Improved for 2006, the Mazda 6 is the sports sedan of front-drive midsize cars. While the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are designed for mass appeal or, stated more cynically, for people who don't like cars, the Mazda 6 is designed for the driving enthusiast. Mazda6, as the company calls it, is not for everyone, and that's just fine with Mazda.
The Mazda 6 looks leaner than its competitors and the driving experience backs that up with agile handling and responsive engines. The Mazda 6 feels tighter in corners and holds the road better than Camry, Accord or Nissan Altima. It's lighter on its feet and stops quicker. In short, it's a better driver's car. Four-cylinder and V6 engines are available, each available with five-speed manual gearboxes or five- or six-speed automatics.
The Mazda 6 comes in sporty 5-Door hatchback and Sport Wagon styles in addition to the four-door Sports Sedan. The 5-Door excels at carrying cargo, yet it doesn't look like a hatchback; in fact, it takes a sharp eye to distinguish it from the sedan. The wagon is truly a sport wagon, better than the hatchback in terms of driving enjoyment, and it offers excellent cargo-hauling versatility with a flat cargo area when the seats are folded and practical features such as a dog fence and a cargo net integrated into the cargo cover.
The 2006 model year brings revisions to the entire Mazda 6 line. Mild styling revisions give it a cleaner look. New front seats are designed for greater comfort and support, new cloth fabrics, a new center console, new door panels, and other features make the cabin more comfortable and more convenient. The 3.0-liter V6 offers slightly more torque for 2006, improving performance off the line and improving drivability by making the engine more tractable. Fuel economy has been improved for both engines, and the four-cylinder engine used on 2006 Mazda 6i models is available with a new five-speed automatic, replacing the old four-speed. The brakes have been upgraded for 2006 with bigger ventilated front disc brakes designed to reduce stopping distances, resist brake fade and improve pedal feel. Also, 18-inch wheels and tires are available.
The new 2006 Mazdaspeed6 is a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive sedan carefully tuned by Mazda's performance division. The Mazdaspeed6 offers impressive levels of performance and handling yet we found it sufficiently comfortable for the daily commute. All-wheel drive helps tame its 274-horsepower turbocharged engine, its close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox is remarkable for its easy, smooth-shifting action, and its suspension is firm but not unbearably so. It comes with sporty fabric or leather upholstery and other luxury features. Think of it as an alternative to the Audi A4 quattro or BMW 330xi.
The Mazda 6 earned product awards and accolades from the motoring press for its handling, performance and sports appeal, yet its relative obscurity means you won't likely see it in your neighbor's driveway. Driving one of these means you're something of a non-conformist, and the variety of body styles adds to this distinction. For those of us who like cars, that's a good thing.
The 2006 Mazda 6 comes in four-door sedan, five-door hatchback, and five-door wagon body styles. Several levels of trim are available. Mazda 6i models come with a 160-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine; 6s models are powered by a 215-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. All Mazda 6 models are well equipped.
The 6i sedan ($19,110) comes standard with air conditioning; cruise control; six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio; tilt and telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel; leather wrapped shift knob; power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry; and 16-inch steel wheels. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a five-speed automatic ($900) is optional. A convenience package ($1,000) adds an eight-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar, 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/50R17 all-season tires, and an anti-theft alarm.
Safety features that come standard on all models include ABS, traction control, and advanced dual-stage front airbags. Side-impact and side-curtain airbags ($500) are optional.
Moving up to the 6i Sport sedan ($21,810) and 6i Sport hatchback ($22,210) adds the front side-impact and side-curtain airbags, the eight-way power driver's seat, fog lights, bright-tip exhaust outlets, side-sill extensions and a wing-type rear spoiler. Wheels and tires upgrade to P215/50VR17 on 17-inch aluminum rims. The hatchback comes with a rear wiper and washer.
The 6i Grand Touring sedan ($24,710) comes with leather upholstery, heated power driver's seat, the Bose stereo, heated mirrors, power glass sunroof, and red-illuminated electroluminescent gauges. Grand Touring comes standard with the five-speed automatic transmission (a manual transmission is not available). The Sport bits are dropped, but are available as options.
The Mazda 6s models are identically equipped to their 6i counterparts, except they come with the V6 engine. This goes for the 6s sedan ($23,010) and 6s wagon ($23,610); 6s Sport sedan ($23,910), 6s Sport hatchback ($24,510), and 6s Sport wagon ($24,610). The standard transmission is a five-speed manual; a six-speed automatic is optional ($950). The 6s Grand Touring sedan ($27,260) and 6s Grand Touring wagon ($27,160) come standard with the six-speed automatic.
For 2006, a new Grand Sport package combines features of Grand Touring and Sport models and comes with high-intensity discharge headlamps for superior illumination and lower maintenance.
The new 2006 MazdaSpeed6 ($27,995), a high-performance version of the Mazda 6 sedan, powered by a direct-injection 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine turbocharged to 274 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission, electronically controlled all-wheel drive, electronic stability control, and enhanced brakes and suspension complete the package. The MazdaSpeed6 is available in Sport or Grand Touring trim. Both come with the Bose audio.
Options for all Mazda 6 models include a navigation system ($2,000), an in-dash 6CD player ($500), a cassette player ($200), and a long list of accessories.