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Established 2004

Mazda 6, 2006: The Weekly Driver Car Review

Could there be a more generically named group of vehicles than those lumped together as “midsize cars”? The Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu and Nissan Altima are all in the category, and all enjoy a loyal consumer following. The Mazda 6 is also in the group.

And while not as refined as the Accord or Camry, the Mazda 6 — available in 16 configurations — is a sporty alternative. In fact, with a wagon, hatchback and turbocharged, 274-horsepower edition among the options, the Mazda 6 greatly expands the boundaries of the class.

My weekly test drive was Grand Sport model. It has  a 3.0-liter, 24-valve, V6 with 215 horsepower and a five-speed manual transmission. The sedan is actually a five-door hatchback.

But with its bright exterior (Volcanic Red) and black leather seats and solid black interior, the Mazda 6 looks more like a sports car.

It also performs like it doesn’t belong in the sedan class.

The car has impressively strong takeoff speed, with 0-60 mph tests accomplished in 7.5 seconds, according to Consumer Guide. With its 18-inch tires and alloy wheels, dual exhaust outlets and rear spoiler, the Mazda even further fit the sports car mode. And with its easy shifting ability, the Mazda is fun around town or on country roads.

But without getting too carried away, the Mazda 6 is also a versatile four-door sedan. With its hatchback entry, it’s a good choice for a family vehicle with easy access and a deep cargo area good for plenty of groceries or any reasonable transporting task.

The Mazda 6 really has few shortcomings. It has good interior space and straightforward instrumentation design and functionality. The car maneuvers well in traffic, it’s sufficiently quiet and the ride quality, while not quite as nice as the Accord, is on par with other vehicles in the class.

Standard features include: High intensity discharge headlamps, fog lights, heated outside mirrors, leather seats, heated front seats, 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, rear window wiper and washer, AM/FM in-dash six-disc CD changer, automatic climate control and power moonroof.

Two small but convenient features are the side cup holder in the front door map pocket and the rear seat armrest with additional cupholders.

One criticism is the rear spoiler. The Mazda 6 is about as sporty as a sedan can get, but the feature hardly seems necessary. Its position simultaneously obscures the rear window view and annoyingly divides the remaining driver’s visibility into two distinct sections.

Safety Features — Dual front, side air and side curtain airbags.

Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 19 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway).

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 4 years/48,00 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/Unlimited miles; 24-hour Roadside Assistance program, 4 years/50,000 miles.

Base Price — $27,710.

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