The Mazda6 is sportier than other mid-size sedans, both in its appearance and in its handling and driving dynamics. It's more agile and holds the road better than the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, or Nissan Altima. It's lighter on its feet and stops quicker, too. In short, it's a better driver's car. It's also the best sedan for the money that Mazda has ever built. It's available with four-cylinder and V6 engines, and each offers strong sports appeal. V6-powered models feature the sophistication of a six-speed automatic transmission.
A five-door hatchback and a Sport Wagon were added to the Mazda6 line last year. The five-door model is the only mid-size hatchback sold in America, says Mazda, and it's perfect for active singles and young couples. For its part, the wagon provides even more cargo-hauling versatility while maintaining the 6's sporty demeanor. It is, indeed a sport wagon.
The Mazda 6, or Mazda6 as the company calls it, debuted as a 2003 model to widespread acclaim and multiple awards. Money Magazine named it "Best Mid-Sized Sedan," and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety called it a "Best Pick." The Mazda6 ranked among Car and Driver's "10 Best" cars and Automobile Magazine's "All-Stars." And it was the highest-rated new vehicle nameplate in the J.D. Power and Associates APEAL study.
For 2005, Mazda made ABS and traction control standard on all Mazda6 models. Side-impact and side-curtain airbags are standard on all but the base sedan, where they are optional. Sirius Satellite Radio can be added to any Mazda6. New Sport and Grand Touring trim levels widen the appeal of the Mazda6 by making available features buyers want at affordable prices.
The Mazda6 lineup is significantly revised for 2005. Higher trim levels are now available with the four-cylinder engine, while lower trim levels are now available with the V6.
Three body styles are available: a four-door sedan, a five-door hatchback, and a five-door wagon.
Sedan and hatchback come with a choice of a 160-horsepower 2.3-liter inline-4 or a 220-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. Models with the four-cylinder are designated 6i, those with the V6 are badged 6s. The wagon is built only with the V6, so all Mazda6 wagons are 6s models.
Sedan and wagon are offered in base, Sport, and Grand Touring trim. The hatchback comes in Sport trim only.
All Mazda6 models are well equipped. Even the base 6i sedan ($18,995) comes with air conditioning; ABS; traction control; cruise control; six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio; tilt and telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel; leather wrapped shift knob; advanced dual-stage front airbags; power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry; and 16-inch steel wheels. A five-speed manual transmission comes standard, a four-speed automatic ($850) is optional. Side-impact and side-curtain airbags ($450) are optional. A package combining a power glass sunroof with a seven-speaker 200-watt Bose sound system is available ($1335).
Moving up to the 6i Sport sedan ($21,495) and 6i Sport hatchback ($22,025) adds an eight-way power driver's seat and front side-impact and side-curtain airbags, plus sporty exterior items such as fog lights, bright-tip exhaust outlets, side-sill extensions and a wing-type rear spoiler. Wheels and tires upgrade to P215/50VR17 on aluminum rims. The hatchback comes with a rear wiper and washer. Heated leather seats, heated mirrors, and red-illuminated electroluminescent gauges are available in a package ($1240).
The 6i Grand Touring sedan ($24,195) comes with leather upholstery, heated power driver's seat, the Bose stereo, heated mirrors, power glass sunroof, and red-illuminated electroluminescent gauges are standard. It only comes with the four-speed automatic. The Sport bits are dropped, but available as options.
The 6s Sport sedan ($23,295) and 6s Sport hatchback ($23,995) are identically equipped to their 6i counterparts except they come with the V6 engine. The standard transmission is still a five-speed manual, but the optional automatic ($950) is a six-speed.
The 6s Grand Touring sedan ($28,495) is trimmed similarly to the 6i, but has the V6 and six-speed automatic.
Base ($22,895), Sport ($24,025), and Grand Touring ($26,795) versions of the wagon correspond to the same trim levels in the sedan, except that the V6 is standard in all three, as are side-impact and side-curtain airbags.
Some, but not all, of the up-level equipment can be ordered as stand-alones on down-level models. Sirius Satellite Radio is available and cassette, MP3, and mini-disc players can be added. A wide range of appearance and convenience accessories are also available.
The Mazda6 represents one of the sportiest exterior designs in the mid-size sedan class. Visually, it has more personality than the Accord and more spunk than the Camry. It has a strong front-end treatment that's consistent with other Mazdas. Cat's-eye headlamps and big tail lamps that feature multi-element designs enhance the action at each corner of the car.
