2009 Mazda 6i Grand Touring: A sporty alternative to the family sedan
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Mazda, which began business as Toyo Cork Kogyo, a machine manufacturer, in 1920, became an automobile maker in 1930 with the introduction of the Mazda-Go. All cars produced by Toyo Kogyo (the eventual name of the manufacturer) were called Mazdas, taking an anglicized version of its founder’s name, Jujiro Matsuda. The company officially became Mazda in 1984, to honor both its founder and the divinity within Zoroastrianism, Ahuru Mazda, also known as Zoroaster, the prophet. In Japan, the company name is still pronounced Matsuda.
Under any pronunciation, Mazda has been in the family-car business since 1979, when it debuted the 626. In 2003, Mazda, converted the model name to Mazda 6, and marketed it as a sporty alternative to the family sedan. It added the “Zoom-Zoom” slogan in 2000, as an “emotion of motion” that permeates its vehicles.
Now, in the final year of this millennium’s first decade, Mazda has expanded its Mazda 6 line to include the 6i, a 4-cylinder version of the Mazda 6, which employs a 6-cylinder power plant.
An international vehicle with Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” personality, the 6i also has a North American flavor. Assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan, 45 percent of the parts used in building the Mazda 6i are of U.S. or Canadian origin, with the engine built in Mexico and the transmission coming from Japan. Thirty percent of the parts used come from Japan.
Powered by a 2.5-liter, 170hp inline-4 engine, coupled with a 6-speed manual transmission, the 6i has some brawn -- 167 lbs.-ft. of torque – but not enough to make it a muscle car or sports car by any stretch of the imagination. The engine tries hard enough, but even at a light 3258 lbs., the car wouldn’t do any better than zero to 60mph runs in 8.4 seconds, and quarter-mile treks in 16.5 seconds during several test runs down the track.
The new 2.5-liter-four runs on regular unleaded fuel and is EPA rated at 20mpg in city driving and 29mpg on the highway. My 6-speed manual test ride averaged just under 23mpg during 500 miles of tests up and down Pennsylvania and Maryland interstates and numerous city and country roads and streets. For those who read stickers, this was exactly what was predicted as combined fuel economy.
Behind the wheel, the new model exhibits more refined handling and a quieter ride than in earlier versions. Vehicle maneuvers were compliant and agile, ride was firm but not stiff and the longer wheelbase (4.5-inches longer than last year’s model) at 109.8 inches, and wider front and rear track than in previous incarnations provide a stable, confident demeanor for driver and passengers.
My Silver Metallic test vehicle measured out at 193.7 inches in length, 72.4 inches in width and 57.9 inches in height, with smooth, fluid visual exterior values that capture grace from the front fascia, through the headlamp, over the top of the front-wheel opening, and into the side surfaces. The elegant S-curve that flows smoothly from the highest point of the roof to the subtle lip at end of the decklid's top surface and which accompany powerful wheel arches morph into a sleek, yet athletic appearance from any angle.
The Silver exterior is complimented by a Black interior scheme, with leather, electronics and ergonomics throughout.
The Mazda 6i in the Grand Touring trim of my test vehicle, it truly one of the nicer interiors in its price range, but the trunk release button is right next to the driver information center tab, and both are in a difficult position to see while driving, making it an easy slip and trunk pop error when you are simply trying to find how many miles are left in the tank.
Blacked-out instrument faces, curved surfaces, a T-shaped instrument panel, multi-textured items and intuitive lay-out and electronics make this a driver- and passenger-friendly cabin.
Comfortable and relatively roomy, interior dimensions measure 39.4 inches of headroom up front and 37.3 inches in row two; shoulder room of 57.3 and 56.5 and legroom of 42.5 and 38.0. Standard interior equipment includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, auto-dimming exterior and interior mirrors, blind spot monitoring system, Bluetooth phone and audio, 6-speaker audio system w 6-CD changer and Sirius Satellite Radio, 8-way power driver's seat with memory, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, rain sensing wipers and welcome lighting system.
From a safety perspective, the Mazda 6i is rated at a perfect 5 stars in frontal and side crash tests for driver, passenger, front seats and rear. And it is the first car I have tested this year (out of 20 vehicles so far) that was awarded a flawless 5 stars in rollover tests. Other safety items include dual front airbags, side airbags and air curtains and tire pressure monitoring system.
The Mazda 6i comes with a base price of $24,910, and my test model, with a few electronic extras including a power moonroof, Bose audio system and navigation system, bottom-lined at $29,340. For under $30,000 this is one sporty family sedan.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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