Best & Worst Mazda 6 Years

We've ranked each Mazda 6 model for every generation so you can avoid picking the worst Mazda 6 years and pick the best Mazda 6 year.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll break down all Mazda 6 generations, unraveling the best Mazda 6 years to buy and the worst Mazda to avoid.

Drawing from reliable sources like NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and VehicleHistory, I’ll provide the critical nuances you need, including owner feedback, expert reviews, and official recall notices, ensuring an objective and informed perspective.

From detailing specific issues in the Mazda 6’s worst years to highlighting the exemplary features of the best Mazda 6 years, I provide insights that could significantly impact your buying decision.

Let’s dive right in.

Related:Best & Worst Mazda 2 YearsBest & Worst Mazda 3 Years

Table of ContentsShow

Mazda 6 Generations

The Mazda 6 entered the automotive market in 2003, aiming to redefine the family sedan concept by offering a blend of sporty performance, comfort, and safety features.

It distinguished itself with a responsive engine, elegant design, and a driver-focused cabin, setting a new benchmark for midsize sedans.

Below is a comprehensive overview of the Mazda 6 generations from 2003 to 2021.

1st generation (GG1)2003-2008
2nd generation (GH1/GH2)2009-2013
3rd generation (GJ1/GL)2014-2021

Understanding the distinctions between these generations is vital, as each brought significant changes, whether in design, technology, or performance.

Mazda 6 Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When ranking and categorizing the best and worst Mazda 6 model years, we consider a multitude of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

The upcoming graph synthesizes data from the sources above, providing a comprehensive overview of yearly performance ratings for the Mazda 6.

Mazda 6 Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Following is a table that classifies the Mazda 6 models into the best, neutral, and worst Mazda 6 years, grounded on an aggregate of data.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (GG1)20082006
2nd generation (GH1/GH2)20132011
3rd generation (GJ1/GL)2017

“Neutral Years” were generally reliable, with no significant flaws, but also without standout features that marked them as exceptional.

Some factors, like NHTSA recalls, can impact reliability negatively: a higher incidence of complaints and recalls correlates directly with a perception of decreased reliability.

Let’s dive into the specifications of the best, neutral, and worst Mazda 6 years.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda 6 1st Generation (2003-2008)

Mazda 6 1st generation 2003 model
The 2003 Mazda 6

The debut of the Mazda 6 in 2002 heralded a fresh chapter for Mazda in the competitive midsize sedan market with its sleek design and promise of a dynamic driving experience.

The latest model year of the generation – 2008, is Mazda 6’s best year, while 2003-2005 are the Mazda 6 years you should avoid in this generation.

The Best Years: 2008

With an 81 J.D. Power score and relatively few NHTSA complaints and recalls, 2008 was the best Mazda 6 year of the generation.

This model year was more than a facelift; it was a comprehensive overhaul. It featured enhanced engine options: the standard was a 2.3-liter MZR L3 four-cylinder engine providing 156 horsepower and a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.0-liter Duratec 30 V6 engine was for those craving more power, pushing out 212 horsepower paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy was reasonable for its class, with the four-cylinder achieving an EPA-estimated 21 city / 29 highway mpg, while the V6 saw slightly lower numbers at 18 city / 25 highway mpg.

Especially the s Grand Touring trim packed in every premium offering Mazda had, including leather seats, a Bose audio system, and advanced safety features like traction control, electronic stability control, and a full array of airbags.

The Neutral Years: 2006, 2007

The 2006 and 2007 Mazda 6 models tread the middle ground.

They introduced incremental improvements in build quality and reliability but weren’t entirely free from the issues that plagued earlier models.

Engine options remained the same as the 2008 model, with similar fuel economy stats.

These years featured the same lineup of trim levels, each progressively adding more comfort and technology, such as the optional navigation system available in the top-tier models.

However, they couldn’t shake off the specter of the powertrain issues entirely, with some reports of premature transmission failures and engine troubles, though at a significantly lower rate than in the worst years.

The infamous Takata airbag recall also affected these models.

The Worst Years: 2003, 2004, 2005

2003, 2004, and 2005 are undeniably the worst first-generation Mazda 6 years you should avoid.

The 2003 Mazda 6 was particularly notorious for issues with its throttle position sensor, a fault that led to sudden power loss.

Both the 2004 and 2005 Mazda 6 models were burdened with similar powertrain issues, with complaints frequently citing failures in the automatic transmission and engine troubles like the timing chain’s tendency to leak oil.

This posed a fire hazard and resulted in an unpleasant cabin experience due to oil fumes.

These models were part of the massive Takata airbag recall, which involved potentially explosive inflators, significantly impacting the brand’s reliability perception.

Additionally, they suffered from a design flaw where the brake pads caused excessive rotor wear, compromising braking performance.

See NHTSA 2003, 2004, 2005 Mazda 6 recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda 6 2nd Generation (2009-2013)

Mazda 6 2nd generation 2009 model
The 2009 Mazda 6

The second generation of the Mazda 6 launched in 2009, marked a significant upscaling in size, style, and ambition.