The Mazda6 benefits from a kind of muscular conservatism inside and out. Everything in, on and under this car makes sense, and it all looks good doing it. The relationship of the lower body to the upper body looks perfect, yet the roof shape is designed for people, not for style. Its sporty profile makes the Mazda6 look smaller than it is.
The shape of the Mazda6 is truly fetching when painted a hot color and accented by Sport-level trim, which includes a body-color front grille, gray headlight bezels, clear-lens halogen fog lamps, dual oval exhaust outlets, front and rear air dams, and side sill extensions. These bits are available on base and Grand Touring models. The outside door handles are well designed and easy to grab.
The hatchback features an extended rear roof pillar sloping rearward into a raised deck lid. As Mazda says, it looks fast even when standing still. Casual observers may not notice the difference between hatchback and the sedan.
The wagon features aggressive styling, though it doesn't look as sporty as the hatchback.
The front seats are comfortable through a wide range of adjustments. We found them suitable for hard driving, with good upper body support and enough lower back support with the optional lumbar adjuster for all-day comfort. The Leather Package ($1,240) adds cowhide to all the right places, with thankful perforations on the seating surfaces. The Mazda6 interior is designed to be comfortable for front and rear passengers in the 95th percentile of all body shapes.
The rear seats are quite comfortable, whether sedan, hatchback or wagon. There's more than 96 cubic feet of useable space inside the Mazda6 sedan, according to the EPA measuring system, and that translates to plenty of room for four, or five in a pinch.
There are half-liter cupholders in the doors and in both front and rear center consoles, and lots of other open and covered storage. The seat pockets and door pockets are huge. Our only complaint is that the interior door handles lacked heft.
The interior design is complemented by carbon fiber, titanium and body-color finishes. The optional electroluminescent gauges are illuminated in red light, but are conventional white-on-black during the day, with nice, large and pleasing graphics. Switchgear is labeled equally well, legible during the day and illuminated in red at night.
The sedan's trunk is a good size at more than 15.2 cubic feet, and the trunk lid is designed with hinges that do not impinge in any way on the storage space. The compact, lateral-link rear suspension allows for a perfectly flat trunk floor. The standard 60/40 split rear seat folds to expand luggage space. The release levers are in the trunk, a plus for security and convenience, and the seats themselves are spring-loaded so they fold instantly with just one pull of the release.
The rear liftgate of the hatchback opens to reveal a covered cargo compartment with 22.0 cubic feet of space, nearly 50 percent more than that of the sedan. Cargo space more than doubles to 58.7 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded. As in the sedan, the 60/40 split seats fold with the touch of a button, and there is no need to remove the head rests for a near-flat cargo floor. Cargo tie-downs and two hidden compartments in the side panels add to the hatchback's versatility.
The rear compartment of the wagon provides 33.7 cubic feet of luggage space with the rear seats up and a generous 60.4 cubic feet with them folded. Adding greatly to its utility are a retractable cargo cover shade and a barrier-type net, or dog fence, that emerges from the floor and attaches to the interior roof. Tie-downs are provided.
When it comes to sporty handling, the Mazda6 is among the best in the class. It offers better road holding than the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima, and it offers better transient response in quick lane-change maneuvers. The Camry feels genuinely lethargic by comparison and the Altima feels like a bigger car. The Mazda's handling is even sharper than the Honda's.
Mazda tells us that no sport-tuned suspension or handling package is offered on the Mazda6 because the standard suspension is already tuned for sporty handling. In other words, Mazda6 comes standard with a sports suspension. The Mazda6 rides on double wishbones up front with a lateral-link layout in the rear and coil springs all around. Indeed, the Mazda6 doesn't lean much in corners; body roll is nicely controlled by the front and rear anti-roll bars. Tires on the base sedans are generously sized at 205/60VR16, with beefier 215/50VR17s on V6, Sport and Grand Touring versions, including all hatchbacks and wagons.
Grip is very, very good, tenacious you might say, right up to the point where the front end pushes, telling you to lighten up. And this doesn't occur until you've reached competition-level speeds. Other mid-size sedans lose grip far sooner than the Mazda6. The amount of power-steering assist backs off the faster you go, to give good road feel, although it's still on the light side at high speeds.
Though more fun to drive, it doesn't feel quite as refined as the Accord. Ride quality is generally good, bit it can get a little jouncy on certain types of pavement and some road vibration comes through. Road noise is relatively pronounced on broken pavement, especially with the Sport trim. Wind noise comes through as well; we noticed this was particularly true with Sport trim and suspect the aerodynamic enhancements may be the cause.
