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2005 Mazda6 Five-Door

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San Francisco:  Mazda is becoming the company that gives you cars you canít find anywhere else. The brand has offered the sporty Miata roadster for 15 years, and now sells the unique four-door RX-8 sports car. Mazda is also home to the new junior-sized Mazda5 minivan. But just as importantly, Mazda sells the intriguing midsize Mazda6. You can get it not only as a four-door sedan, but also as a wagon and as a five-door hatchback. No other midsize car offers such a range.

Mention hatchback to some folks and they are likely to think of the spartan little Chevy Chevette they owned in the 1970s, but this car is nothing like that. Actually you can hardly tell itís not a sedan until you pop the trunk and watch the whole back of the car lift up slowly to expose 22 cubic feet of cargo room, nearly 50 percent more than the sedan. Drop the rear seats and youíre looking at a cavernous 58.7 cubic feet. Use the handy tie-downs to hold loose items, or stow small valuables under the floor. Once you close the lid, nobodyís the wiser. Actually youíre the wise one, because you have a very useful vehicle on your hands.

Driving the Mazda6 is big fun, because Mazda is intent on giving some of that Miata personality to its larger cars. The i version comes with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that cranks out 160 horsepower if you wind it out to 6,000 rpm. With California emissions standards, it comes as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) that makes you feel proud about how well youíre taking care of the environment.

The S version of the Mazda6 features a 3.0-liter V6, which gets you down the road more briskly with 215 horsepower. For 2006, the engine has been tweaked down from 220 horsepower, but torque is up from 190 to 199 lb.-ft., one of several small improvements. This engine sings and pulls nicely on the highway, yet it idles in near silence at traffic lights.

Both levels come with a sporty five-speed manual transmission, try finding one in an Accord or Camry. With either model, you can also order a Sport AT automatic transmission, which lets you make clutchless manual shifts. The six-cylinder s gets six forward speeds, unique in its class, while the four-cylinder i model receives five gears. My Blazing Copper V6-equipped tester was a 2005 model, and it earned fuel economy numbers of 20 city, 27 highway.

The Mazda6 looks a lot like its competition but little details give it a racier flair. The lights at both ends squint at you. The shape is clean and confident, maybe even a little like, shall I say it, a BMW 3 series.

Inside, high radius curves bestow gravity on the surfaces. Metallic accents, especially along the center console, sparkle. The narrow spokes on the steering wheel bring back memories of pre-airbag days; sadly, the passenger side has a big visible lid over its airbag. The steering wheel and shift knob vibrate just a tiny bit, giving that lively feeling Mazda cultivates in its cars. The armrests meet the door at an angle, placing the window and lock buttons in a natural spot near your fingertips. My carís black interior gave it a purposeful, serious demeanor.

With 215 horsepower, the Mazda6 is quick, but is not a real rocket. That doesnít stop that the type font of the numbers on the 140-mph speedometer from leaning forward in eager italics. If you really want more power, for 2006 the MAZDASPEED 6 sedan gets a turbocharged 274-horsepower four with a six-speed manual. Hoooeeeeee!

Mazda offers only well-equipped cars in its Mazda6 line. The most basic sedan still gets things like a leather wrapped shift knob and parking brake handle, audio and cruise controls mounted on the steering wheel, remote keyless entry, and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD system.

Mechanically, all Mazda6 cars get four-wheel disc brakes with antilock, electronic brakeforce distribution, and traction control. This is becoming a more typical arrangement with performance cars but is less common in the midsize territory. The minute you start working your way up the model lineup you get extras like eight-way power seats wrapped in leather, climate control, and beautiful 17-inch alloy wheels.

The range of prices for these cars is not wide. The sedan starts just below $20,000, including destination charges. The i Sport version of the five-door starts at $22,755, and the top level Mazda6 s Sport Wagon hits $27,655. My test car, with optional six-speed automatic and the Bose Audio and Moonroof package, came to $27,290. Look for continuing excitement from Mazda in the future. For now, itís the place to be.  By Steve Schaefer  © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 Look for continuing excitement from Mazda
 The 2005 Mazda6 Five-Door
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Photo Caption: 
 The 2005 Mazda6 Five-Door
Photo Credits:  
Mazda Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 50

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