2004 Mazda6 Sport GT
Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

There’s no doubt that Mazda takes its “zoom-zoom” image seriously and this is one of the keys to the company’s current success.

Comparing Japanese sedan lineups, only the Nissan Altima has anything like the flair of the Mazda6, with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry presenting a much more conservative look.

It’s hardly a surprise then that the Mazda flair extends to the five-door hatchback model that, with a companion (and equally smart-looking) station wagon, has joined the Mazda6 sedan.

My $30,795 Dark Grey Metallic Mazda6 Sport GT (hatchback) arrived in a somewhat unusual specification with a five-speed manual transmission and four-cylinder engine. This turned out to be a combination of choice, in my view, with the manual gearbox getting the most out of the 2.3-litre, 160-horsepower engine, and delivering the bonus of great fuel economy (a five-speed sport mode automatic transmission can be selected for $1,200).

If you think hatchbacks look gawky, you’re in for a surprise. The hatchback Mazda6 is, from all angles, virtually indistinguishable from the four-door sedan. True, the roofline is altered, creating a more acute angle for the rear window and a more dynamic look for the C-pillar. But the sedan itself is sporty-looking, and the hatchback functionality has certainly not detracted from the car’s dynamic profile (nor has it reduced interior headroom). On the contrary, the hatchback is even a bit racier than the four-door.

2004 Mazda6 Sport GT

2004 Mazda6 Sport GT
Click image to enlarge

At the rear you’ll find a spoiler and dual exhaust (suggesting a potent V6 under the hood, and why not?). The sides are decorated with body-coloured mouldings, sills, and big 17″ alloy wheels wearing 215/50-series tires. The front gets an air dam, fog lights, chrome grille surround with body-coloured grille insert; and striking green tint glass contrasts nicely with the grey metallic paint. The whole package is topped off with a roof-mounted antenna.

This car is a looker, that’s for sure: “A bit of a boy-racer, though,” said one of my neighbours (while another neighbour was nodding enthusiastically).

There’s substance to go with the style, however. Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock and electronic brake force distribution are standard, as is traction control – an unexpected feature in a four-cylinder car. Likewise, an exterior temperature gauge and steering-wheel mounted audio controls are welcome additions to the now-expected air conditioning (automatic in the Sport GT), power windows, doors, mirrors and mirrors found in most cars of this type.

The GT version is also equipped with a Bose audio system, leather trimmed upholstery, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, heated seats and an eight-way power driver’s seat, side impact airbags and front and rear side curtains (a GS version comes without these and some other options for $25,495).

2004 Mazda6 Sport GT

2004 Mazda6 Sport GT
Click image to enlarge

On the road, the car provides a smooth ride, even with the low-profile tires, and cruising at highway speeds is quiet and comfortable.

The seats gave good support over the long haul, and with the tilt/telescope steering column, a good driving position was easy to find. The instruments were easy to read, although they are illuminated with red lighting, which if you don’t like it, may be a concern. Controls are simple and easy to use, except for the some of the knobs for climate and audio, which were hard to differentiate at a glance, and because of the reflective surfaces, hard to read.

Acceleration from the four-cylinder engine is not as smooth as the equivalent powerplant from Honda (which truly is exceptional) but it’s by no means harsh. Once underway, engine noise recedes into the background, and wind noise around the car is generally low.

But it’s the hatchback that’s the big surprise to passers-by when you’re in the parking lot after shopping. Pop it open and heads seem to turn on cue.

2004 Mazda6 Sport GT
Click image to enlarge

“Hey, that’s a great idea!” said one gentleman while heading to his SUV, as if he had never actually encountered a hatchback before.

Yes, it is a good idea. Always was. Until U.S. market apathy just about killed every hatchback model on the North American market, most of which were sold to Canadians.

Although the rear seats don’t fold perfectly flat, you can still carry much larger objects than you can in a sedan, and you’re not driving a wagon (even a sport wagon is a bit too utilitarian for some).

For the buyer looking for some personality with practicality, the Mazda6 Sport could be the answer. The only competitor is the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, which gives you the room, but lacks the zoom.

Technical Data:

Base price (GS Sport) $25,495
Base price (GT Sport) $30,795
Freight $925
A/C Tax $100
Price as tested $31,820
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-size hatchback
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.3 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, VVT
Horsepower 160 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 155 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
Tires P215/50R-17 all-season
Curb weight 1,436 kg
Wheelbase 2,675 mm (105.3 in.)
Length 4,745 mm (186.8 in.)
Width 1780 mm (70.0 in.)
Height 1440 mm (56.7 in.)
cargo capacity 622 litres (22.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 9.7 l/100 km (29 mpg)
  Hwy: 6.8 l/100 km (42 mpg)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca