2003 Mazda6 Review


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SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide

THE AUTO PAGE By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: Mazda6

ENGINE: 3.0-liter V6

HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 220 hp @ 6,300 rpm/192 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual

WHEELBASE: 105.3 in.

LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 186.8 x 70.1 x 56.7 in.

STICKER PRICE: $25,445

Mazda has become famous (or infamous) for adding "Zoom-Zoom" to its commercials, if not its cars. While the Miata and the new RX-8 are definitely "Zoom-Zoom," many of the sedans have left a lot to be desired.

That has changed.

The new Mazda6, at least with the 3.0-liter 220 horsepower V6 engine and 5-speed manual transmission, is as zoomy as it gets. The sedan, replacing the 626 in Mazda's lineup, can get you from point A to point B quickly, and you'll have fun doing it. Technically, I guess, the Mazda6 can be classified as an American car. United States and Canadian parts account for 53 percent of the vehicle, including the engine. Japan only supplies 28 percent of the parts and Mexico 16 percent. And, it's assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan, about as close to Detroit as you can get.

The American 3.0-liter engine comes from the Ford parts bin, now that Mazda is part of the Ford Family of Fine Cars. It is a double overhead cam design with 24 valves and features variable valve timing for greater efficiency.

The engine is coupled to a close-ratio 5-speed manual transmission that is a pleasure to use. Shifting up or down through the gears is precise and direct, with none of the searching that often happens in cars costing much more.

We found the seats to be comfortable, both front and rear. Legroom in the rear is only about six inches shorter than in the front, which works out well. In addition, we had heated front seats. In spring, we didn't need them, but the option is a requirement as far as my wife is concerned.

Mazda has designed the Mazda6 to be a performance sedan. There's a version with a 2.3-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine that develops 160 horsepower, but the six is the one you'd want to get. Fuel economy isn't that much worse with the bigger engine at 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, about five mpg lower than with the four.

But the six also has 17-inch wheels and tires and a sport package ($860) that includes V-rated 215/50R17 tires, fog lights, rear spoiler side sill extensions, sport type front and rear bumpers and sport type oval exhaust outlets. So the Mazda6 can compete with all the aftermarket hot shoes straight from the store.

Rather than get by with the standard strut-type front suspension, Mazda has installed a double-wishbone front suspension for better handling. In the rear, a multi-link suspension does the job well.

Other options on our tester included side air bags and curtains ($450), ULEV emissions equipment ($100), leather upholstery ($860), a power moonroof ($700), comfort package that included the heated front seats and heated door mirrors ($220), and a Bose audio package ($635). Add all that to a base price of $21,100, throw in the destination charge of $520, and you have a bottom line of $25,445.

The Mazda6 is classified as a midsize car by the EPA, and has a 15.2 cubic foot trunk to earn that classification. It is a five-passenger car by definition and by example. The rear center passenger might feel slightly cramped on a long trip, but there is room for that person.

Audio and cruise control switches are mounted on the three-spoke steering wheel and, thank you, are lighted at night, so you don't have to operate by feel alone.

While we didn't have the opportunity to take the Mazda6 around Mazda's Laguna Seca Raceway in California, this is one sedan that could give a good account of itself on any track. It's not that the car is fast, but it has the right combination of engine performance, gearbox, brakes and handling to make driving fun. Who cares about zoom-zoom?

© 2003 The Auto Page Syndicate

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