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Click on the image above for our high-res gallery of the 2009 Mazda6

The 2009 Mazda6 is an all-new midsize sedan from Mazda that was designed, engineered, developed, and will be manufactured completely on U.S. soil. While the Japanese and European markets have been enjoying the new 6 (Atenza) since late last year, the North American market finally gets to bask in the sleek new bodywork, along with a bigger engine under the hood. Follow the jump to see if the latest product from team "Zoom-Zoom" can compete head-to-head with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima.

All photos copyright Michael Harley / Weblogs Inc.

Mazda explains "Zoom-Zoom" as "...the exhilaration and liberation from experiencing the emotion of motion." We're in Southern California, and Mazda is telling us the all-new second-generation Mazda6, like the first one introduced in 2003, evokes Zoom-Zoom. We didn't exactly feel tingly with the last model (the MazdaSpeed6 would be the exception), so we walked out to the new car with key in hand to see if we are going to be feeling "it" with the new car.

We've seen plenty of the Mazda6 over the past year. Off the show stage and on the road, our original thoughts are confirmed. First, it's unmistakably Mazda. Second, the 6 doesn't look nearly as painfully boring as its predecessor. Third, it's an attractive package from just about any angle. It's apparent that Mazda designers gave the new model a serious injection of excitement. The sedan now sports a stylish front end with upswept headlights and muscular front quarter panels (think RX-8). The ho-hum door guard strip is gone, and a sleek chrome accent now surrounds the windows and continues to the middle of the C-pillar beyond the end of the door. The LED tail lamps feature elegant accents that tie into the chrome brightwork on the trunk. The six-cylinder model features metallic faux exhaust surrounds to complete the styling look, while the four-cylinder has to make-do with traditional dual pipes on the right side. Compared to the outgoing model, the new Madza6 is 6.1 inches longer, 2.3 inches wider, and sits on a wheelbase that has stretched 4.5 inches. Even with the increased dimensions, the new car hides the size well.

The interior of the Mazda6 is tastefully appointed, and very welcoming, as well. Contrasting colors and textures nicely mix, and unique glossy "patterned" trim (it's not fake wood, nor is it fake carbon fiber) looks interesting and classy without appearing gaudy. Like the previous model, the primary gauges are backlit with an orange glow over black dials. Bright brushed metallic finishes accent the dials, steering wheel, and console. We did find ourselves having to reach forward to touch the controls on the sat-nav as the unit sits further from the driver than anything else. The screen is mounted at an angle, which could make viewing difficult in direct sunlight. Polarized sunglass owners will note that their lenses block out some of the gauges. As before, the HVAC dual-temp and primary radio controls are round dials and the overall cabin ergonomics are good, although you will still need to move your head around a bit to see a few of the switches hidden behind the left side of the steering wheel.

Our six-foot two-inch frame was comfortable in the multi-adjustable driver's seat (set all the way back). The front seats are firm, but spine-friendly even after an extended drive. The rear seats are surprisingly roomy -- a six-footer can sit back there without claustrophobia, and kids won't be cramped. Overall, the cabin is a very pleasant place to pass the time.

Under the hood of the six-cylinder model is the same 3.7-liter V6 that motivates the Mazda CX-9 CUV. Doing duty in the Mazda6, the MZI engine is rated at 272 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque and Mazda is quick to point out that those numbers push the 6 to the head of the class among its Japanese competition (Honda Accord - 268 hp, Nissan Altima - 270 hp, and Toyota Camry - 268 hp). The engine is mated to a smooth six-speed Sport Shift automatic transmission driving the front wheels. The four-cylinder model gets the familiar MZR inline-four, bored out to 2.5-liters. In this application, it's rated at 170 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque and mated to either a six-speed manual, or a five-speed Sport automatic transmission sending power to the front wheels as well. There is no all-wheel drive model, yet.

The engine is strong, but not as powerful as 272 horses on paper would lead you to believe (at 3,547 pounds, the weight of the Mazda6 is on par with its competitors), but the six-speed slushbox has a manual mode that responded well to our commands. Push forward to downshift and pull back to add a gear (just like BMW does it). Kudos the Mazda engineers who programmed the transmission software to hit a soft redline at the limit while holding the selected gear.

Unfortunately, while the 3.7-liter engine offers best-in-class power, it may also be the Mazda6's Achilles' heel. The EPA fuel economy ratings for the V6 powerplant come in at 17/25 (city/highway). That's about ten-percent lower that the competition (Honda Accord 19/29, Nissan Altima 19/26, and Toyota Camry 19/28). If you seek frugality, save some money and opt for the smaller four-banger (21/30 mated to the auto). The lesser engine pulls the Mazda6 around just fine, albeit at a much slower pace.

