- Tasteful, sporty styling
- More powerful and efficient engines
- Agile handling
- Lack of contrast on uplevel instruments
- No rear-seatback release in trunk
The 2009 Mazda6 could easily steal sales from the traditional class leaders if non-gearheads discover it.
The all-new 2009 Mazda Mazda6 is designed expressly for the North American market. It seems that this market didn't appreciate the trim dimensions of the previous 6, so Mazda made it larger in every dimension inside and out. And while the previous-generation Mazda6 featured three different body styles, the five-door and wagon body styles have been discontinued. What remains is a sporty sedan with fine driving manners, plenty of room, and a surfeit of features.
The Mazda6 wears its new size well. The sedan is attractive from just about any angle, but the front end is especially handsome because of the sculpted front fenders and broad wheel arches. The look is powerful, while showing a family resemblance to the high-performance Mazda RX-8 and MazdaSpeed3. Unlike the recent styling missteps by Toyota and Honda on their mid-size cars, Mazda got the Mazda6 right. The shape is also aerodynamically smooth, a characteristic that helps improve highway fuel economy.
Styling inside follows the sporty theme set by the exterior. Lines flow well, and the hooded instruments play up the car's more aggressive driving personality. The three-spoke steering wheel and other major controls are well placed and easy to use. White-on-black instrumentation is standard on the Mazda6 Sport, while red-on-black gauge faces are used on Touring and Grand Touring editions. The main gripe with the interior concerns these uplevel electroluminescent gauges. They look great at night, but on bright days, their reduced contrast makes them almost illegible.
With the performance from the 2009 Mazda Mazda6's more powerful and efficient engines, a driver needs to be able to see those instruments in order to monitor his or her velocities. There are two engines available across the line that includes three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower is the most economical and achieves 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway with a six-speed manual and 21/30 mpg with the optional five-speed automatic.
A 3.7-liter V-6 producing 272 horsepower is an engine experts from TheCarConection.com have come to know and like in the CX-9 crossover. The Mazda6 V-6 benefits from variable valve timing and other expected technologies (overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and so on), but unlike some other vehicles in the class, it hits its horsepower target running on regular gas, not premium.
TheCarConnection.com has driven each combination and liked them all. The 2.5-liter/six-speed package is good enough to make you want to drive a manual transmission car again (or for the first time). This combination feels lively while maintaining a civilized ride and maximizing fuel economy. In a trend emerging across the industry, the 2.5-liter is available across the Mazda6 trim levels, including the highest-line Grand Touring.
With the big six (the 3.7-liter is the largest V-6 available among the Mazda6's competitors) performance was certainly zoom-zoomier than with the four-cylinder. The 272 horsepower comes on strong but without any ruckus. Rolling on 18-inch wheels and tires that are standard on the Grand Touring trim level, handling is sharp for a mainstream sedan. Fuel economy for the 3.7-liter/six-speed automatic is 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.
The exterior's expanded dimensions pay big benefits inside, as the 2009 Mazda6 is now on par size-wise with all of its competitors. The new sedan's trunk is the largest in the class at 16.6 cubic feet, and when the rear seats are both folded, the practical cargo room expands dramatically. You can't carry as much as you could in a Chevy Suburban, but you'll be surprised at what will fit.
Mazda could have made using the fold-down feature a bit easier to handle. There are no releases in the trunk for the rear seatbacks. This means that you need to plan for your longer cargo ahead of time and fold the seats prior to putting whatever you're carrying into the trunk.
As with so many new cars, the 2009 Mazda6 is designed with driving safety in mind. Six airbags are standard (four in front with side-curtain airbags that extend to the second row). Anti-lock brakes, traction control, and dynamic stability control are also standard. Mazda's blind-spot monitoring system is available too. Because the Mazda6 is an all-new vehicle, it has not yet been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).Mazda is aiming the Mazda6 at the heart of the mid-size sedan market, so its three models carry various levels of equipment. In addition to the aforementioned performance and safety equipment, all the requisite options you'd expect to be optional are: push-button start, audio system with satellite radio and a built-in hard drive, nav system, rain-sensing wipers, and Bluetooth interface. If you need more options, you might want to move to a minivan or SUV.