lettering for easy viewing.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition came equipped with a power moonroof and tasteful soft touch materials on the black dash and door panels with red top stitching and a chrome accent strip. The black Carbon Edition trim inlays on the dash and doors are attractive, as is a door chrome strip that blends into the handles. The door pockets are large enough to hold a drink bottle, something that is becoming rare on the compact crossovers that are replacing sedans. The heated 60/40 rear seat can accommodate three adults, but with the center armrest folded down two would be more acclimated to a long journey. The rear, dual zone climate control and air vents are a nice touch.

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition
The center of attention (other than the HUD)

The freestanding 8.0-inch color touchscreen centers the dashboardl providing data from the Mazda Connect and Connected Services, including navigation. It also is where the 360º cameras for rear, front and overhead views are found. The excellent 11-speaker Bose sound system with AM/FM/HD radio and SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), provided audio through two USB inputs, Aha, Panadora and Stitcher Internet radio integration, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SMS text message audio delivery and reply was a nice feature.

The system was frustratingly slow to load at times, and seemed a bit outdated compared to competitors we have driven. The heated leather-wrapped steering wheel has mounted controls for Bluetooth that offers hands-free telephone and voice control. There is no wireless phone charging, though.

To manage the radio, Mazda has a wheel on the center console for changing channels, and a smaller one for volume control. Both had a short learning curve, but the system required multiple steps to control a single function, diverting the driver’s eyes from the road. With this being the last Mazda6, it is expected the audio controls will be improved significantly on its replacement.

Convenience comes your way with power automatic keyless door locks, push button start/stop, power windows with one-touch up and down, rearview camera, tilt and telescopic steering column, rain-sensing windshield wipers that have a deicer, folding power and heated side mirrors with turn indicators, an electronic parking brake and automatic brake hold. The auto-dimming rear view mirror has Homelink, an integrated transceiver (a transmitter and receiver) that can be programmed to activate radio frequency (RF) devices such as garage doors, estate/community gates, entry door locks, home/office lighting, security systems or other RF devices.


The 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features including front and side airbags, dynamic stability and traction control, hill launch assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert.

In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2021 Mazda6 received Five Stars (its highest rating) for overall crash protection, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Mazda6 its highest rating of Top Safety Pick.

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition had a base price of $32,800. With $500 in optional equipment and the $945 delivery charge, the MSRP came to $34,245.

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition
Sporty though not a sports sedan

The 2021 Mazda6 is available in six trims, with these base prices, including the $945 destination fee.

Sport                                  $25,865

Touring                             $27,870

Grand Touring                 $30,970

Grand Touring Reserve  $33,470

Carbon Edition                $33,745

Signature                           $36,695

The 2021 Mazda6 comes with these warranties:

·         New Vehicle – Three years/36,000 miles
·         Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
·         Roadside Assistance – Three years/36,000 miles

Observations: 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition

Staying true to its racing heritage, Mazda can rightfully state there are more Mazdas racing (and winning) than any other automotive brand. Whether it’s SCCA or IMSA, Mazda makes up a large percentage of all cars racing on any given weekend. This on track success translates into their road cars.

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition
Losing a true friend

Mazda has created the best-handling five-passenger sedan that isn’t considered a “sports sedan.” The Mazda6 Carbon Edition is sharp-looking with a handsome design that will hold up very well for years to come.

This is a business where the future kills the present. As noted in the opening, the Mazda6 is going away partly due to consumers wanting pickup trucks, crossovers and SUVs, and also that the Mazda6, and the Mazda brand, are not on enough shopping lists when people are considering a new car. All of this is has resulted in a very fine car ending production.

This is your chance to get a Mazda6, regardless of trim level, before they are gone. Request a lengthy test drive at your Mazda dealer that includes high-speed highway onramps and maybe even a few challenging corners on mountain or country roads. The 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition wants to be driven, and the usual one-mile loop around the dealership isn’t going to give this car the justice it deserves.

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Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Mazda.

The Midsize Sedans Soldiering On

Road Test: 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Road Test: 2021 Kia K5

Road Test: 2019 Chevrolet Malibu

Road Test: 2020 Volkswagen Passat (also leaving the market after 2021)

First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima

Road Test: 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Road Test: 2020 Subaru Legacy

Road Test: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

Road Test: 2020 Honda Insight Hybrid


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at

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