- YES! Much bigger rear seat
- YES! Powerful V-6engine
- YES! Sharp looks from most angles
- NO! Ride is borderline harsh
- NO! Steering is borderline twitchy
- NO! Front fenders are borderline odd
Competes With: Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima
Test Drive: 2009 Mazda 6 s Grand Touring
About 18 months ago, I almost bought a Mazda 6 sedan. I liked the way it looked, drove and felt inside. Sure, there were a couple of bits in the interior that felt a little low-grade, but I could get over that. However, with three kids, there was no way I could overlook the Mazda 6's small rear seat.
I'm not alone. Turns out lots of people came to the same basic conclusion about Mazda's mainline sedan: Nice car, too small. For 2009, Mazda has seriously upped the ante with the all-new 2009 Mazda 6. With a much larger and more refined interior, huge trunk, significantly more powerful engines and darn fine good looks, the 2009 Mazda 6 is poised to do battle in the cut and thrust of the family sedan fight against the Chevy Malibu, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord. With the 2009 Mazda 6, it has ditched the switchblade for a long-bladed Bowie.
In the world of the 2009 Mazda 6, an "s" means that the car is equipped with a V-6 engine. In this case, it's the 3.7-liter V-6 straight from the much larger Mazda CX-9 crossover SUV. In the 2009 Mazda 6, the V-6 puts out 272 hp and 269 lb.-ft. of torque. That's a significant improvement over the previous car, and something you notice the first time you mash the throttle and spin your tires out of Mazda's Irvine, California-based U.S. headquarters. Or, um, so we hear, anyhow. While some drivers mentioned that they would prefer additional low end torque, we found the engine to be quite tractable and not lacking at any rev range. From idle to redline, the new V-6 is smooth, quiet and definitely powerful.
Connected to the V-6 engine in all 2009 Mazda 6 models is a quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission with a special gate for manual gear selection. In fully automatic mode, the six-speed is very good, with shifts occurring quickly and smoothly. Slip it into the manual mode, and it's much the same: Shifts to higher gears are quick, a little less quick if you select a lower gear. However, Mazda uses a manual gate that, to us at least, is counterintuitive, with upshifts back and downshifts forward. Mazda engineers insist it's more sensible, as it follows the inertia of acceleration and braking, but we still think it feels weird.
Ride & Handling
Mazda prides itself on its "zoom-zoom" mantra, claiming it's more than an ad slogan, but a corporate philosophy. The upshot is that its cars are supposed to be sporty, and the 2009 Mazda 6 lives up to that promise for the most part. Traveling down the road, the Mazda 6 has a firm ride, one that borders on being too firm for this class, zoom-zoom or not.
Whether there's a handling payoff remains an open question, as traffic conspired to considerably limit our speeds on the twisty sections of our short drive route. We can report that the steering on the 2009 Mazda 6 feels quick and accurate on a winding road however, with none of the dartiness we felt on the freeway. The brake-pedal feel was firm and responsive without being too touchy. The 2009 Mazda 6 also corners flat, and with the firm suspension has all the makings to be the sport sedan of the class. Mazda's stability control is standard across the board.
Interior & Exterior
The new style of the 2009 Mazda 6 definitely continues the themes established by the Mazda CX-9, RX-8 and CX-7. The front is wide and aggressive, with fender flares that bulge over the front wheels. The rest of the car is also assertively styled, eschewing the safe lines many other competitors take for a rakish roofline, short rear deck and a sense of cool that's lacking from other cars in this class. The only hiccups are the front fender flares, which can look a little forced from certain angles.
There's nothing forced about the interior though. This is a classy and elegant design, with cool touches, plenty of bells and whistles and some interesting features that are unique to the 2009 Mazda 6, or at the very least, uncommon for the class. The design is upscale, with a cool zebra-patterned plastic highlight instead of fake wood or the now-ubiquitous piano black. Mazda spent considerable effort toward improving the feel of its interior controls, and from our perspective they succeeded, with the 2009 Mazda 6 offering a more upscale feel than the previous car.
In addition to the standard array of features you expect in this class at this price – leather seats, navigation system, power everything – there are some that were unexpected. The 2009 Mazda 6 offers a blind spot detection system, usually found in higher end cars. It also offers driver's seat memory, keyless ignition and Bluetooth connectivity not just for a cell phone but for audio devices that support it.
The rear-seat room has also been significantly upgraded. There is more than an inch of additional leg room, and it's immediately felt, with the 2009 Mazda 6 easily passing the self-behind-self test of our 6-foot-2-inch-tall editor. Combine that with the new, much larger trunk, and we doubt many will miss the versatile hatchback version of the previous generation.
Next Page: 2009 Mazda 6 Summary & Specifications
See the Quick Look: 2009 Mazda 6 on MyRide.com