First Drive Review: 2009 Mazda6
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2013.
By Jim Hall of Road & Track
Mazda has been on a sales tear of late. No surprise here, as the Japanese manufacturer has been building fun, fuel-efficient small cars for decades. The outstanding Mazda3 continues to do well and, thanks to the explosion in gasoline prices, the Mazda5 — a funky, space-efficient mini-minivan based on the 3 — has seen its sales increase by nearly 50 percent from last year. So successful are the Mazda3 sedan and 5-door that they appear to have cannibalized sales from the company's other 4-door offering — the Mazda6. But an all-new 6, which starts at $19,000, now moves a notch above its sibling, thanks to a dramatic, high-zoot makeover.
The new 6's skin looks somewhat like that of the Lexus ES models, but with saucier styling cues, specifically the shapely RX-8-like front fenders and stretched headlights. Details like the lower front grille/foglight assemblies and the organically-shaped exhaust outlets housed in the rear bumper add a dash of extra athleticism that is missing from the Toyota luxury brand's base 4-door entry.
The completely redesigned cabin looks equally upscale as well, with very nice plastics (some trim sections done in a high-gloss "piano black" finish like that found in the RX-8), sound ergonomics, straightforward controls and eye-pleasing aesthetics. The center stack looks even tidier with the available, easy-to-use DVD-based navigation system ($2000). And the available Sirius satellite radio system has a rewind feature and can instantly switch to another channel whenever a favorite song comes on from a preprogrammed list of favorite artists and/or song titles. Another tech option is hands-free Bluetooth audio and phone controls.
As is seemingly the case with all new car models, the 6 grows a bit larger than its former self, 2.3 in. wider (72.4 in.) and 6.1 in. longer (193.7) than before. As a result, both front and rear occupants have more leg room (the back seat can comfortably accommodate most adults for long stretches at a time) and trunk volume has grown by 10 percent to 16.6 cu. ft., this figure making it the new class leader in its category.
Traction control, dynamic stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, tire-pressure monitoring and six airbags all come standard. And the excellent blind-spot monitoring system available on the company's CX class of crossover vehicles finds its way to the 6 sedan as an option.
Available powertrains include a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces a maximum 170 bhp and 167 lb.-ft. of torque that comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission with an available 5-speed automatic, and a 272-bhp 3.7-liter V-6 connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission in the up-level Mazda6 s model. Both automatic transmissions feature a manual gear selection mode. The two aluminum-block engines deliver respectable fuel mileage: 21 mpg city/29 highway (manual) and 22/30 (automatic) from the smaller unit; and 17/25 for the V-6. Additionally, both run on regular gasoline. The V-6-powered editions begin at $24,400.
From behind the wheel, the 6 definitely feels more Mazda3-like than RX-8-ish, the emphasis more on luxury than sport. Still, its does borrow some Mazda DNA from the rotary-powered sports car with communicative steering and pedal feel, and a well-tuned, all-new suspension design that makes use of KYB twin-tube nitrogen-charged rear shocks and Michelin tires, the last available (depending on trim model/options) in 16-, 17- and 18-in. sizes.
With appealing styling inside and out, an upscale cabin, and cool and convenient tech features, all at an affordable price, the all-new Mazda6 acts, looks and feels like a poor man's Lexus. If you're in the market for a new 4-door and are not of unlimited means, or you are but smart with your money, this is certainly one to consider.