2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon
Click image to enlarge


by Greg Wilson

Sleek styling, great handling, and a roomy cargo area – it turns out you can have your cake and eat it too! After spending a week with the new Mazda6 Sport Wagon GT-V6, I couldn’t help thinking that this is a tantalizingly cheap alternative to an Audi A4 Avant or BMW 3-Series wagon. Mazda6 Sport Wagons start at $26,995 and top out at under $34,000 with everything. Hmm.

In the looks department, the Mazda6 Wagon is a knock-out – especially with the optional GFX package which includes the front air dam, side sills, rear valance, top spoiler and body colour grille. Coming or going, this car turns heads.

The interior too is top rate – although some may not like the extensive silver trim on the centre instrument panel. My GT had the leather seats and shift knob, backlit red gauges, and the graphite and titanium accents. It all looks pretty expensive and well-made with the possible exception of the dash-top storage bin and the aforementioned plastic-made-to-look-like-metal centre control panel.

The Mazda6 Wagon is slightly longer (+35 mm), taller (+15 mm) and heavier (113 kg) than the Mazda6 sedan, but it retains the same 220 horsepower 3.0 litre V6 engine, standard 5 speed manual transmission, and fully independent suspension.
Gas mileage is marginally worse than the sedan.

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon
Click image to enlarge

Both Mazda6 Sport Wagon GS-V6 and GT-V6 models are well-equipped. The 3.0 litre V6 engine and 5 speed manual transmission are standard on the GS, along with 205/60R-16 inch radials and steel wheels, four wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD (electronic brake differential), power windows, locks and mirrors; remote entry, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, 60/40 folding seatbacks, sliding cargo cover, and rear wiper/washer.

The Mazda6 Wagon GT-V6 adds 215/50R-17 inch tires and alloy wheels, fog lights, a premium Bose stereo with 6 disc CD changer, 4 speakers, 2 tweeters and subwoofer, steering wheel audio controls, heated leather seats, automatic climate control, homelink garage/lights control, 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and hand brake; side and curtain airbags, anti-theft alarm,

Optional on the GS-V6 and standard on the GT V6 is a Sport Package ($900) which includes 17 inch tires and alloy wheels, fog lights, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and hand brake.

Optional on both GS-V6 and GT-V6 is the GFX package ($1,765) which includes front air dam, body-coloured grille, side sills, rear skirt, roof spoiler, dual exhausts with chrome tips, sporty instrument panel trim and red back-lit gauges, and tilt/slide glass moonroof with sunshade. A premium Bose stereo with 6 disc CD changer, 4 speakers, 2 tweeters and subwoofer is part of the optional GFX package on the GS-V6, but is standard equipment on the GT-V6.


Driving Impressions

All wagons get a standard 220 horsepower 3.0 litre V6 engine which I found smooth, quiet and powerful. At idle, it’s difficult to tell if the engine is even running. Most of the time, the engine can be barely heard, and wind noise is minimal. Tire noise is the most audible sound, but that may be because the car is so quiet.

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon
Click image to enlarge

Some may bemoan the fact that Mazda’s excellent 2.3 litre four cylinder engine is not offered in the Wagon. This would have made the wagon more affordable for many buyers, and more fuel-efficient, but Mazda has decided to keep the wagon upscale. Perhaps that will change if enough buyers complain.

With 220 horsepower available from the 3.0 litre twin cam, 24 valve V6, 0 to 100 km/h goes by in about 8.5 seconds, slightly slower than the Mazda6 sedan. That’s because the wagon weighs about 113 kilograms more. Power delivery is smooth and even, and my only criticism is that it could use a little more low-end torque. Cruising on the freeway at 100 km/h, the engine turns over just 2200 rpm at 100 km/h in top gear and 2600 at 120 km/h.

Fuel consumption, according to Transport Canada, is 12.6 l/100 km (23 mpg) in the city and 8.2 l/100 km (35 mpg) on the highway, a bit thirsty.

While the wagon comes with a standard manual transmission (one of the few to do so), it’s also available with an optional ($1,300) 5 speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode. I found this transmission very responsive to kick-down and shifts were smooth in automatic mode. Overall, it’s a great engine/transmission combination.

To engage the manual mode, you shift the lever to the right to a separate gate – then push forwards to change down, pull back to change up – that’s the opposite of many manumatic transmissions. The manual shifts are pretty quick and add a sporty dimension when driving outside of the city.

The Mazda6 Wagon also has standard ‘all-speed’ traction control which limits wheelspin of the driving wheels in slippery conditions at any speed – better than some systems which only work at low speeds.

