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Thread: 2009 Mazda 6

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2009 Mazda 6

    WHAT IT IS

    The 6 is Mazda's mid-sized sedan but has always been a little bit smaller - and a lot more sporty - than the mainstream (and best-selling) mid-sized Japanese brand sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. But though it performed well as an enthusiast's sedan, it didn't perform as well in the marketplace as Mazda would have liked. Hence the decision to make the new 6 bigger on the outside, roomier on the inside - and hopefully, broaden its appeal and increase sales.

    WHAT'S NEW

    Everything.

    The Mazda 6 is completely redesigned for 2009. Prices run from $18,550 for base four-cylinder SV models with manual transmission to $28,260 for a top-of-the-line Grand Touring with V-6 and automatic transmission.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    Like other cars in this class, Mazda offers both four and six-cylinder engines in the 6 sedan. But the 6's optional 3.7 liter V-6 is now the largest and most powerful engine of its type in this class - although just barely - with 272 advertised hp. Camry's optional 3.5 liter V-6 comes in at 268 hp; the Honda Accord's optional 3.5 liter V-6 is rated at 271 hp; the Nissan Altima's 3.5 liter V-6 rates 270 hp.

    The 6's standard 2.5 liter four is also quite powerful - 170 hp. This puts it just under the Accord's four (177 hp) and well above the Camry's four (158 hp), power-wise.

    The 6's 2.5 liter engine is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic; the V-6 engine comes only with a six-speed automatic.

    All versions of the 6 are front-wheek-drive.

    Acceleration with either engine is among the best available in this class. V-6 versions can reach 60 mph in about 6.4-6.5 seconds. This is a solid half-second to three-quarters of a second quicker than the V-6 Camry and Honda Accord - and about half a second quicker than the spunky Nissan Atima V-6.

    The four-cylinder will get you there in just under - or just over - 8 seconds, depending on transmission and how you drive it.

    Gas mileage is slightly under par with the optional V-6, which is rated by the EPA at 17 city, 25 highway vs. 19 city, 28 highway for the V-6 Camry and 19 city, 29 highway for the V-6 Accord. The four-cylinder version does better, nailing down 20 MPGs in city driving and 29 MPGs on the highway. The automatic-equipped version (with the four-cylinder engine) is actually easier on gas than the manual-equipped version - topping out at 21 MPGs in the city and 30 on the highway.

    RIDE & HANDLING

    Compared with the marshmallowy Camry (and similarly soft Hyundai Sonata) the new 6 is still reasonably sporty-feeling, although there is more body roll than you'd expect from a Mazda. However, grip is high and even with the traction/stability control off, you can push this car a lot harder than a Camry without being guilty of mechanical abuse. The Accord feels tighter, but - in my opinion - its ride isn't as cush the rest of the time. Mazda did a good job improving the new 6's bread-and-butter appeal, without turning it into a boring car to drive.

    STYLING & UTILITY

    Looks are in the eye of the beholder, but to my eye, the 6 is a well-proportioned, handsome-looking car. Much more attractive than the weird-looking, heavy-set Camry - which could have been modeled on a sturgeon.

    Or the blocky, hunched-up Accord.

    The Mazda's interior is another high point, with minimal clutter and immediately comprehensible controls - including rotary knobs for the AC system and an easy to read pod of analog gauges with LED backlighting. (The one flaw with them being no indicated redline on the tachometer. Like all modern cars, you can't overspeed the engine thanks to an electronic rev limiter - but I'd still like to know when I' getting close to max revs before I actually get there.)

    Also, it's roomier up front in the Mazda 6 than in the best-selling Camry - 42.5 inches of front seat legroom and 39.4 inches of headroom vs. 41.7 inches of legroom and 38.8 inches of headroom in the Toyota.

    Oddly enough, the Camry's got slightly more backseat head and legroom than the Mazda - 37.8 inches and 38.3 inches (respectively) vs. 38 inches and 37.3 inches for the 6.

    Compared with the Accord, the 6 has noticeably less front seat headroom (41.4 inches for the Honda vs. 39.4 inches for the Mazda), identical front seat legroom (42.5 inches), just slifhtly more rear seat headroom (38.5 inches) and just slightly less rear seat legroom (37.2 inches).