Mazda was brave enough to bring the competitive targets (Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry) to the launch so we could test drive them back-to-back against the all-new Mazda6. Our seat-of-the-pants impression was that the all-new Mazda6 was undeniably the most enjoyable of the bunch to drive -- as Mazda and their Zoom-Zoom infusion had boasted. While none would be considered a stoplight racer, the 3.7-liter under the Mazda's hood felt a bit out-gunned by Nissan's 3.5-liter VQ (itself rated at 270 hp), even though it wasn't as smooth. The Toyota and Honda felt about as quick as the rest of the pack. A penalty at the pump, not matched with any apparent acceleration advantage, doesn't keep consumers happy in this segment.

Mazda engineers spent a considerable amount of time refining the chassis of the new Mazda6 to make it a more rigid platform. It's all in the name of allowing the suspension to do its work, and improving occupant safety. Independently sprung on all four corners, the newest Mazda wears double-wishbones up front and an E-type multi-link in the rear. Stabilizer bars on both ends keep everything on an even keel. Driving the Mazda6 on some of Southern California's most challenging roads (Mulholland Drive, Stunt Road, and Decker Canyon), the sedan wasn't traumatized like the Camry (think marshmallow soft), or the Accord (what happened to the fun-to-drive Accord?). Diving into corners resulted in expected understeer, but without the feeling that the front tires were peeling off the rims (did we mention how soft the Camry was?). The Mazda6 was entertaining to toss around, and we never found ourselves worried the car wasn't responding to our inputs. But it's not ready for track duty. It's a sporty sedan, not a sport sedan.

Back on commuter-oriented roads, the Mazda6 was exceedingly competent -- a pleasure to drive. It never exhibited the disconnected (or isolated) driving feel that is so common in the segment. While we did observe some tire roar, and more than a bit of wind noise around the pillars, neither was distracting, nor discomforting.

The base price on a Mazda6 2.5-liter is just $18,550 (plus destination). The six-cylinder model starts at $24,130 (plus destination). A loaded Grand Touring V6 model, with NAV, moonroof, and BOSE audio, will set you back about $32,990.

When compared to the Altima, Camry, and Accord, our impression is that the all-new 2009 Mazda6 offers consumers exterior and interior styling that is fresh and stylish. We'll say it's easily the best looking of the bunch. While it's not cavernous, the new sedan is roomy, comfortable, and accommodating. The chassis, and driving dynamics, are undeniably the sportiest. It is obvious to us that the new Mazda6 received a much larger wallop of Zoom-Zoom than the last model -- and the car has finally broken free of the segment's boring mold. The question now is whether or not the buying public are looking for boring, bland, and economical... or do they want driving excitement? According to Mazda, nearly three million buyers in the United States purchase a new mid-sized automobile each year. Mazda just has to convince a small portion of them that its often overlooked contender is offering something exemplary this time.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Oh, goody. Maybe I get the first comment! Nice review, I am glad you mentioned about the seat position for a tall driver.

      When will designers just build a hatchback, and drop these tiny decklids? It looks like a hatch already, just stretch the glass a little bit more.

      I hope that a hatch and wagon is in the pipeline, they are more practical than the sedan.

      Overall, it looks sharp, it should age well. I am not a fan of orange instruments, but even my 86 626 GT had them. I think a lot of people will now opt for the 4 banger than the old model. For most driving, 170hp is adequate, and may even save a ticket or two.

      Is this product to be built in Flat Rock or Japan?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Around the Research Triangle area, you also rarely see sedan 3s around. Mostly it's the Touring and Grand Touring hatches, with a fair number of Speed3s thrown in.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I went into the Courtesy Mazda here in Tampa when I was car shopping to look at a 6-wagon. I was told the only way to get the car was decked out for almost $30K. Same with the Tribute. Needless to say, I didn't buy a Mazda.
        • 7 Years Ago

        Here in Seattle, I rarely see Mazda3 sedans, unless it's the very cheap model. The hatch's are all over the place.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Here i WI we sell alot more sedan 3's, but I agree that the 6 wagon, while there are people to buy them, just didn't sell.
        I'm no corporate buisness planner, and I can't predict the future, I'm just a lowly Mazda dealer employee BUT....
        If they offered the new 6 as a wagon, have an optional BASE trim level, offer it in AWD also, and keep the weight and price in check, they might just move some off the showfloor.

        People are trading in thier full size SUVs, looking for smaller & more fuel effiecent cars, but they still need utility..... I think small and midsize SUVs and wagons are where it's gonna be at soon.

        I know I was looking for one when gas hit $3.00..... Wanted a Legacy wagon, 5speed, but settled for a sedan instead becasuse they are very hard to find.

