For 2005, the Mazda6 adds two new models: along with the sedan, there’s also a Sport hatchback and a Sport Wagon. The Sport looks almost identical to the sedan, but its large rear hatch opens and its seats flip down to make loading cargo simplicity in itself. The Sport Wagon retains the Mazda6 sedan’s front end but with a rear wagon body.

Two engines are used across the three lines. On the sedan and Sport hatchback, the GS-I4 and GT-I4 use a 2.3-litre four cylinder, while the GS-V6 and GT-V6 trim lines use a 3.0-litre V6. The Sport Wagon uses the 3.0-litre exclusively. All use a five-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a four-speed automatic with sport mode on the four-cylinder, or a six-speed sport mode automatic on the V6.

On the sedan and Sport hatchback, the GS-I4 includes speed-sensitive variable power steering, four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch steel wheels, variable intermittent wipers, CD player with six speakers, air conditioning, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, cruise control, 60/40 folding rear seat, floor mats, and tilt and telescopic wheel.

The GT-I4 adds ABS and traction control, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, six-disc CD with wheel-mounted audio controls, automatic climate control, power sunroof, garage door opener, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-trimmed upholstery with heated seats, leather-wrapped wheel, and side and curtain airbags. The V6 versions are similar, but with a ground effects package and rear spoiler on the sedan GT-V6, and the Sport GT-I4 and Sport GT-V6.

On the Sport wagon, the GS-V6 includes speed-sensitive steering, ABS, traction control, 16-inch steel wheels, power heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper, CD player with six speakers, manual air conditioning, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, cruise control, and 60/40 folding rear seatback.

The GT-V6 adds 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, six-disc CD changer with wheel-mounted controls, automatic air conditioning, garage door opener, heated front seats, leather-trimmed upholstery with eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped wheel, side and curtain airbags, and anti-theft alarm.

Like the smaller Mazda3, the Mazda6 exhibits qualities usually found in cars well beyond its price range. Steering is direct and responsive, the ride is comfortable, and the fit-and-finish is superb. There is a great deal of legroom throughout, although the cabin is a bit narrower than some of the competition. Carrying cargo is a cinch; on the sedan model, pulling latches in the trunk releases the seats, which spring forward with no extra help to form a flat floor. On the wagon, latches near the liftgate achieve the same thing, and you don’t have to remove the headrests, no matter how far back the front seats are on their tracks. Both wagon trim lines come with a moveable bar that has a retractable barrier cargo net on one side, and a cargo cover on the other. The Sport also offers impressive cargo capacity and is almost impossible to differentiate from the sedan, should a carry-all vehicle’s appearance not be to your liking.

The smaller engine is fine for this car, but the V6 makes it even more fun to drive, with impressive acceleration and good, firm brakes to bring it quickly to a halt. Many people automatically think Camry or Accord for import-brand mid-sized sedans, but the Mazda6 needs to be on the list when you’re comparison-shopping.

The Mazda6 is built in Flat Rock, Michigan.

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