Full 2009 Mazda MAZDA6 Review
What's New for 2009
The completely redesigned 2009 Mazda 6 boasts upsized dimensions and powertrains that put it on par with segment leaders, yet it largely retains its distinctive fun-to-drive character.
If there's a moral to the fully redesigned 2009 Mazda 6's story, it's that there's more to life than "zoom-zoom." The previous-generation Mazda 6 had plenty of it, yet Mazda had a devil of a time getting the buying public to notice. That's because American drivers typically don't care so much about how their family sedans behave on winding country roads. What they want is space, safety, reliability, power and style -- and while the old 6 looked nice enough, its tight dimensions and lackluster acceleration prevented it from succeeding in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The new 6 demonstrates that Mazda wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. Want room to relax? It offers one of the most accommodating cabins of any midsize sedan, with Texas-sized front seats and a backseat fit for 6-footers. Got luggage, or perhaps four sets of golf clubs? The midsize Mazda now features an impressively large 16.6 cubic feet of trunk space. Need power? Mazda's got you covered with the largest and most powerful V6 in this price bracket, though its fuel economy is disappointing. Want to make a fashion statement? Then you shouldn't be buying a family sedan in the first place. But as such cars go, we think the new 6 manages to be tautly attractive, particularly from the front, despite its additional 6.1 inches of length and 2.3 inches of width. Unlike the previous model, the 2009 Mazda 6 was engineered specifically for the North American market -- and it shows.
It also means added weight, as the enlarged 6 is roughly 150 pounds heavier than its predecessor. Yet you'll still notice the sporty reflexes that consumers have come to expect from this performance-oriented brand. Body roll is minimal by family-sedan standards, and the steering is light but responsive. The 6 never lets you forget its considerable size, but its well-sorted chassis and light-on-its-feet character at speed puts it second only to the Nissan Altima in the fun-to-drive category.
Wait a minute, you're saying -- how could the "zoom-zoom" family sedan fail to be the sportiest car in its class? Three reasons: The Altima's considerably lighter, its body motions are better controlled and its steering is tighter and more communicative. But so what? As the previous 6 demonstrated (and the Toyota Camry continues to demonstrate), top-notch driving dynamics do not a best-selling family sedan make. What the new 6 offers is the coveted combination of American-style size and power, along with above-average handling for those who care about that sort of thing. True enthusiasts may not find the 6 to their liking -- but hey, that's what the Mazdaspeed 3 is for.
In short, the 2009 Mazda 6 is at or near the head of its class in most respects. As usual, though, we recommend test-driving as many rival models as possible before making your decision, including the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Toyota Camry. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but few can match the 6's all-around competence and appeal.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mazda 6 is a front-wheel-drive midsize sedan. There are seven trim levels: i SV, i Sport, i Touring, i Grand Touring, s Sport, s Touring and s Grand Touring. Models with the i prefix come with the four-cylinder engine, while models with the s prefix come with the V6.
The value leader i SV comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, a manually height-adjustable driver seat, full power accessories, a six-speaker CD stereo system with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, air-conditioning and a tilt/telescoping steering column. The i Sport adds cruise control, an auxiliary input jack and keyless entry. The i Touring model steps up the feature content with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a trip computer, a power driver seat, keyless ignition/entry, electroluminescent gauges, black patterned accent pieces and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The i Grand Touring model adds xenon headlights, heated leather seats with a memory function for the driver seat, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirrors and an auditory blind-spot monitoring system.
The s models feature the corresponding i models' standard equipment along with a few enhancements -- the s Sport comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and dual exhaust outlets, and the s Touring and s Grand Touring add 18-inch alloy wheels.
A Convenience Package for Touring models tacks on most of the Grand Touring's standard luxuries, while the Moonroof and Bose Package adds a sunroof and an upgraded audio system to Touring and Grand Touring models. A navigation system is available only on the Grand Touring. Other options include remote start, an in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2009 Mazda 6 is powered by either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.7-liter V6. The four generates 170 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque, while the V6 pumps out 272 hp and 269 lb-ft. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on four-cylinder models, with a five-speed automatic optional on all but the i SV. A six-speed automatic is mandatory on V6-powered models.
Fuel-economy estimates stand at 20 mpg city/29 highway and 23 combined for four-cylinder models with the manual transmission, while the five-speed auto improves the four's numbers to 21 mpg city/30 highway and 24 combined. These are class-competitive numbers. However, if you opt for the V6, estimates drop to 17 mpg city/25 highway and 20 combined, which is about as bad as it gets in this segment.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are all standard on the 2009 Mazda 6.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Mazda 6's control layout is generally intuitive, with all major knobs and buttons clearly labeled and easily manipulated. It's attractive, too, with red backlighting for the gauges and a sleek center stack sweeping forward toward the windshield, although the odd black-and-silver patterned plastic trim in Touring models and above won't strike everyone's fancy. Materials quality is hit-or-miss, as the rich-feeling soft-touch material on the passenger side of the dashboard contrasts with cheap hard stuff on the driver side. The emergency brake also feels a bit chintzy for this price point. The generously proportioned seats are quite comfortable, however, with ample leg- and headroom all around. On the downside, power-adjustable lumbar support is unavailable, and the optional manually adjustable driver-side lumbar support operates via a labor-intensive knob.
In the audio department, the 6's standard stereo is just adequate, and while the optional Bose system sounds markedly better, it lacks the clarity and rich bass response of the best stereos in this class. There's better news on the cargo-carrying front, where the 16.6-cubic-foot trunk sets a new standard for family sedans. Moreover, it's enhanced by upscale strut supports that don't impinge on the cargo area, and the 60/40-split-folding rear seats add to the 6's impressive hauling capabilities.
A notable amount of road noise filters into the 6's cabin at speed. Pavement imperfections barely ruffle the 6's composure, though, even when it's equipped with the optional 18-inch wheels. The base 2.5-liter engine produces wheezy noises and tepid acceleration, though the slick-shifting six-speed manual shifter livens things up a bit. The five-speed automatic is less engaging but provides remarkably refined shifts. The big 3.7-liter V6 feels and sounds muscular, yet it's a smooth operator, even at higher engine speeds. Sadly, the six-speed automatic isn't tuned for enthusiastic driving -- downshifts are delayed, even in manual mode. Handling is impressive for a big family sedan, but the 6 doesn't feel as tossable in corners as the Altima, and its steering is lighter and looser than the nimble Nissan's. There's probably enough zoom in this chassis to placate those who like to drive, while the average shopper will appreciate the 6's reasonably compliant ride.
Read our Mazda 6 Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test