2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge

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Mazda Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2009 Mazda6

Los Angeles, California – If you’re in the market for a mid-size family car, the Mazda6, fully redesigned and re-engineered for 2009, is a vehicle that definitely warrants your attention. But as far as the Mazda6 is concerned, that’s been the case since its introduction in 2004 when it was named “Best Family Car of the Year” by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

The problem for this model is that there’s so much competition in the Family Car segment, and Honda and Toyota are so dominant (along with many other formidable competitors like the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, and even Mazda’s own compact Mazda3), that the Mazda6 may get overlooked.

2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge

That would be a mistake, as it continues to be terrific car, arguably the best-looking mid-size vehicle that you can buy.

For 2009, the Mazda6 arrives as a sedan only, in GS and GT trim with a choice of inline four-cylinder (I4) and V6 engines starting at $22,495 for the GS I4 model. Gone, unfortunately, are the clever “Sport” hatchback-that-looks-like-a-sedan version and the wagon due to a lack of interest in the U.S. where sales volumes typically dictate what we get in Canada.

Like other cars in this segment the 2009 Mazda6 is predictably larger. It’s longer by 195 millimetres, wider by 60 mm and its wheelbase gains 115 mm (weight is up by approximately 100-150 kilograms as well, depending on the model). These are substantial increases, and happily, they have the effect of making the Mazda6 the sleekest-looking choice in the segment (and the longest). The increased size also provides excellent legroom for front and rear-seat passengers, and raises trunk capacity by 39-litres to 469.

The lowest cost Mazda6 — the $22,495 GS I4 — arrives with a superb six-speed manual transmission and a high-revving 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine making 170 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 167 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm (up from 2.3 litres and 156 horsepower). This is a real driver’s car, responsive and quick, but not lacking in standard equipment which includes air conditioning, power windows (with auto up/down), power locks and mirrors, six-speaker CD audio, 17-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with antilock and electronic brake force distribution, traction control and front, side and side-curtain airbags.

2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge

Additional standard features include tilt and telescoping steering wheel with integrated cruise and audio controls, auxiliary audio input and 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks. A five-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode is available for $1,100 more.

The GS model can also be purchased with a Ford-derived 3.7-litre V6 engine that generates 272 hp at 6,250 rpm and 269 lb.-ft. torque at 4,250 rpm, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission for $27,495 (manual is not available with the V6). In addition to the standard features listed above, the GS V6 includes fog lights and LED taillights

An optional $1,695 a Comfort Package is available for GS models that adds dynamic stability control (DSC), eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake, rain-sensing windshield wipers and auto on/off headlights.

A popular configuration is expected to be the four-cylinder GS with automatic for $23,595. The Comfort Package, which we’d recommend because of the DSC, would take the price to $25,290.

2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge

However, the GT trim level is also offered with I4 and V6 engines. At $27,395 for the GT I4 and $33,095 for the GT V6, this trim level supplies the GS features with Comfort Package and adds a leather interior, heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, LED taillights, four-way power passenger seat, auto-dimming mirrors, six-CD audio, Homelink and ambience lighting. Again, $1,100 buys the five-speed automatic transmission for the GT I4.

Buyers choosing a GT model also have access to a Luxury Package ($1,840 for the I4 and $1,965 for the V6) which includes a smart keyless entry system with push-button starting, Bose ten-speaker audio with surround sound, Bluetooth connectivity and Sirius satellite radio readiness along with HID headlights. The Luxury Package for V6 models also includes a Blind Spot Monitoring System and sill-mounted welcome lighting. A $2,600 Navigation System is available for GT models only.

2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge

With generous standard equipment and competitive pricing, the Mazda6 is definitely a contender in the midsize segment, but what really sets the car apart are its fine build quality, excellent handling and ride, torquey, powerful engines and visual appeal.

Franz Von Holzhauzen, Director of Design, N.A., used the word “beautiful” many times during his presentation to describe the new Mazda6, but I had already used that adjective in my notes before the event began. Compared with its competitors, the Mazda6 possesses a quiet, modern elegance; a form that gets your attention because of its class. From the complex sculpting of the hood and fenders, to the flowing character lines along the side and coupe-like profile of the roof, rear window and decklid, the Mazda6 represents a beautifully rendered expression of Mazda’s evolving design identity. It’s trendsetting, as opposed to just being trendy.

On the road, initial driving impressions are of a quick, responsive, competent car; very well balanced, with a smooth ride and excellent brakes. The I4 engine willingly revs to 7,000 rpm and is perfectly matched to the short-throw, six-speed manual transmission. The five-speed automatic finds and holds the correct gear without fuss and the V6/six-speed automatic combination adds a level of muscularity and substance that matches its formidable power. I found the cars a joy to drive.

2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6
2009 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge

Criticisms are few: even though it’s bigger than the outgoing model, the 2009 Mazda6 could still use some extra interior width. Front seat occupants are noticeably closer together than is the case in a Honda Accord, for example. And that coupe-like roofline? Looks great, but watch your head getting into the rear seat. The navigation system, still pricey at $2,600, didn’t recognize our swank Westlake Village host hotel, which was something of an annoyance when we veered from our prescribed drive route.

Fuel consumption numbers for the four-cylinder models are good at 10.4/6.9 L/100 km city/highway with the manual transmission and 9.7/6.7 for the automatic. The V6 at 12.1/8.0 city/highway is great if you’re downsizing from a thirsty SUV, but average in comparison with similar midsize sedan models.

Still, you get a lot of performance for your litre of regular grade gasoline in any 2009 Mazda6, along with great styling inside and out, a high content level and fine build quality. And while Mazda Canada would love to sell many more of these vehicles (they’re predicting 9,000 for 2009, up from 6,000), buyers will still enjoy a level of exclusivity behind the wheel of a Mazda6.

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