Nobody asked me, but . . .

Mazda designers and engineers faced a serious dilemma as they gathered to create the next Mazda6.  The current model didn’t have the broad appeal of its direct family sedan Asian competitors—Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata—because it was smaller on the outside and on the inside.  It also trailed these competitors in quality and power.  But Mazda6 owners loved the handling and its rorty, sporty attitude.  So the new model would have to be roomier and more refined.  But could these characteristics be successfully mated to Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom spirit?  We shall see . . .

But first a bit about the details.  The Mazda6 comes in seven models ranging in price from $18,550 to $28,260 (plus $670 destination charges), and offering a choice of 2.5 liter 4-cylinder (with 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic) or 3.7-liter V6 (6-speed automatic only).  Place all four models—Mazda6, Camry, Accord and Sonata—in a bag, shake vigorously and with a blindfold on, pull one out and sit in the front and rear seats.  Now do the same with the other three and I defy you to  “feel” a size difference among them.

But remove the blindfold and viva la difference. The Mazda6 is clearly the styling leader with an exterior statement that that is bold and expressive, strongly Mazda in character (If you can’t see RX-8 in the front fenders, you forgot to remove the blindfold!) and sporty from stem to stern.  Who said “family sedan”= conservative?  It’s also slippery with an aero coefficient of drag of only 0.27.  That’s lower than a Porsche 911.

Inside?  Same story, chapter two.  Sporty, bold, refined, luxurious and elegant come to mind.  Mazda style but with a level of execution in the areas of fit, finish and quality materials that set the Mazda6 apart from any previous Mazda sedan.  In the i Grand Touring  4-cylinder with automatic  model I tested, ($25,810 MSRP) leather-trimmed seats are standard as are automatic dual-zone climate control, power driver and passenger seats, auto dimming inside and outside mirrors, a blind-sport warning system, and Xenon headlights and LED taillamps.  Gripes?  A couple but they are purely personal.  There’s too much lumbar for my back even with the support cranked all the way out.  And because I like to sit low behind the wheel (the better to lower the center of gravity) my line-of-sight for left-hand corners is slightly blocked by the outside mirror.

Front and  front side air bags are standard, along with front and rear side curtains and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The V6 model is a blast to drive and during the long lead introduction for the Mazda6 I had a chance to sample every version, along with its Toyota and Honda competition.  But I chose the all-aluminum 2.5-liter four for this test because it is exceptionally responsive (eagerly running to 6500 rpm), smooth-running and quiet.  It also exhibits strong low-speed pulling power with its ability to chirp the front tires on a wide-open-throttle start (closed road, professional driver, etc. etc.).  And while both the four cylinder and the 3.7-liter V6 sip regular fuel, the 4-cylinder is a more miserly sipper at an EPA estimated 21 mpg in the city and 30 mph on the highway, 4-5 mpg better than the V6.

No Mazda gets a DSA (Dynamic Seal of Approval) from me unless it exhibits steering linearity and precision; a flat, stable ride with minimal harshness and low noise; strong responsive brakes; and balanced, stable handling characteristics that provide the driver with control and the passengers with a sense of security.  The new Mazda6 receives an A+ in every area.

My 91-year-old mom said, “I just love how smoothly this car rides.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that two weeks before I had driven a number of Mazda6s along the mostly two-lane twisty Mulholland Drive that loosely follows the ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains north of Los Angles at speeds that would embarrass many sports cars.  And not only did I live to tell about it, but the balance and composure of the ’6 under these demanding conditions was nothing short of awesome.

So I guess you have the answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this report.  Size matters and so does sportiness.

The 2009 Mazda6: room with zoom.

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