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2009 Mazda6: Moving On Up, But Keeping It Real

Let’s get the big “a-ha” about the 2009 Mazda6 out of the way first: the Mazda6 has grown up to be a fully respectable member of society, but it has kept almost all of what made the original so appealing to keen drivers. It’s the automotive equivalent of Richard Branson, a man who has evolved to become one of the most admired business leaders in the world while retaining all of the hipness, style, and flamboyance of his youth.
The first generation Mazda6 was always admired by enthusiasts; it was lean, engaging, full of feedback, and just plain great fun to drive. It was a cut-price BMW 3-Series in terms of its drive character. Those qualities, however, made it far less appealing for its primary mission – to serve as a solid family sedan. Despite its entertainment value on the road, it was small and cramped inside, noisy, and felt somewhat like a beer can.


The new Mazda6 is uncommonly stylish while ticking all the right boxes for mainstream shoppers

The new 6, however, has soundly addressed each and every single one of those deficiencies that made Camry, Accord, and Altima a more amenable choice for many families. At the same time, it has become even more stylish and easily matches or beats the Japanese Big Three sedans in terms of interior roominess, refinement, interior quality, and comfort. In short, we think it’s one of the most – if not the most – compelling mid-size sedans out there. At the media introduction of the 6 that VehicleVoice staff attended, Mazda was so confident of the new 6’s abilities that they had 4-cylinder and V6 samples of Accord, Camry, and Altima on hand for direct comparisons.

Let’s start with the “cost-of-entry” stuff – you know, the things that are essential for success in this segment. The Japanese incumbents have long set the bar high for this stuff. They are supremely quiet, refined, comfortable, and large on the inside. In short, the new Mazda6 is at least as good as the incumbents on all measures. It’s quieter than the Accord and nearly as quiet as Camry. The unique US body (it’s larger than the international version of the 6 that recently went on sale worldwide) provides a massive interior; subjectively, the back seat felt like it had more legroom than all except the Accord, and even then it was close. And while the previous 6 felt tinny, this one has a comforting feeling of heft and quality; the interior materials and finish were actually better than its competitors. Oh, and you can’t get fake plastic wood – on ANY trim level. Hallelujah! Instead, you get an interesting technical trim that looks more architectural than anything else.


Superb fit and finish and sporty overtones makes the interior a delight to spend time in


No fake wood available at any price! Thank the maker!

One could reasonably expect that in growing up, the 6 would lose its edge. Fortunately, that is most certainly not the case. The new 6 is, to this writer’s eyes anyways, the most attractive mid-size sedan now available. Its styling is dynamic, with graceful tension and cues that communicate splendidly with each other. It’s downright artistic, especially the front clip. By comparison, its competitors look anonymous, dowdy, and unimaginative. That’s precisely what many mid-size buyers want, but the needs of those in the segment who desire a bit more flair have largely gone ignored. Lucky for them, the new 6 finally brings a bit of life into the segment.

Are these shapely and sexy contours really on a family sedan?

It’s a really good drive too. The 6 is available with two engines: a 170HP 2.5L 4-cylinder that is available with a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic, and a 272HP 3.7L V6 that comes with a 6-speed automatic only. The V6 has great power and has a very refined growl to it, and the 6-speed auto is well matched to the engine’s powerband. In these times though, we felt it more relevant to spend more time with the fuel-efficient 4-cylinder model. Achieving an EPA-rated 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, this engine is smooth, refined, and peppier than you might expect. It’s certain to be the volume powertrain, accounting for 70% of the 6’s total sales. Honestly, you don’t need any more than what the base powertrain provides; it’s plenty powerful enough and if you’re one of the few who still wants a manual transmission, this engine is the only way to get it. Incidentally, that 6-speed manual shifts sweetly, with smooth and positive action.

This will be a common view of the fast 272HP V6 version as it passes you

On the road, the 6 impresses with its admirable combination of refined ride quality and a genuine appetite for clipping apexes. Again, the 4-cylinder proved to be the more entertaining drive as we found it to be better suited for enthusiastic driving as the car felt less nose heavy than the V6. It turned in quicker and felt a bit more agile, despite not having quite the grip of the V6 model’s wider tires. In a perfect world, we would have liked a bit more heft to the steering, but that appears to be a concession that Mazda’s engineers made to mainstream mid-size customers, most of whom prefer low effort steering. In any case, the steering was still extremely precise and accurate, if lacking a bit in feel.
Mazda only expects to sell 85,000 copies per year, which seems very conservative considering the car’s considerable appeal and talents as well as the significant investment Mazda has made in developing a unique 6 for North America. In comparison, both Camry and Accord are expected to sell at least 400,000 units each this year. We would like to think that Mazda could sell a lot more than 85,000 per year, but we can’t discount the brand power that the Japanese Big Three sedans possess. Mid-size sedan shoppers tend to stay with the herd and go for a known quantity, and Accord, Camry, and Altima provide just that.
To all you prospective mid-size sedan shoppers out there, take our advice: Go ahead, live a little! The new Mazda6 has everything you demand in a mid-size sedan, and a lot more of what you want.

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