2004 Mazda Mazda6

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2003 Mazda Mazda6

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Good first step to making Mazda a strong player in the sporty niche market.
Pros:
  • Sleek
  • Sporty
  • Fun to drive
Cons:
  • Long-throw shifter and clutch
  • Rear seatbacks need to fold flatter
  • Mediocre nameplate reputation

The Mazda6 has a peculiar name that looks like a typographical error. But this new flagship sedan from Japan's innovative Mazda promises to help the automaker do well in profitable sporty niche markets and give it better name recognition.

Mazda wisely has decided not to compete directly with larger powerhouse rivals Toyota and Honda, so don't expect the Mazda6 to be another high-volume family sedan designed to please everyone possible. Rather, it's for those who want both practicality and lots of driving fun.

Replaces Other Models
The Mazda6 replaces the automaker's decent but unexciting 626 model and aged Millenia sedan, which was intended to be the top-line car in an upscale Mazda line that never materialized.

The new car will be assembled at a plant near Detroit and goes on sale in December. Mazda said base prices range from approximately $19,000 to $21,700. Four-door hatchback and station wagon trims will follow.

Despite the "6" in its name, the Mazda6 only seats five occupants and is offered with a lively 160-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, besides a smoother 220-horsepower V6.

Reason for Odd Name
So why the "6" in the car's name? Because Mazda's strategy is to connect the name of future vehicles with the Mazda brand as much as possible, said Robert Davis, vice president product development and strategy for Mazda North American Operations.

"For instance, Mazda builds the Miata sports car, but more people are familiar with the Miata name than the Mazda name, and we're out to change that," Davis said.

The Mazda6 4-cylinder version has an "i" designation, while the V6 has an "s" designation. Both versions look the same, and most buyers are expected to get the 4-cylinder trim.

The V6 has more punch, but the lighter weight of the 4-cylinder trim gives it slightly sharper moves—not to mention a lower base price.

Reasonable prices are important because Mazda expects its new car will draw younger buyers—mainly college-educated males in their mid- to late 30s who also will have bills for such things as mortgages and home appliances.

"Zoom-Zoom" Car
Still, these guys will want driving kicks besides room for a new family. That's why the Mazda6 is in step with the automaker's "zoom-zoom" advertising theme. Mazda plans to offer a variety of sporty, fun-to-drive trims, including the RX-8 rotary engine sports car.

Mazda said one of the benchmark vehicles for the front-drive Mazda6 was the BMW 3-Series—although matching that costlier, very well-developed BMW with its inherently more balanced rear-drive design would be impossible.

Fun to Drive
But that doesn't mean that the rigidly build Mazda6 isn't fun. The power steering is quick and the nicely designed suspension provides athletic moves. The brake pedal has a progressive action, and all-disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution provide short stops. The ride is supple.

Both engines are sophisticated and only need 87-octane gasoline. Economy of the 4-cylinder engine is in the mid-20s in the city and low 30s on the highway. The V6 provides a few less miles per gallon in the city and on open roads.

The 4-cylinder trim weighs 3,042 to 3,091 pounds and comes with either a 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic. The 3,243-3,311-pound V6 version also is offered with that manual gearbox in keeping with the sporty nature of the Mazda6. And the V6 can be had with a more versatile 5-speed automatic transmission.

Long-Throw Clutch
The manual transmission shifter generally works well, but there should be a shorter throw for both the shifter lever and the clutch for easier shifting effort.

Even the 4-cylinder version is fairly well equipped, with such items as an AM/FM/CD sound system, remote keyless entry, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, folding rear seatbacks and power windows, locks and mirrors. There also are fairly large 16-inch wheels with 60-series tires to provide good handling.

Standard items for the V6 version include a power driver's seat, traction control, automatic climate control system and anti-lock brakes, which cost extra for the 4-cylinder trim.

Optional Sport Package
The optional Sport Package has 17-inch alloy wheels and wider (50-series) tires, an Aero kit with revised front and rear fascias, side sill extensions and a rear spoiler.

The Mazda6's "zoom-zoom" look really is enhanced with that option, especially if the car has screaming yellow paint.

Stand-alone options include a power glass moonroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats and Bose sound system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer.

The rear seat area is especially roomy, and rear door openings are designed not to get clothes dirty when occupants are getting in and out in sloppy weather.

Large Trunk
The big trunk has a low opening. And rear seatbacks fold forward to enlarge the cargo area, but should fold flatter. The seatbacks have release levers in the trunk, so there is no need to open a rear door.

Easily reached controls are found in the quiet interior, which looks fairly upscale. Front seats are especially supportive and the aircraft-inspired gauges can be read quickly—even at night. The dashboard ventilation outlets are large, and there is a deep console bin and sturdy cupholders.

As for safety, the car's "Triple-H" construction is said to resist severe impacts from the front, side and rear. There are side-impact airbags up front, and an optional curtain system adds protection from side impacts for front and rear occupants.

Time will tell, but the Mazda6 looks like a good way to start a complete new line of exciting Mazda vehicles.

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BB03 - 9/18/2014 1:06:01 AM