Performance

When the Mazda6 debuted last year, I drove a powerful V-6 version called the ''s.'' That car handled like a true sport sedan, with relatively heavy steering and a pretty rough ride. It was fun, but I didn't think the gains in performance were worth the sacrifices in everyday comfort.

I was expecting a similar experience with the four-cylinder model, minus all that power, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a sedan that nearly matches the Camry in terms of ride comfort. While it wasn't quite as cushy as the Camry — which is so cushy some drivers find it unappealing — I would put it alongside the Fusion and Malibu in terms of offering a good combination of comfort, handling, noise isolation and acceptable acceleration. This is the version of the Mazda6 that's a terrific daily driver.

The Mazda6's mileage isn't as great as some of the competition, at 21/30 mpg city/highway for the automatic, four-cylinder model I tested (20/29 mpg with the manual transmission). The V-6 s trim gets 17/25 mpg. After filling up at the gas station, I calculated my mileage at less than 21 mpg after commuting in heavy traffic for more than 300 miles. The trip computer registered 21.5 mpg over the same distance.

Automatic, four-cylinder versions of the 2010 Accord, Fusion and Camry return 21/31, 22/31 and 22/32 mpg, respectively.

While EPA gas mileage figures are important, a 1-2 mpg difference isn't enough for me to sway a buying decision from a car I want because of its looks or its comfort to one with marginally better mileage.

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