- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

When the Mazda 6 was first introduced, it added the “Joy of Six” to the Japanese automaker’s sporty “Zoom-Zoom” lineup. And, according to insiders, the Mazda6 sport sedan was the best car ever built by Mazda up to that point — at least in the sedan category. Two different engines were available as motivation: the Mazda6i drew its power from a 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder with 160 horsepower, while the Mazda6s moved down the road courtesy of a 3.0-liter V-6 that pumped out 220 horsepower and 192 foot-pounds of torque. The V-6 got better fuel economy along with its boost in power.

Available transmissions included a five-speed manual as standard, or a five-speed automatic with a manual shift mode, both gearing power to the front wheels.

The Mazda6 was true to its heritage in terms of its appearance. It projected a sleek image even when standing still with its 0.30 drag coefficient. It blended sexy curves with bold character lines, and stood with a forward raked attitude over substantial wheels and tires — even more substantial when equipped with the desirous Sport Package.

That was then, and now there are three body styles of the venerable Mazda6: the sedan; a five-door; and my personal favorite — the Sport Wagon. Robert Davis Sr. vice president of marketing, pointed out that “Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom approach to building cars always focuses on their vehicles always having the soul of a sports car. We’re not making an effort to out-Toyota, Toyota (we certainly can’t out-Camry, Camry), or to out-Honda, Honda.”

The Sport Wagon is only available in the “S” level, with V-6 power. The styling has evolved with sleek, yet aggressive cues. For those who harbor inhibitions about being seen in a wagon of any kind, I feel truly sorry.

The sport wagon genre almost always represents an extended example of a sport sedan, with increased levels of functionality and versatility, with absolutely no sacrifice in performance or handling characteristics. And let’s face it, the Mazda6 Sports Sedan has garnered more than 70 awards in various categories. Should you want even more sport in your wagon, there is an optional Sports Package that includes integrated fog lights; a liftgate spoiler; side sill extensions; a body-color grille; titanium-color switch panels; sport-type front and rear bumpers; and sport-type, twin oval exhaust outlets.

The test Mazda 6 Sport Wagon wore an exterior finish of Steel Gray metallic and featured an interior executed in Black. The base sticker amounted to $24,025, while the addition of side air bags and side air curtains, LEV emissions equipment, power moonroof, the Sport Package, in-dash six-CD changer, Bose Audio Package and delivery, processing and handling fee elevated the final count and amount to $27,245.

The Mazda6 Sport Wagon displays a seriously sporty stance and handling attributes that equally match the stance and overall look. The V-6 offers more than adequate punch for everyday driving. It’s a tad on the vocal side, with an authoritative sound when prodded, which enthusiasts will no doubt find pleasant, while others may not be as thrilled.

The ride quality on the firm side, but not objectionable, while handling offers up a nimble, agile feel. No specialized suspension tuning is needed for the 6 Sport Wagon — the controlled ride comes standard. The 60/40 split rear seatback allows for additional cargo capacity as required, by simply folding down to form a flat load surface.

Convenient storage features abound in the 6 — there’s even molded cup or water bottle holders in the door pockets to supplement the other receptacles found in the center console. The air-conditioning system includes a pollen filter as standard and rear seat heater ducts.

The Mazda6 Sport Wagon provides fun, security and safety in an affordably priced and genuinely attractive package.

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