"I can never drive our 2009 Mazda 6 without feeling the pain of Mazda product planners, engineers and marketers.
"Their challenge: To capture the performance-oriented sensations promised by the zoom-zoom corporate positioning and also make a family sedan with sufficiently broad appeal. In other words, how do you take zoom-zoom mainstream?"
This question was posed early in our durability test of the Mazda 6. And it rang in our ears as our test spanned some 24,000 miles.
Why We Got It
Throughout its history Mazda has favored the preferences of performance-minded enthusiasts to those of the general public. And this no-nonsense mentality deserves much of the credit for the company's prosperity. It created a niche for the brand that Mazda owners have come to appreciate. And so with the 2009 Mazda 6, the company's intention wasn't so much to break this mold as to reshape it. But in the mind of Mazda-heads, the thought of a sedan designed for mass appeal seemed to contradict the very spirit of the brand. For these reasons we entered our long-term test of the 2009 Mazda 6 with a different kind of anticipation than we would have toward other midsize sedans.
For 2009 the Mazda 6 was all-new, boasting larger proportions and a redesigned interior. And if you asked Mazda, this was done without compromising the driving experience its core audience expects. Our first drive of the upgraded Mazda 6 found us picking up what the engineers were putting down. No longer was this the midsize sedan to buy just to be different. It was a legitimate contender in a segment dominated by the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. It was the fun car in an otherwise drab segment. When it won our midsize sedan comparison versus said Accord and Altima, we had to have one.
We added a 2009 Mazda 6 to our long-term fleet without delay. Our choice to pass over the customary V6 option for the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter inline-4 reflected the rising cost of gasoline at the time and a general shift in consumer priorities toward fuel economy. Better yet, we thought, let's add the PZEV emissions option to further enhance our fuel miserly ways, no matter that it dropped engine output to 168 hp.
Our early impressions of the 2009 Mazda 6's driving performance were positive. Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh commented, "I just drove from L.A. to Phoenix and back in the 6 and it made its mark. Most notable are the Mazda's precise steering and firm brake pedal. These two driving interfaces alone really separate the 6 from its CamCordBu competition, allowing the Mazda to wink and nod at car enthusiasts. It makes you wonder why other manufacturers don't execute them like Mazda. Right, JD Power. To score well there, you must not offend the whiners with 'vibrations' such as actual steering feel or 'hard' brakes that respond with confidence-inspiring initial bite and linearity. What you get with a fixation on JD Power numbers is a Toyota Camry."
We also found pleasure in the qualities that make this a competitive midsize sedan. A range of more than 400 miles per tank was a plus. But there was more. Following a long weekend in the 6, Senior Editor Erin Riches wrote, "I decided that this Mazda offers the best ride quality in the midsize sedan class. It's not the softest ride. But it is always, always composed. And it is never, never harsh. I never complain. My passengers never complain." A lack of complaints regarding the Mazda 6 would be a common theme during this test.
Inside the cabin our Mazda 6 generated praise. There was plenty of space to fit four adults thanks to the extended wheelbase. Rear-seat access and comfort were even acceptable. Child seats latched in easily and the added legroom in the new Mazda 6 design was just enough to keep kicking feet from striking the seatback in front of them. When prodded with the question, one editor replied, "Does the Mazda 6 have the best seats ever? Well, I don't know. I've been driving it for a week and I haven't even noticed. I'm going to consider that to be a compliment. Yes, the Mazda 6 may have the best seats ever."
Our issues with service and reliability in the 2009 Mazda 6 have largely been the result of dealer incompetence. We first noticed the red line through our navigation screen 8,000 miles into the test. A visit to Mazda of Orange was the solution. Or so we thought.
We dropped it off for the navigation issue, a regular service and to have the splash guard replaced. Four months later, the new nav screen arrived. One month after that, the nav went on the fritz. We thought it was just out of calibration, but learned there was more. Long Beach Mazda uncovered the problem when it removed the nav screen and found a loose wire. A faulty solder job at the Orange dealer was the cause of our headache.
This was our only issue of note, and it didn't resurface once the re-solder was complete.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $364.52
Additional Maintenance Costs: Replace splash guard
Warranty Repairs: Replace navigation screen
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 3 attempts to fix navigation screen
Days Out of Service: 4
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
All long-term vehicles undergo a performance test when they first enter our fleet and once again when the test wraps up. Acceleration testing of the 2009 Mazda 6 uncovered no deterioration in performance over time, since the final test matched the first: 9.1 seconds from a standstill to 60 mph (8.8 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and 16.8 seconds at 83.3 mph in the quarter-mile. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton noted, "No surprise, really. It's a 3,400-pound car with a 170-hp four-banger that needs revs to make power. That said, this is nothing to be ashamed of with a 9.1-second 0-60. Too bad the engine is pretty loud and thrashy all the time."
Other performance tests showed the Mazda's age. While its suspension seemed up to the task, the Michelin Energy MXMV4 tires were just starting to show wear. Dynamic and braking tests were less impressive than as-new. Braking distance grew from 125 feet to 130 feet; slalom speed dropped from 63.2 mph to 60.9 mph; and grip on the skid pad slipped from 0.84g to 0.78g. After these tests Walton commented, "These tires are making a racket. On the skid pad, dynamic stability control begins to take away throttle just as the less-than-capable tires begin to sing and shriek. These all-season tires are equally limiting performance in the slalom."
From a fuel economy perspective we were pleased to have the four-cylinder engine as opposed to its V6 alternative. We averaged 24 mpg over 24,000 miles with a best tank of 31 mpg. Our worst observed fuel economy was 19 mpg, following a heavy-footed day of instrumented testing.
Best Fuel Economy: 30.8 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 18.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 23.9 mpg
When it first entered our garage, the 2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring wore an MSRP of $30,430. After nearly 24,000 miles its value depreciated a considerable 34 percent. This level of depreciation is common in highly optioned vehicles, yet our 6 had only an optional moonroof and navigation system.
Our long-term Toyota Camry and Honda Accord depreciated 26 and 20 percent, respectively, following their tests. We should note these were both V6 models, and were run through Edmunds' TMV® Calculator during a time when the resale market was much healthier.
True Market Value at service end: $20,016
Depreciation: $10,414 or 34% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 23,738
Our long-term 2009 Mazda 6 came and went without really being noticed. It did the job we expected. As a commuter car, it was comfortable and fuel-efficient. As a family hauler, it offered thoughtful amenities and a decent amount of space. We had no complaints. And we consider that to be a good thing. It wasn't until after the car physically left that the buzz around our offices reached a crescendo, "Where is the 6? It left already? Did it go up for sale? That is one of the few long-term cars that I would actually consider buying. So, really, is it gone?"
When the time arrived to grab a set of keys for the night, our 2009 Mazda 6 was never chosen last. From start to finish, the car remained mechanically sound. Even the beige interior appeared untouched by the time our evaluation period ended. With all of the grimy hands and soiled shoes we stuff into our long-term cars, this is unheard of.
If we had to find a weakness in the Mazda, it's residual value. Depreciation is significant, and clearly not up to the levels of the Camry and Accord. If you plan to drive the Mazda 6 for a few years and flip it, you'll be disappointed. This is a keeper. Buy it new or used and drive it into the ground.
Of all the long-term cars we drive in a given year, there are very few that we'd spend money from our own pocket on. The Mazda 6 is one of them.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.