2009 Mazda MAZDA6 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 23, 2008

The 2009 Mazda6 could easily steal sales from the traditional class leaders if non-gearheads discover it.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the sporty, all-new Mazda6 sedan. Our team has also read competitive write-ups on the 2009 Mazda6 to develop this comprehensive review. Based on this extensive research, TheCarConnection.com can provide an expert synopsis of this mid-size sedan to help you make a smart purchase decision.

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.

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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.

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2009 Mazda MAZDA6

Styling

Fresh styling for the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 hints at the car's sporty nature, inside and out.

After years of disappointing sales with the previous Mazda6 Mazda, the company goes back to the drawing board to create the all-new 2009 Mazda6. The resulting car is bigger and much more sharply styled than its predecessor.

Older models of the Mazda6 came in two body styles, but for the 2009 Mazda Mazda6, Car and Driver reports that there is "only the four-door sedan." For the 2009 Mazda Mazda6, ConsumerGuide notes that "four trim levels are available: SV, Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring," while an "i" or "s" suffix denotes either a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine under the hood, respectively. There's not much in the way of external differences between the trims, and Cars.com lists the few differences as either "16-inch steel wheels with full covers (standard on SV-I and Sport-i)" versus 17- or 18-inch "alloy wheels" on the more upscale trims, along with "LED taillamps" for the Grand Touring models and "dual exhaust outlets" for the V-6s.

Other than those minor differences, all Mazda6 sedans boast a body that Car and Driver says is "up 6.9 inches in length, 2.3 in width from before." Mazda designers have done some impressive work with the extra sheetmetal, crafting an exterior that reviews read by TheCarConnection.com love. Automobile Magazine says that, "when viewed from behind, its clean design and twin sculpted exhaust diffusers (on V-6 models) are pure Lexus," and they appreciate that "its curvaceous body panels look elegant and aren't ruined by any fussy details." AutoWeek adds that the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 looks "nicely distinctive" and "certainly more stylish than the big sellers in the field." Cars.com describes the Mazda6 as having "a long hood with pronounced front fender flares that flow through the headlamps and mold with the front bumper." Motor Trend reviewers are impressed and feel that the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 has "a far more compelling presence than the outgoing iteration" thanks to "a sleeker profile, while expanded width and track dimensions impart a more aggressive stance."

The interior of the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 gets lots of love from reviewers as well, and for good reason. Automobile feels that "the interior is more elegantly designed" than any of those found on its competitors, and Road & Track reviewers love the "refined interior." ConsumerGuide appreciates that "all the gauges and controls are logically placed and easy to read," and they note the "large, stylized gauges behind the steering wheel blend form and function well." Motor Trend chimes in by writing that "a 'cockpit' motif carries over up front," and "the dash and center stack show a clear Mazda imprint, with conventional analog gauges replaced by electroluminescent units in the top two trim grades." Cars.com finds more to love about the Mazda6's interior and says "the new rounded instruments and a three-spoke steering wheel integrate nicely into the T-shaped instrument panel."

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8

2009 Mazda MAZDA6

Performance

The 2009 Mazda Mazda6 can zoom with the best of its competition.

With a slogan like "zoom zoom," Mazda should be expected to include sporty performance characteristics across the lineup. The 2009 Mazda Mazda6 fits the bill, combining athletic handling and peppy acceleration with a surprisingly accommodating ride.

The 2009 Mazda Mazda6 is available with two engine options: a four-cylinder that Car and Driver says offers "2.5 liters and 170 horsepower" and a more potent "60-degree, 3.7-liter V-6 of 272 horsepower." Both engines fare well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, and even the thrifty four-cylinder offers sufficient power for most driving. Motor Trend describes the 2.5-liter engine as "smooth and free-revving," calling it "impressive in its own right." ConsumerGuide says that "the 4-cylinder is peppy from a stop and adequate during highway passing maneuvers," and the only situation where they long for more power is "on long hill climbs." The available V-6 on the Mazda6 offers an expected performance boost, and Motor Trend expects that the new engine "should drop 0-to-60 mph times for 's' models into the sixes." Automobile Magazineadds that the V-6 has enough power to easily "light up the front tires at half-throttle off the line."