        Not much else out there that is MT, awd, and it not a truck (or brand spanking new).
        • 7 Years Ago
        3 hatches are extremely popular in SF, but so are GTIs, Imprezas, any 5 door. I think a wagon or hatch variant would sell well. Now that prices are goign up and SUV sales are going down, i would expect to see a trend where wagons and hatchbacks (small people movers) make a comeback.

        i think i'll take a drive back to my mazda dealer and check out the 6, maybe to replace my ms3 in a year
        • 7 Years Ago
        When will designers just build a hatchback, and drop these tiny decklids?

        In Europe, hatch and wagon are still there. Which makes sense if you look at the sales numbers of competitors, for example the Mondeo sells 2% sedans, 16% hatch, 82% wagons.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yes, it is built in Flat Rock. As far as the wagon and hatch are concerned? When they were available, they were retail disasters. I run a VW/Mazda/Subaru dealership. Only Subaru does well with mid-size wagons. It remains to be seen if the Jetta Sportwagon will be a success. But Mazda? The 3 hatch is a slow mover and the 6 hatch and wagon were avoided like they had leperacy.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wonder when automakers will learn that bigger is not better. If only newer models would be smaller and lighter, instead of bigger and fatter. :|
        • 7 Years Ago
        As soon as Americans stop buying bigger sedans. The biggest criticism for the old Mazda6 was its lack of room. The Accord and Camry grow every generation, and they've become behemoths. The Mazda6 is just playing the fat American market.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "With the ever expanding waistlines, some can't fit into these little smart cars."

        The 2008 Mazda6 is not a Smart car, and in fact is not a small car at all. It is 187" long, 70" wide, and 57" tall. The Smart car is 105" long, 61" wide, and 61" tall.

        Suggesting that a midsize sedan is similar in size to a subcompact, 2-seater, A-class car is a completely ridiculous.
        • 7 Years Ago
        +1, i totally agree
        • 7 Years Ago
        I imagine that at least some car companies will get the idea that smaller and lighter is better when the consuming public does. Even now, with gas at more the $4 per gallon most American consumers want larger, quieter vehicles for their families. I work at a multi-franchise auto dealership and have been told repeatedly that a client would be interested in the Mazda6 or Subaru Legacy, if only they were a little larger. The simple fact is that mid-size sedans are primarily purchased for family hauling duty, not by enthusiasts.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Our six-foot two-inch frame was comfortable in the multi-adjustable driver's seat (set all the way back)."

      Good Luck with the multiple personalities!
      • 7 Years Ago
      For some reason it look like it got some design cues from the mondeo?
      • 7 Years Ago
      The last 6 was a great sized car. Too bad they had to bloat it up so much.

      I can't wait for the Nav fad to be over. It ruins every interior they put it in.
        • 7 Years Ago
        i am glade you mention it but some car company's get the fact that it ugly-fies the interior. if you look at the cts, the c-class, and some mazda's (like the 3), it pops out of the dash.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It looks way better than the Camry or Accord. Make mine a 4 cylinder manual...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Wagon + 4cyl + 6spd manual = purchase. Or maybe I should just get a Mazda5 (nah, too minivan-like).
      • 7 Years Ago
      This review is ridiculous. Why does the reviewer feel the need to trash the old 6? The old 6's styling was not "boring" -- in fact, it still looks better than the Camry and Accord ever have.

      I think the problem is familiarity breeds contempt. This is something auto reviewers need to remember, because they are the same people who shower these same cars they trash with praise when they first come out.

      That said, this new 6 looks like the business. I think it will do well, because it has the styling, the mechanicals and the fuel mileage to compete with its rivals.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The smaller euro version looked better.
        • 7 Years Ago
        He's talking about the LAST GEN Mazda6/Atenza.
        Euro/JDM versions were the same platform/size as ours. The Speed6 is actually the most JDM because it was the only 6 we got actually BUILT over there.
        While I agree the CURRENT Euro version looks better, your reply (and the one below it) is out of context because he was asking why Autoblog was bashing the 1st gen 6.
        Which is still a clean design, and looks great 5 years later (especially the Speed like they noted), it's just outclassed in America, especially size and power-wise.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Agreed. There's just something about this I don't care for. Hopefully it looks better in person. True, I'm also biased because I love my '05 6s hatch!
      • 7 Years Ago
      The profile looks too much like a Nissan Altima
      • 7 Years Ago
      Looks great in real world photos. Nice job Mazda.

      I just wonder why the Malibu wasn't included in the test, or even mentioned in teh entire article?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Exactly! I was wondering the same thing.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Just because Mazda didn't offer up one for comparison.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "the 6 doesn't look nearly as painfully boring as its predecessor"...
      are you serious, Mr. Harley? Painfully boring? This is not the 626
      we're talking about here. The previous Mazda6 is a successful, agile
      and well-balanced design. Have another look.

      If you need even more excitement in your life, perhaps try heroin.

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