THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Mazda6i Sport Value Edition sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2007, this front-wheel-drive sedan is fun to drive. It offers smooth and quiet handling as you hustle along sharp turns and twists. Cruising the highway is a breeze. What is notable about the Mazda6 is that it is available in as many as 13 trims, with prices ranging from $18,990 up to $27,750, as a hatchback or sedan. So, take your pick in this unyielding and sure-footed ride.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.3-liter inline-4 cylinder engine offers 156 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 154 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Mated to a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission, the Mazda6 comes with an independent double wishbone in the front and an E-type multilink suspension system in the rear. A power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering with a speed-sensing variable assist changes directions quickly when you turn the wheel. Tire slippage is negligible, thanks to the huge 17-inch alloy wheels. Braking is handled by power-assisted ventilated front and solid rear discs.
LOOK & FEEL: Angular halogen headlights with dark gray bezels show off a bold front fascia, which also hosts a body-colored sport grille and fog lamps. As you walk toward the rear, with its black-trimmed tail bezels and dual-exhaust outlets, you will notice the distinctive side-sill extensions. The interior offers a simple and straightforward layout, with analog speedometer, tachometer, fuel and engine temperature gauges on the instrument panel. I found leather on the three-spoke tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, shifter knob and parking brake to be tasteful. There also is a digital outside air temperature indicator. Fear not for space because there is plenty in the door pockets, front center console and above the dashboard. The seats, made of cloth, are roomy with the 60/40 split-down rear seats. Power windows, eight-way power driver's seat and at least six cup holders are noteworthy.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, tire pressure monitoring system, three-point safety belts for all passengers and a Triple-H body construction.
OUT THE DOOR: $20,650, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Go for the $700 power moonroof option if you would like to enjoy some rays of sunshine.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires,
215/50VR17 alloy wheels; wheelbase, 105.3 inches; length, 186.8 inches; weight, 3,093 pounds; fuel capacity, 18 gallons; highway, 28 mpg; city, 21 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: For its sportiness, of course. There are several midsize sedans on the road but the Mazda6 wins the race hands down for its agile, entertaining, stylish and fuel-sipping nature. And at $20,650, it is priced just right!