2005 Mazda MAZDA6 s Sport 4dr Sport Wagon (3.0L 6cyl 5M)
I drove the Passat and the new '05 Legacy before I bought the 6. The Mazda is the right balance of size and price. The test drive is the clincher. The Mazda is more about the drive where the Passat is about the ride. The Mazda's reliability reputation is better than the VW's as well. The Subaru's all wheel drive gear gives it a smaller interior than the Mazda. The 6 had a large advantage in price over the Subie. I loaded it up (ordered car) with Sirius, Bose, auto-tint mirror, moonroof, cassette and CD changer, cargo tray, all-season mats, cargo floor carpet (should be standard!) and the car after rebates and discounts was a still reasonable $25,000. The 2.5GT Subaru was pushing $30,000!
Sporty demeanor. Fun to drive, but comfortable, not punishing. Nice seats with quality leather. The optional cargo nets and tray are handy for trips to the grocery store or Home depot. When you drive this car you never feel like you have a wagon. Drives circles around the SUVs!
Has a little road texture noise on some roads. The cargo area is cheaply finished, needs the carpet option or the cargo tray. Can't get a manual tranny without the sport wagon. In Vermont the heated mirrors are a must, but you have to get leather seat with heat to get them. They should be standard.