Mazda is clearly sticking to a youthful philosophy and marketing plan. Like Chuckie, that Zoom-Zoom thing just won’t die. While the previous Mazda 6 was received favorably by the public and in car reviews, it was only modestly successful in terms of sales compared to the Accord and Camry. For all of the car’s dynamic driving characterstics, it was on the small side, perhaps a bit unrefined and by most estimations not quite up to the fit and finish of its competitors. Rather than scrapping the 6 to introduce a new 2009 model, Mazda has comprehensively revamped and produced a new version that is better in almost every facet than anything else of this type.
On the surface, the new 6 continues the distinctive design style present in other Mazda models. The new 6 has a more upscale appearance, while retaining or upgrading the performance and aggressive style of the previous version. The wheel arches and front fascia have a distinctively performance-suggested look that is certainly a major advantage over the style of this car’s competitors. But Mazda’s rethinking of the 6 is not just window dressing. To begin with, both of the new engine choices are more powerful than the previous model. The entry-level 2.5 liter 4 cylinder generates 170 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque; 15 more horses than last year. EPA fuel economy is 21 and 30 on the highway with the automatic, and 20 city and 29 on the highway with the manual transmission. This engine is managed by either a standard close-ratio six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic. The top-end 3.7 liter V6 engine produces 272 horses and 269 pound-feet of torque. That’s up from 212 horses and 197 pound-feet of the 3.0 liter V6 in the first-generation car. EPA fuel economy is 17 and 25 on the highway with an automatic the only transmission choice. Both engines are at the top of this segment of cars in terms of power and both automatics provide a manual-shift gate to the left of the automatic-mode positions. In the process of the revising of the 6, Mazda has abandoned production of the hatchback and wagon models.
Standard equipment on the entry-level version, the SV, includes air-conditioning, power locks and windows, a six-speaker stereo, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 16-inch steel wheels and a full package of safety equipment: antilock brakes, tire-pressure monitors, six air bags and both traction and stability-control systems. Next in the lineup is the 6 Sport at $20,920 (with the 4) or $24,800 (with the V-6). With this model, you get a cruise control, remote locking and an MP3 input for the stereo. The automatic transmission is $900 extra. Touring trim ($1,455) adds 17-inch alloy wheels (with the 4) or 18-inch wheels (with the V-6), a power driver’s seat, push-button starter, fog lights, trip computer and an interior upgrade. The top-of-the line model, Grand Touring, adds another $3,185 and includes heated leather seats, a power passenger seat, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, automatic-on Xenon headlamps, memory in the power driver’s seat, rain-sensing wipers, heated auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a blind-spot monitoring system and a Bluetooth phone link. Other options include a satellite navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, a moonroof and Bose stereo package, rear spoiler and remote engine starter.
Inside, the Mazda has also gone upscale, offering better leather, plusher seating and more expensive-looking textured plastics. The dashboard is nicely laid out with big buttons and intuitive controls. The new interior is also more expansive. The rear passengers get an extra 1.5 inches of legroom while occupants in both front and rear enjoy added shoulder room. The trunk, at 16.6 cubic feet, is 10 percent bigger than before and significantly bigger than its rivals’.
The biggest issue may be the price. Even though prices start at $18,850, to enjoy the top-end and best of what Mazda can offer you are looking at the low 30 grand range. It will be interesting to see what Honda and Toyota will do to reclaim dominance in this segment.