Zoom-zoom is in plentiful supply regardless of which model you choose. Even the four-cylinder 6i is a hoot to drive. Order it with the five-speed manual and the fun zone starts at about 4000 rpm, where the engine is very responsive. The 2.3-liter, double-overhead-cam engine loves to rev and acceleration is on par with that of other four-cylinder mid-size sedans. The Honda may be a little quicker, but the Mazda feels younger and sportier. Below 3000 rpm, however, the four-cylinder lacks strong throttle response. It works best with the manual gearbox. The manual felt mushy at first, but that impression quickly faded into the background and we found it fun to shift.
The 3.0-liter V6 in the 6s greatly increases the fun. Like the four-cylinder, it has continuously variable valve timing (VVT) for its intake camshaft; but on the V6, this feature seems to be used more effectively, providing better low-down torque along with a willingness to rev, with good gas mileage and a nice set of sounds from the air intake and the dual exhausts. The Mazda V6 doesn't feel like it has as much low-rpm torque as the Toyota and Honda V6 engines, but it loves to rev and it's a lot of fun to drive.
Both engines are made of aluminum to keep the Mazda6 from getting too heavy, which it isn't, at 3347 pounds for the V6 automatic sedan. Four-cylinder models with automatic transmission are classified as Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV), while 6i models with manual transmissions are recognized as Low Emissions Vehicles (LEV).
The six-speed automatic is really smooth yet shifting is crisp. The six-speed automatic provides improved gear spacing for the V6, keeping it in its power band under all circumstances. Having six forward gears allowed Mazda engineers to select low ratios for first and second gears to maximize off-the-line acceleration, tall top gears for effortless cruising, and mid-range gears optimized for snappy acceleration from highway speeds. Both Mazda6 automatic transmissions offer a manual mode called Sport Shift: Pull back on the stick to upshift, push forward to downshift.
The Mazda6 is an affordable sports sedan. It boasts more exterior and interior style than other mid-size sedans. It's more fun to drive than other cars in its class, with quicker cornering and stopping performance and a sportier ambiance. It's a great choice for someone who wants a more exciting car.
The hatchback offers the same driving excitement with increased versatility. The same goes for the sport wagon; its dog fence make it a good candidate for dog owners.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Jim McCraw reports from Detroit, with Mitch McCullough in Los Angeles.
|Model Line Overview |
|Base Price (MSRP) |
|Model lineup: |
|Mazda6i sedan ($18,995); 6i Sport sedan ($21,495); 6i Sport hatchback ($22,025); 6s Sport sedan ($23,295); 6s Sport hatchback ($23,995); 6i Grand Touring sedan ($24,195); 6s Grand Touring sedan ($28,495); 6s wagon ($22,895), 6s Sport wagon ($24,025); 6s Grand Touring wagon ($26,795) |
|160-hp 2.3-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4; 220-hp 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6 |
|5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic; 6-speed automatic |
|Safety equipment (Standard): |
|dual-stage frontal airbags, ABS, EBD, traction control |
|Safety equipment (Optional): |
|side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags |
|Basic warranty: |
|4 years/50,000 miles |
|Assembled in: |
|Flat Rock, Michigan |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): |
|Mazda 6s Sport Sedan ($23,295) |
|Standard equipment: |
|air conditioning; cruise control; six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry; leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and telescope adjustments; 17-inch aluminum road wheels; perimeter anti-theft alarm; dual-stage front airbags; side air bags and side-curtain air bags; power trunk release; dual 12-volt power outlets; front and rear dual map lights; halogen fog lamps, dual oval exhaust outlets, front and rear air dams, side sill extensions, wing-type deck lid spoiler |
|Options as tested: |
|auto-dimming mirror with compass and HomeLink ($250) |
|Destination charge: |
|Gas Guzzler Tax: |
|Price as tested (MSRP) |
|front-wheel drive |
|3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): |
|220 @ 6300 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): |
|192 @ 5000 |
|5-speed manual |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: |
|19/26 mpg. |
|105.3 in. |
|186.8/70.1/56.7 in. |
|Track, f/r: |
|60.2/60.2 in. |
|Turning circle: |
|38.7 ft. |
|Seating capacity: |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: |
|38.7/54.7/42.3 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: |
|37.1/54.1/36.5 in. |
|Cargo volume: |
|15.2 cu. ft. |
|Towing capacity: |
|Suspension F: |
|independent, upper and lower wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar |
|Suspension R: |
|independent, E-type multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar |
|Ground clearance: |
|5.1 in. |
|Curb weight: |
|3287 lbs. |
|Brakes, f/r: |
|vented disc/solid disc, with ABS and EBD; traction control in. |
|Fuel capacity: |
|18.0 gal. |