2005 Mazda6 Sport WagonPosted on August 10th, 2005
The front-wheel drive Mazda6 wagon is a fun-to-drive, yet practical alternative to sport-utility vehicles.
By Nina Russin
Mazda has built its reputation upon cars which combine youthful styling with sporty handling, priced within the reach of most buyers. The front-wheel drive Mazda6 sport wagon, powered by a 220-horsepower V6 engine, falls into that tradition. When paired up with the standard 5-speed manual transmission and standard 17-inch wheels, the mid-sized wagon feels like a two-seat roadster with a lot of additional cargo space.
Mazda produces the sport wagon specifically for North America: a four-cylinder version (not available here) is sold in Europe. The Mazda6 wagon comes standard with an eight-way power driver’s seat, antilock brakes, traction control, side and side curtain airbags, and collapsible pedals to protect the driver in the event of a severe frontal impact.
The standard double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension incorporates beefy sway bars to keep the wagon flat in the corners. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is about 7 seconds.
Buyers can opt for a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift option in lieu of the standard five-speed manual. The wagon comes in three trim levels: base, sport, and grand touring. Base prices range from $22,895 to $26,795, not including the $560 delivery fee.
A City Car With a Sense of Adventure
The test car was the mid-grade sport model, equipped with optional leather trim, base audio and moon roof package, heated front seats, and an in-dash 6 CD changer. The wagon’s compact dimensions and good fuel economy (19/26 m.p.g. city/highway) make it a good choice for urban commuters that need a little extra cargo space.
While manual transmissions can be a chore to drive in traffic, the standard five-speed gearbox is easy to shift, and has a relatively light clutch pedal. The gears have enough range to prevent the driver from having to shift constantly.
A quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering system makes the wagon nimble on its feet. The steering is speed sensitive to provide maximum assistance at slow speeds and stability on the highway. Standard disk brakes are responsive without being grabby.
Unlike some front-wheel drive cars, the Mazda6 has a good weight balance front-to-rear. The driver can push its limits without being on the verge of oversteer. Because of this, the wagon is as much fun to drive on windy two-lane roads as some sports cars.
Yet its front transaxle makes the wagon a practical option for drivers living in snowy climates. Those who do might consider swapping the all-season tires for snow tires to maximize traction in the cold weather.
Its fairly low stance and lack of a two-speed transfer case make the Mazda6 a poor choice for drivers who plan to go far off the beaten path. But the wagon has plenty of traction for driving on unimproved roads, wet and snowy surfaces. It can easily handle most of the dirt roads leading to trailheads. A turning radius of 38.7 feet makes the wagon easy to maneuver around bulging tree roots, and park in a tight spot.
Release latches on either side of the cargo area collapse the second-row seats without removing the headrests. The cargo floor will easily hold a road bike with the front-wheel removed, and some additional gear on the side.
Concealed compartments on either side are great for stashing small items. Tie-down hooks make it easy to secure odd-shaped items. There is a standard tonneau cover to conceal items stowed in back, as well as a vertical cargo net that should appeal to pet owners. Buyers can opt to add additional cargo nets, mats, or an organizer tray for holding groceries and other small packages.
An undersized spare tire is located beneath the cargo floor. While undersize spares can’t offer the durability or range of full-sized spare tires, they do save weight and space.
While the optional leather trim was not especially practical in the Phoenix summer weather, the seats were comfortable from an ergonomic stance, and easy to adjust. Optional heated front seats come in handy in the cold weather. The 60/40 split rear seats have ample legroom: the optional moon roof lets plenty of ambient light in for the second-row passengers.
The wagon has analog gauges for speed, tachometer, engine temperature and oil pressure. A center stack incorporates controls for the audio, heat and air conditioning, where they’re easy to reach for both the driver and front passenger. There is also a 12 volt outlet.
Both front doors come standard with map pockets and bottle holders. A cubby in the center console has two large cupholders, with two tiers of bins to hold compact disks, cell phones, and the like.
Good Visibility in Any Weather
A standard rear wiper should appeal to buyers who find themselves scraping snow and ice off the rear window in the winter. Rear and side-view mirrors do a good job of minimizing blind spots around the car. Buyers can opt for an automatic-dimming rearview mirror with compass to minimize the glare from other cars at night.
The roof-mounted rear spoiler gives the Mazda6 wagon a sport look and enhanced aerodynamics without distracting the driver. Roof rack side rails and a rear bumper step plate are available on all models.
While the Mazda6 can’t compete with larger sport-utility vehicles for cargo space and flexibility, it’s a good choice for buyers who can make do with a little less space, in exchange for better fuel economy. Drivers who have to park in city garages on a regular basis will appreciate its modest size and maneuverability.
In conclusion, the Mazda6 wagon is a close-to-perfect choice for the driving enthusiast, who doesn‘t want to compromise his or her active lifestyle. Not only is it fun to drive, but its cost is significantly less than what many of the European manufacturers have to offer.
That leaves more money in the budget for gear, and the occasional roadtrip to a favorite destination race. Buyers looking for a vehicle that holds a weekend’s worth of gear and a couple of bikes on the roof, gets good gas mileage and still makes a sport out of two-lane twisty roads, should put the Mazda6 sport wagon on their short list.
Base price: $22,895
Price as tested: $27,580
Horsepower: 220 @ 6300 r.p.m.
Torque: 192 lbs.-ft. @ 5000 r.p.m.
0 to 60: 7 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/26 m.p.g. city/highway
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