Two transmission choices are offered on the 2009 Mazda Mazda6, at least with the four-cylinder engine. AutoWeek says "the four comes with your choice of a new six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, while the V6 gets a six-speed automatic only." Reviewers appreciate the performance of both transmissions, and the consensus is that it's hard to go wrong with either of the Mazda6's transmissions. Car and Driver reports that "the six-speed manual is paired with smooth accelerator gain and a well-coordinated shifter," while AutoWeek reviewers "fancied the four-cylinder manual model" as well, claiming that "the manual transmission allowed [them] to get the most out of the chassis." The automatic also earns rave reviews, with Automobile Magazineextolling the "perfectly smooth, rev-matched downshifts and quick, well-timed upshifts." ConsumerGuide adds that "both automatics are smooth and responsive," common praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.

The Mazda Mazda6 doesn't come close to matching popular hybrid models in terms of fuel efficiency, but the four-cylinder version certainly won't break the bank. ConsumerGuide rates the Mazda6 right in the middle of the class for fuel economy, with EPA numbers that range from 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for the four-cylinder with the manual transmission to 21/30 mpg for the four-cylinder automatic—figures that Road & Track calls "very respectable." The bigger and more powerful V-6 gets decidedly worse fuel economy numbers, which the EPA pegs at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg on the highway, but Road & Track points out that "both the 4- and 6-cylinder engines run on lower-cost regular unleaded gasoline."

The Mazda family has featured increasingly sporty handling of late, and the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 is very capable on twisting roads. Reviewers love the steering feel, which Car and Driver says is "light and alive, yet it grooves in on straight-ahead when the path calls for it." ConsumerGuide reports that "steering is on center and reactive," while "close quarters maneuverability is aided by a relatively tight turning circle." Between the two engine choices, Automobile Magazine declares that the four-cylinder is "without question" the better handling option, since "the lighter engine gives the four-pot 6 balance unlike any other large front-wheel-drive car." One of the most impressive performance features of the Mazda Mazda6 is that it achieves its performance without sacrificing ride quality, and ConsumerGuide says "the ride is absorbent over nearly every surface, particularly on four-cylinder models." The brakes are equally impressive, with Car and Driver commenting "slack has been zeroed out of brake-pedal motion."

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2009 Mazda MAZDA6

Comfort & Quality

Mazda designers set the bar high for themselves, and with the 2009 Mazda Mazda6, they've cleared it with plenty of room to spare.

The 2009 Mazda Mazda6 is an improvement over the outgoing model in every way in comfort and quality.

The 6 sedan has grown significantly since last year, and the extra space is most noticeable in terms of passenger room and comfort. Automobile Magazine is pleased to find that the interior is "much larger than before," and "whereas the last 6 was at the bottom of its class in interior space, the new one is at the top." This means that up to five passengers can fit comfortably inside the Mazda6. In the front seats, ConsumerGuide says there is "ample headroom and legroom for average sized" drivers, while the "6's standard tilt and telescopic steering wheel is a plus" and makes it much easier to find a comfortable driving position. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com gush over the available rear passenger room, and Motor Trend reports that the available "head and legroom" allow "two full-size-adults—or three in a pinch—to travel in real comfort." Road & Track also appreciates the increased room, stating that the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 features a "6-percent-larger passenger compartment, making it the new class leader."

Added volume also finds its way into the trunk of the Mazda, and overall usability has been greatly increased. Motor Trend notes that "cargo capacity...steps up by 10 percent, to...16.6 cubic feet," which Cars.com points out is "slightly larger than that of the Malibu and Accord." Cars.com further mentions that "all trim levels get 60/40-split folding rear seats with remote capability," but ConsumerGuide finds that those seats are "difficult to fold." Another improvement in terms of cargo space comes in the form of increased interior storage; ConsumerGuide says that the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 "has decent small items storage space including a large glovebox and deep, two-tier center console," but they're disappointed that "there are no rear door pockets."

The Mazda6 has taken a great leap forward in terms of overall quality for the 2009 model year. Regarding the outgoing version of the Mazda6 Mazda, AutoWeek says "quality was the No. 1 reject reason" that consumers listed when asked why they wouldn't buy a Mazda6, so Mazda designers knew exactly where to focus for 2009. Their effort definitely pays off, and the materials inside the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 are top-notch. Car and Driver raves about the "excellent graining on the dash and dour panels, finished with a perfect satin sheen," and Automobile Magazine feels that the interior is "of equal or better quality than Mazda's main competitors." Motor Trend piles on further praise, and reviewers there appreciate the "inviting balance of textured plastic to soft-touch surfaces," which is "tastefully accented by bright and matte metallic trim." In terms of build quality, AutoWeek reviewers report that the new Mazda6 they drove "felt solid and looked fit and trim both inside and out."