2009 and 2010 are the Mazda 6 years you should stay away from, while 2013 is marked as Mazda 6’s best year in this generation.

The Best Years: 2013

With a good VehicleHistory rating and substantially fewer NHTSA recalls and complaints, the 2013 Mazda 6 is the best second-generation Mazda 6 year.

Under the hood, the 2013 Mazda 6 offered a sophisticated 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G PY-VPS four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque.

This Skyactiv-G engine was celebrated for its blend of performance and efficiency, offering up to 21 city / 30 highway mpg, an impressive feat for a non-hybrid midsize sedan.

Transmission options included a precise six-speed manual or a smooth six-speed AWTF-80 SC automatic, contributing to a more engaging driving experience.

The 2013 Mazda 6 also introduced the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system in higher trims, a first for the segment, enhancing fuel efficiency.

Trim levels ranged from the well-equipped Sport to the luxurious Grand Touring, featuring advancements like a TomTom-based navigation system, Bose sound system, and safety enhancements including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rearview camera.

The Neutral Years: 2011, 2012

The 2011 and 2012 Mazda 6 models represented a solid middle ground.

They maintained the same powertrain options as the subsequent 2013 model but didn’t benefit from the full range of technological and efficiency enhancements that characterized the best year.

Owners of these years reported several issues with headlight longevity and some electrical components, though these complaints were relatively minor compared to the troubles that marred the worst years.

Notably, these models were affected by a recall involving spider infestations in the fuel system, an unusual problem that could potentially lead to a fire risk.

The Worst Years: 2009, 2010

What are the bad years for the Mazda 6? Due to numerous NHTSA recalls and owner complaints, 2009 and 2010 are categorized as the worst Mazda 6 years to avoid.

These years were beset by problems related to the vehicle’s structure, steering, and suspension, especially the excessive rusting of the rear subframe and suspension components in states that used road salt.

Owners also raised concerns about malfunctioning door latches and headlight harnesses, and there were several recalls, notably for fuel leaks and insecure door latch mounting screws.

The engine and transmission configurations were similar to later years, but these models didn’t match the performance and efficiency improvements seen in 2013.

Additionally, they were affected by the same spider-related recall as the 2011 and 2012 models.

See NHTSA 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Mazda 6 recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda 6 3rd Generation (2014-2021)

Mazda 6 3rd generation 2014 model
The 2014 Mazda 6

The third-generation Mazda 6, introduced in 2014, heralded a new era of aesthetics and technology for the brand with the full expression of the KODO design and Skyactiv technology.

2017-2020 are the best and most reliable Mazda 6 years of the generation, while I highly recommend avoiding the 2014 and 2015 Mazda 6 models like the plague.

The Best Years: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

Which year Mazda 6 is the best? The best and most reliable Mazda 6 years start from 2017, with excellent VehicleHistory, J.D. Power, Cars.Com, and Consumer Reports ratings.

The turbocharged 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G PY-VPTS turbo four-cylinder engine was introduced in 2018, providing a robust 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel (227 horsepower on regular).

This engine complemented the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G PY-VPS four-cylinder engine, which was no slouch at 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque.

The powertrains for these years were paired with a refined six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission, with manual mode and G-Vectoring Control.

Fuel economy remained a strong point, with the standard engine achieving up to 27 city / 35 highway mpg and the turbo version reaching up to 23 city / 31 highway mpg.

The Signature trim in 2018 pushed the Mazda 6 into near-premium territory with Nappa leather, natural wood accents, and a host of technology and safety features like a 360-degree view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, and driver attention alert.

The Neutral Years: 2016

The 2016 Mazda 6 served as a transition year, incorporating several improvements over the initial models but not quite reaching the heights of subsequent years.

It offered the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter engine with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, delivering respectable performance and fuel efficiency.

The model featured a refreshed exterior and interior, improved sound insulation, and an updated infotainment system.

However, there was a recall involving the Occupant Classification System (OCS), potentially causing airbags to deploy incorrectly, and some owners reported issues with the suspension and brakes.

The Worst Years: 2014, 2015

What year is the Mazda 6 to avoid? 2014 and 2015 are the Mazda 6 years you should avoid at all costs. Here is why:

Owners reported issues with the electrical system, such as the ignition switch not shutting off completely, leading to battery drain.

There were also complaints about the infotainment system freezing or crashing.

Is the 2014 Mazda 6 good? Not. These years faced recalls concerning the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) not alerting drivers of low pressure and parking brake actuators potentially failing due to water getting inside.

Some owners reported transmission problems, including rough shifting.

See NHTSA 2014, 2015 Mazda 6 recalls and complaints.

Mazda 6 Average Resale Values

Discover the financial aspect of Mazda 6 ownership with our detailed graph, showcasing the model’s average resale values over various years.

Mazda 6 Average List Price


Navigating through the Mazda 6’s history, I strongly recommend considering the best Mazda 6 years, which are the 2013 and 2017-2021 models as they give you the best blend of reliability, features, and value.

Was there a particular year of the Mazda 6 you’ve had experience with that stood out, for better or for worse?

Share your insights with the best or worst Mazda 6 years in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.