    Nissan's Altima has more front seat legroom than all of them - 44.1 inches - and more front seat headroom than all but the Accord (40.6 inches) but its back seat is cramped, with just 35.8 inches of legroom (vs. 38 for the Mazda) and just 36.8 inches of rear seat headroom (vs. 37.3 in the 6).

    But where the Mazda really puts some distance between itself and its chief Japanese rivals is in the area of trunk space - 16.6 cubic feet vs. 15.3 for the Altima, 15 even for the Camry and a downright cramped 14 cubic feet for the Accord.

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    Though Mazda doesn't sell nearly as many cars as either Toyota or Honda, it is one of the most consistently excellent Japanese brands on the market. Mazda vehicles have proved themselves durable and well-built over the years - and usually offer more car for the buck than competitors.

    Consider the pricing range of the 6 relative to the Accord and Camry, for instance.

    The Honda starts out almost $2,000 higher ($20,775 for the base version) and tops out almost two grand higher ($30,755), too. The price gulf vs. the Camry is smaller - the Toyota starts at $19,145 and tops out at $28,695 - but still, the difference is considerable. Same story when you compare the Mazda 6 with the Altima, which starts at $19,900 and tops out at $29,380.

    Yet the cars are comparably equipped across their trim/price ranges - with the Mazda offering equivalent or stronger engines (keep in mind the 14 hp deficit of the base four-cylinder Camry), a much larger trunk than most - and equivalent or better interior space.

    In addition to standard ABS, traction and stability control, front seat side impact air bags and full-row curtain air bags, the '09 Mazda 6 also offers a trick blind spot warning system with both visual and auditory warnings to let you know there's a car where you might not be able to see it. There's a little yellow flashing icon that pops in the outside rear-view mirror - accompanied by the auditory warning. (If it bugs you, just turn it off. There's a button just to the left of the steering column.)

    DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    The new 6 feels bigger and heavier than is typical for Mazda's recent sedans - mainly because it is. The '09 version is some six inches longer and 2.3 inches wider than the previous 6 - and roughly 150-200 pounds heavier.

    Upping the power along with the weight masks the increased heft - except at the gas pump, where the 6 is thirstier than its rivals. But the difference is not that much (2-4 MPGs overall) and the return - in the way of broader mass market appeal - is almost certainly worth the small loss in efficiency.

    The four-cylinder version with the six-speed manual is probably the best choice for the enthusiast. The V-6 has great pull - and the six-seed automatic it's paired with is one of the best out there - but there's no replacement for shifting your own gears. Especially with a gearbox as thoroughly excellent as this one. The clutch is light but has progressive take-up - neither grabby nor vague. It is very comfortable to drive, even in heavy stop and go traffic. And the manual's tightly spaced gearing make working the 170 hp four a genuine pleasure. It seems to enjoy the experience, too.

    And you'll enjoy saving up front (much lower MSRP) as well down the road (substantially better fuel economy).

    Either version is much more lively-feeling than the Camry - which truly is a Dowager Express, the best Japanese Buick money can buy. It is a very good car, no doubt. But it is also a complete snoozefest. The Accord, meanwhile, is sophisticated and smooth - with V-6 versions offering plenty of scoot as well as a very high level of technology an equipment. But you also get a very high sticker price along with it.

    Hondas are superb cars - but so are Mazdas. How much do you want to pay for the difference?

    The Nissan Altima can go toe-to-toe with the 6 as a sporty sedan - especially V-6/manual versions. But it, too, is significantly more expensive - and in my opinion, not quite as nicely finished on the inside.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Despite deviating a bit from the Mazdonian theme of "zoom zoom zoom" by getting a bit thicker around the middle, the new 6 is an outstanding contender in perhaps the toughest market segment there is - and in perhaps the toughest market we've seen in 60 years.

    I think it'll do well - because it deserves to.
    Last edited by Eric; 12-25-2008 at 01:05 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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    It sounds OK but for my money I will stick with the Altima.

    If I was in the market for that kind of new car.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mase View Post
    It sounds OK but for my money I will stick with the Altima.

    If I was in the market for that kind of new car.
    From an enthusiast driver's perspective, I'd agree with you that the Altima is the Mazda's toughest competition. But it is more expensive - and in my opinion, not as nicely finished.

    The one big advantage the Nissan has over the Mazda, though, is that you can get a manual transmission with the V-6.

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