One of the other chief complaints about the old Mazda Mazda6 is that it suffers from quite a bit of road noise. While the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 isn't perfectly quiet, it represents a significant improvement in terms of interior decibel levels. ConsumerGuide is pleasantly surprised to find that "the 4-cylinder is nearly silent at cruise," although the "V6's buzz is borderline intrusive during acceleration." Car and Driver reviewers are also impressed, claiming that "noises, both road and wind, are dialed way back."

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2009 Mazda MAZDA6

Safety

Very few competitors can match the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 when it comes to safety features, but crash scores aren’t all in yet.

In an era of increasing consumer consciousness when it comes to vehicle safety, the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 offers safety features that easily exceed its price range. Crash-test ratings are few and far between at the moment, but early indications are that the all-new Mazda6 will score very well in terms of crash safety.

Being an all-new model that just arrived in showrooms in August, the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 hasn't been thoroughly crash tested at the time of this writing. The federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not conducted any tests on the new Mazda6 Mazda, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has had a chance to run the Mazda6 through a preliminary test. In that frontal offset test, the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 earned the highest possible rating from the IIHS, "good," for occupant protection. In its detailed results report, the IIHS comments that "dummy movement was well controlled," and "measures taken from the head, neck, and chest indicate low risk of injuries." The one blemish on the Mazda6's report from the IIHS comes in the right leg injury results, where the IIHS claims that "forces on the right tibia indicate that injuries to the lower leg would be possible."

Unlike some previous versions of the Mazda Mazda6, in which side impact airbags were only an optional feature, the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 comes loaded with a full complement of the latest safety gear. Cars.com reviewers find that all Mazda Mazda6 vehicles feature "standard side-impact airbags" on the front seats, as well as "standard side curtain airbags" and "a blind-spot monitoring" system that is optional on Touring models and standard on the Grand Touring versions. The Mazda6 also features several electronic safety aids, including "dynamic stability control on all models," according to AutoWeek. Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, such as the one from Road & Track, show that "traction control" and "ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution" and "tire-pressure monitoring" all come standard on the Mazda6. In a nod to those who frequent more crime-ridden areas, Cars.com notes that the Mazda Mazda6 includes a "standard smart key that immobilizes the engine in a theft attempt."

Driver visibility on the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 is pretty good, and this helps make the Mazda6 Mazda feel "a full size smaller than it is once you're moving," according to Automobile Magazine. Reviewers at ConsumerGuide point out the "wide C-pillars somewhat impede visibility to the rear corners," but that's why Mazda offers the blind-spot alert system.

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2009 Mazda MAZDA6

Features

High-tech, convenient, affordable, and desirable—the features on the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 have it all.

The Japanese are known for their affinity for high-tech devices, and that is definitely reflected in the features found on the 2009 Mazda Mazda6. Even the base Mazda6 Mazda offers compelling standard features, and the options list on the top-end models seems to be aimed squarely at entry-level luxury competitors.

The standard features list varies across the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 lineup, but for entry-level consumers, the base Mazda Mazda6 SV certainly doesn't want for features. ConsumerGuide writes that every Mazda6 comes with a "tilt/telescopic steering wheel w/radio controls," an "AM/FM/CD/MP3 player," full power accessories, and "automatic-off headlights." Moving up to the Touring and Grand Touring versions of the Mazda6 Mazda, Cars.com says that additional standard features include a "leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob," along with 17- or 18-inch "alloy wheels" and stylish "LED taillamps" on the Grand Touring models. Motor Trend also notes that Mazda6 "Grand Tourings get full leather trim, dual-zone A/C, and dual power/heated buckets as well as Xenon headlamps."

When it comes to options, the 2009 Mazda Mazda6 doesn't disappoint. The Mazda6 offers options in both packages and as stand-alone features. Road & Track even goes so far as to say that the "available luxury amenities" make the Mazda6 "a poor man's Lexus." The feature that gets the most attention in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is the optional sound system, which Road & Track says is a "sensational sounding 333-watt, 10-speaker-plus-subwoofer sound system by Bose." According to ConsumerGuide, that sound system is available through the "Moon Roof and Bose" Package, which also incorporates a "power sunroof" and "satellite radio." The available Convenience Package "adds GT-like upgrades to the Touring" trim of the Mazda6, according to Motor Trend, and includes features like the blind-spot alert system and a wireless cell phone link. Cars.com adds that an "optional DVD navigation system with 7-inch display, touch-screen and voice-activated controls" is available on the Mazda6 Grand Touring. Rounding out the options list is a "remote engine start" feature that ConsumerGuide says is available on all Mazda6 models except the SV.

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Styling 9
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 8
Features 9
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