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon
Click image to enlarge

For a front-wheel-drive station wagon that has a 60/40 front/rear weight distribution, the Mazda6 Sport Wagon handles really, really well. Like the sedan and hatchback, the wagon has a fully independent suspension (front independent double wishbone, rear independent multi-link), and the GT features grippy Michelin Pilot 215/50R-17 inch radials. I found the Wagon’s ride smooth over regular pavement, but concrete expansion joints and manhole covers aren’t absorbed too well. The Mazda6 wagon feels very stable under braking, and hard cornering produces mild, controllable understeer.

Steering (rack and pinion engine rpm sensing variable power assist) is responsive and well-weighted, but its turning circle of 11.8 metres (38.7 feet) is a bit wide for a mid-size car.

Enhancing the pleasant driving experience is superb outward visibility. Windows all around provide the visibility needed to make lane changes quickly without hesitation. The rear seat doesn’t have a centre head restraint, enhancing visibility through the rear view mirror – but a third head restraint would be a good idea for the centre passenger.

Overall, I’d say the Mazda6 GT-V6 Wagon is probably the sportiest wagon on the market starting under $35,000.


Interior

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon
Folding down the split rear seats is very easy thanks to levers on either side of the cargo compartment. Click images to enlarge

The Mazda6 Wagon’s passenger compartment has plenty of headroom and legroom for four adults, but five is a squeeze. My top-of-the-line GT-V6 with the optional GFX package had a sporty, expensive-looking interior. Stand-out features include the sporty round gauges backlit in red (which include a useful gear indicator that shows what gear you’re in at any given time); and the stitched leather seats, steering wheel, gear knob and hand brake contrast nicely with the bright silver centre console, graphite trim across the dash, and chromed door handles. A tilt/telescoping steering wheel is standard, and my car had the 8-way power seats. One complaint, I found the steering wheel too low to see the top of the gauges, and raising the steering wheel just wasn’t a comfortable driving position.

On top of the dash is a covered storage area, useful for sunglasses, garage door openers, pens, notepads, or any other items you might need in a hurry.

Just below that is an illuminated red display that includes a digital clock, radio station frequency, fan speed, ventilation mode, and temperature setting for the automatic climate control which also doubles as an outside temperature gauge.

Below that are the heater and A/C controls – the unique round dials for the heater include rotary and push-button operation – for example, the left dial is turned for fan speed and pushed for turning the heater on or off. The optional steering wheel controls also include radio volume, seek and cruise control functions.

Other interior features I liked were the hidden cupholders, centre armrest/storage with a powerpoint inside, and a rear wiper with intermittent setting.

The GT-V6 offers standard side airbags in the front seats, and side curtain airbags for both rows of passengers – but strangely, the GS model does not offer these airbags at all.

At the rear, the hatch is easy to lift up and the roomy cargo area is fully lined. Folding down the split rear seats is very easy thanks to levers on either side of the cargo compartment – just pull the lever and down they go! With the rear seats up the cargo area is 39 inches long by 41 inches wide. With both seats folded, the cargo bed is over six feet long.


Safety

The Mazda6 sedan has already been crash tested, and it did well in both the 35 mph frontal crash test performed by the NHTSA, and the 40 mph offset crash test done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. I expect the Wagon would be as good or better.

In terms of predicted reliability, Consumer Reports rates the Mazda6 models “better than average”.


Competitors

There aren’t many mid-sized wagons on the market to compete with the Mazda6 – Nissan, Toyota and Honda don’t make a mid-size wagon. Ford makes the Taurus, Chevrolet makes the Malibu Maxx, and Subaru makes the AWD Legacy and Outback, but none of these are as sporty as the Mazda6.


Verdict

It’s hard to find fault with the new Mazda6 Wagon – it’s sporty, powerful, handles well, holds plenty of cargo, and is well-priced. Fuel consumption is a bit thirsty, and it would be nice to see a base model offered with the 160 horsepower 2.3 litre four cylinder engine. As well, the GS-V6 Wagon model doesn’t come with side or curtain airbags. Other than that, it’s a winner.


Technical Data: 2004 Mazda6 GT-V6 Sport Wagon

Base price GS-V6 $26,995
Base price GT-V6 $31,495
Options $1,300 (5-speed automatic w/manual shift mode)
Freight $925
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $33,820
Type 4-door, 5 passenger mid-size station wagon
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 220 @ 6300 rpm
Torque 192 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Transmission 5 speed automatic w/manual mode (std. 5 speed manual)
Tires 215/50R-17
Curb weight 1575 kg (3472 lb.)
Wheelbase 2675 mm (105.3 in.)
Length 4770 mm (187.8 in.)
Width 1780 mm ( 70.1 in.)
Height 1455 mm (57.3 in.)
Cargo area 953 litres (33.7 cu. ft.) rear seats up
Fuel consumption City: 12.6 l/100 km (23 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.2 l/100 km (35 mpg)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca