6 is the New 10
by Joe LaMuraglia
The 2009 Mazda6, while all new, isn’t the first time Mazda has been a player in mid-size sedan segment. They’ve had contenders as far back as the late 80’s with the 626 and more recently with the last generation Mazda6. It is however, the first time that Mazda designed and built a midsized sedan specifically for the U.S. consumer. The last generation of the Mazda6 was a global car and had to meet the needs of consumers from various countries. As a result, it was smaller than its competitors and when you are thinking baby seats, baggage and American teenagers, bigger is better.
In addition to the size deficit, Mazda product planners identified two additional areas that needed improvement over the last generation 6: power and quality. So they set out to make a high-quality vehicle with efficient power in a roomier package. Luckily they paid attention to aesthetics as well because what emerged is a vehicle that met all their technical requirements and comes wrapped in gorgeous sheet metal that is unmistakably a Mazda. Great for anyone who is a fan of the car, it is something familiar giving you the best chance of caring for your Mazda if you decide to get one.
The new Mazda6 is bigger than the car it replaces. It has a 4.5-inch-longer wheelbase and a wider front and rear track. It is 6.1 inches longer and 2.3 inches wider than the last car and its trunk volume increased by almost 10 percent. The growth is evident when you enter the roomy cabin. Where the last car felt snug and sporty, the new Mazda6 has a more open feel with details and controls that still hint of its sporty nature. You can feel a real difference in the rear seat and the Mazda6 is now on par with the best in its class.
What’s more room with out some zoom? When they say that the Mazda6 got a complete makeover, that includes the engines as well. The new Mazda6 base “i” trim gets a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that has 170 horsepower while the new Mazda6 “s” trim gets the 3.7-liter V-6 from the CX-9 that produces 272 horsepower.
The base 4-cylinder is quite impressive and for those of you with sporty intentions, choose the standard 6-speed manual transmission. I drove it in the hills just north of Los Angeles and it is a fantastic package. If you want the efficiency of the 4-cylinder but don’t like to shift your stick, there is an optional 5-speed automatic available. Both get competitive fuel mileage with the manual rated at 20/29 city/hwy and the automatic at 21/30 city/hwy. Yes, you read that correctly, the automatic actually gets better MPG in this case.
For those of you that have to have the power, the V6 in the “s” trim is sublime. At 272 horsepower, it outguns the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. On the road it pulls smoothly and with the manual shift mode in the automatic, is a blast on the curves and highway alike. It’s fuel economy is not at the head of the pack but it still achieves a respectable 17/25 city/hwy.
No matter what engine and transmission combination you get, the DNA of Mazda is evident. As Mazda says, Zoom-Zoom is bred, not born. They’ve done an awesome job creating a mid-size sedan with athletic handling, responsive steering, confident braking, and a well-controlled ride that is smooth when you want it and sporty when you need it. If you move up from a Mazda3 or a MX-5, you won’t be disappointed. If you migrate from an Accord or Camry you’ll rediscover the joys of driving.
The saying goes that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but one might argue that there is such a thing as universal beauty as well. I’d use the second argument to describe the 2009 Mazda6. The designers have done an amazing job at making a gorgeous car that is clearly related to the rest of the Mazda lineup. There are very few lines to find fault with.
While there are many beautiful cars for sale, most have the luxury price tag attached to them. What is so unique about the Mazda6 is that they’ve made a vehicle in a very mainstream segment look so good. This is no shallow West Hollywood poser either. The beauty continues on in the interior with high quality materials, thoughtful design and intuitive controls.
The 2009 Mazda6 is bigger, badder and more beautiful than the car it replaces, that much is clear. But how does it compete on price and features? Starting at $18,550 for the 4-cylinder Mazda 6i with a manual transmission and easily topping $32,000 for a fully loaded V6 Mazda6s Grand Touring, there is a 6 to meet just about everyone’s price point. Those prices are inline with its competitors as well. While all but a few offer the litany of features like keyless entry, Bluetooth, satellite radio, remote start and Bose stereo, few can match the combination of style and driving pleasure. I’d say that the Mazda6 is the new “10” for mid-size sedans.
Photography courtesy of Mazda
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