Mazda introduced a brand-new sedan in 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 competitive models as benchmarks, including the BMW 3 Series, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
In spring 2004, five-door hatchback and wagon body styles joined the lineup. Buyers got a choice of two engines: a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produced 160 horsepower or a 220-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. One of two automatics or a manual transmission could be installed.
For 2005, entry-level sedans and hatchbacks gained standard antilock brakes and traction control. The available automatic transmission on V-6 models became a six-speed unit. All models except the Mazda6 i base sedan adopted standard side-impact and side curtain-type airbags.
All three body styles received an exterior redesign and interior updates for 2006. The optional Sport AT automatic transmission on four-cylinder models has been upgraded from a four-speed to a five-speed unit. Mazda's V-6 engine now produces 215 hp at 6,000 rpm and 199 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm.
Performance-oriented Mazdaspeed6 sedans hit showrooms in late summer 2005 as 2006 models. The Mazdaspeed6 is listed separately in the cars.com Research section.
New side sills and a reworked sport-style grille complement fresh front and rear fascias for 2006. 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 is 186.8 inches long overall. Base sedans get standard 16-inch tires, but Sport and Grand Touring editions ride on 17-inchers. Sport models include a spoiler and fog lights.
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. An eight-way power driver's seat goes into s models. 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 with a six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
A 2.3-liter four-cylinder that develops 160 hp (155 hp in partial-credit Zero Emissions Vehicle form) goes into i models, while s versions use a 215-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. Both engines can team with a five-speed-manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is available in models equipped with the four-cylinder, while a 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 and traction control 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 well-built Mazda6 is quite refined and exhibits excellent panel fit. Front and rear headroom is adequate, but space is just passable in the center rear position. Legroom is very good all around.