2009 Mazda 6: When Zoom-Zoom Goes Mainstream
November 23, 2009
I can never drive our 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?
It's easy with a Miata or Mazda 3. Make 'em taut, sharp, not too isolated, and you're there.
With a family four-door, you run the very real risk that the potential audience will all call it too stiff and go buy an Accord or Camry. (Which they do, in droves.)
Personally, I'd like a sedan that purports to be driver-centric to be truly rewarding to drive. The steering should feel accurate and well weighted, suspension action should be firm but compliant, the ride should talk to me about the road surface, the brake pedal should barely move. And I know it doesn't require BMW pricing to get all this.
In the Mazda 6, I can feel the tension. The steering is heavier than in a Camry, yes, but not by a whole lot. The ride is a bit stiffer and noisier than in an Accord, perhaps, but I don't feel a dramatic advantage in control and response in return. So what are we getting? A sedan that is truly sporty and spirited to drive? Or one that is just a little stiff and noisy? I'm sure there are folks (both within Mazda and without) who would say the car has gone too far and others who think it hasn't gone far enough.
And I don't have the answer.
It's certainly a pleasant, effective four-door to drive around in. Not particularly quick, but spritely enough. And pleasingly fuel efficient. Handling is settled and predictable. I like the seats, the dash layout is fine and small controls are problem-free. In fact, the Mazda 6 gives me nothing at all to complain about. (I don't care for the Blind Spot Monitor system, but it's easy to shut off.)
But is this car sufficiently crisp and sharp to support a philosophy that tries to say, "Our customers are serious drivers, and they know how a car should work"?
I guess that puts me in the "not far enough" camp.
Kevin Smith, Editorial Director @ 20,603 miles