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Personal Finance > Autos
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Mazda6: Competitive performance
Replacement for aging 626 sedan out-handles market leaders Camry and Accord.
December 20, 2002: 12:20 PM EST
By Steven Cole Smith, Contributing Columnist

ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune Media Services) - As one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2003 model year, the new Mazda6 has been winning near-unanimous praise from the automotive press, and deservedly so: This car is one of the best combinations of practicality and driving pleasure on the market.

Perhaps it shouldn't have been such a surprise. Mazda's Protg 5 sport wagon is every bit as much fun, just on a slightly smaller scale. But the Protg 5 made it clear that Mazda was serious about competing with the other Japanese car companies on their own turf, after years of building also-ran cars that were always acceptable but seldom anyone's first choice.

Except for the Miata, of course. Perhaps somebody at the company finally made that connection: Can't we at least try to make our other cars as much fun as the Miata?

They tried, and for the most part, succeeded.

The Mazda6 replaces the 626, a model that has been off the radar for so long some people likely forgot the company was still building it. Like the Mazda6, the 626 was built in the plant in Flat Rock, Mich., that is shared with Ford -- at one time, the plant cranked out Mazda 626s, Mazda MX-6s and Ford Probes. For the past couple of years, Mazda had to substantially discount the 626 to compete with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Mazda6 should need no such discounting.

Mazda6 S
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Base price: $21,100
Price as tested: $25,160
Mileage: 19 mpg city, 27 mpg hwy
Details: Front engine, front-wheel-drive sedan with a 3.0-liter, 220-horsepower V-6 and a 5-speed automatic transmission

The car comes in two models: The Mazda6 I comes with a 2.3-liter, 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine, and a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The Mazda6 S has Ford's corporate 3.0-liter V-6 with 220 horsepower, and either the five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. The base car starts at $19,050, including transportation, while the V-6 model starts at $21,620.

The test car was the V-6 model with the automatic, and options included leather upholstery, a power moonroof and a sport package, which added a rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels with 50-series radials and a half-dozen cosmetic enhancements. Total price: $25,160.

Inside, the front seats are excellent, and there is room in the rear seat for a couple of genuine adults. Instruments and controls look and feel right.

On the road, the Mazda6 S had plenty of power, and out-handles the Camry and Accord. The Mazda's ride is a bit rougher, but it's a small price for the added capability. The Mazda6 S is not quite on par with a BMW 3-Series, but it's surprisingly close.

With the Nissan Altima and Mazda6 challenging Toyota and Honda, there is genuine competition in the midsized Japanese sedan market (though all four are built in the United States). This is very good news for buyers. Welcome back to the battle, Mazda.  Top of page




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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.