Mazda introduced a brand-new sedan during 2003 to replace its 626 model. Expected to rival European cars in ride and handling, the Mazda6 was built on an all-new platform. Developers used a variety of competitive models as benchmarks, including the BMW 3 Series, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat.
In spring 2004, five-door hatchback and wagon body styles joined the lineup. Buyers get a choice of two engines in the Mazda6: a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 160 horsepower — or 155 hp in PZEV form — and a 3.0-liter V-6 that generates 220 hp. Two automatics and a manual transmission are offered.
For 2005, entry-level sedans and hatchbacks gain standard antilock brakes and traction control. The available automatic transmission on V-6 models is now a six-speed unit. All models except the Mazda6 i base sedan now have standard side-impact and side curtain-type airbags.
A performance-oriented Mazdaspeed6 sedan will debut in the summer as a 2006 model.
Narrow headlights flank a large, five-pointed grille with a Mazda logo. The wheel arches and belt line are well defined.
Built on a 105.3-inch wheelbase, the Mazda6 sedan has an overall length of 186.8 inches. Base sedans get standard 16-inch tires, but Sport and Grand Touring editions feature standard 17-inchers. Models with the Sport Package now include a spoiler, body-colored grille and gray headlight bezels.
Compared with the old 626, the Mazda6's wider body translates into extra space for five occupants. The driver's seat adjusts through a 9.4-inch range, and the 60/40-split rear seatback folds down. A tilt/telescoping column holds a three-spoke steering wheel. The sedan's trunk volume totals 15.2 cubic feet. A CD player is standard, and Grand Touring models get a 200-watt Bose sound system.
Under the Hood
A 2.3-liter four-cylinder that develops 160 hp (155 hp in PZEV form) goes into i models, while s versions use a 220-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. Both engines can team with a five-speed-manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is available in models equipped with the four-cylinder, while a new six-speed automatic with a manual-shift provision is available in V-6-equipped models.
Side curtain-type airbags and seat-mounted side-impact airbags are optional in the Mazda6 i base sedan and standard in other models. Antilock brakes are standard.
The Mazda6 is pleasant to drive and sportier than some of its rivals. This sedan takes curves confidently with modest body lean and satisfying grip. Moderate steering effort is accompanied by good feel and feedback.
Though it's no powerhouse, a V-6 sedan with the manual transmission exhibits spirited performance. The clutch is a bit touchy and the gearbox a tad notchy, but it's easy to manipulate.
Overall, the Mazda6 is quite refined and well built, and it features excellent panel fit. Front and rear headroom is adequate, but just passable in the center rear position. Legroom is very good all around.
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