For 2009, style finds a new home at Mazda.
If you’re going to position your bread-and-butter four-door as a “sport sedan”, it had better look and act the part.
Last season’s Mazda 6 pulled it off in style, but the new version roaring out of the gate for the 2009 model year cranks that up by several notches.
The Mazda 6 plays against some powerful big-leaguers, headed by the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. That list doesn’t include a number of fringe players chasing after the few crumbs left behind by the leaders.
With the current shift away from pickups and sport utility vehicles, the midsize car segment stands to gain ground this year, making this the perfect time for Mazda to launch its best effort to date at sedan stardom.
The Michigan-built Mazda 6 certainly earns full marks for style. The designers appear to have been dazzled — and rightfully so — by their work on the rotary-engine-powered RX-8 coupe-ina-sedan-body and have attached similar broad-shouldered fenders to the 6. The sweep of the roofline makes the trunk less prominent and the significantly larger rear glass simply adds to the Mazda 6’s coupe-like aspirations.
However, behind the attractive smokeand-mirrors styling resides a true-blue Mazda sedan that is more than six inches longer and 2.3 inches wider than its predecessor, offers greater interior space (including more rear leg room) and delivers 10 percent more trunk space.
Also improved by 10 percent is the car’s ability to slice through the wind, which helps both fuel efficiency and highspeed stability. That makes the Mazda 6 more than just a pretty face.
For the 2009 model year, the sedan is the only 6 being offered. A hatchback and wagon, part of the previous 6’s portfolio, are no longer in the picture.
Improved steering as well as suspension upgrades and revisions further complement the 6’s sporty nature while creating a more comfortable ride. Even the turning radius has been reduced by more than three feet for improved agility in tight spots.
The base engine is a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder that replaces the previous 156-horsepower 2.3-liter engine. Optional is a 3.7-liter V6 borrowed from Mazda's CX-9 tall wagon that produces 273 horses, a whopping 61 more than the outgoing 212-horsepower 3.0-liter V6.
The four-cylinder can be had with an all-new six-speed manual transmis sion, or optional five-speed automatic while the V6 works exclusively with the automatic.
The Mazda 6’s 2009 lineup begins with the i SV model that comes with air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel basic audio system, 16-inch wheels and six airbags. Stability and traction control which help keep the driver out of trouble under slippery and adverse driving con ditions, is also part of the base package.
The Sport adds automatic speed con trol, keyless remote entry and audio input jack for the stereo (to bring along your portable music player), while the Touring edition bumps up the content with a key less push-button starter, eight-way power driver’s seat, fancier gauges, sliding floor console armrest and 17-inch wheels.
The premium-grade Grand Touring induces buyers with dual-zone climate control, heated leather seats and outside mirrors, power-adjustable passenger chair, rain-sensing wipers and xenon (very bright) headlights. Buyers also get a blind-spot monitoring system that detects traffic approaching from either side of the vehicle and cautions the driver by activating a warning buzzer and flash ing lights on the exterior mirror.
On the option list are 18-inch wheels moonroof, Bose-brand audio package and a navigation system, to name just a few the goodies.
Note than all models except the base SV can be ordered with either four- or six-cylinder powerplants, allowing for the most fuel-efficient engine/transmis sion combo to be combined with even the most luxurious trim level.
The latest Mazda 6 should prove to be a sit-up-and-take-notice model with its flashier looks and added performance Depending on your tastes, the choice of mid-size sedan just got a whole lot harder . . . or easier.