DETROIT – When I got into the Mazda6, I depressed the brake, pushed the start button and was somewhat surprised that the car not only didn’t start; the engine didn’t even turn over. I repeated the process several times with the same result. It wasn’t until I glimpsed the gear shifter that I noticed that my test car had a manual transmission. So I depressed the clutch, pushed the start button and I was on my way.
I didn't realize that the Mazda6 was available with a manual transmission. It is a midsize sedan and a six-speed manual gearbox in that size sedan is reserved for the likes of BMW. It's an indication that Mazda is serious about its Zoom Zoom brand identity. No matter, that was the first of several pleasant surprises during my week-long stint with the 2009 Mazda6.
First, my test car was loaded. Stuff included Bluetooth that turns compatible cell phones into hands free car phones, push button start/stop, there was a navigation system, in dash six disc CD player that was conveniently hidden behind the navigation screen, heated front seats, satellite radio, and an auxiliary jack and tilt/telescoping steering wheel and MP3 capability.
There was a moonroof, too. I won't list all of the Mazda6's equipment here but I was mildly impressed that the sticker of my test vehicle was $29,340. I didn't think that was bad considering that the Mazda6 was fun to drive, too.
I like manual transmissions in cars that have some power. It's the acceleration. That was my second pleasant surprise. My test vehicle had a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine that made 170 horsepower and 167 pounds-feet of torque.
The car wasn't quick off the mark but it wasn't slow either. That was the only sign that my Mazda6 was powered by a four cylinder engine. The front-wheel-drive sedan handled well and the suspension was not harsh. Cornering was good and there was enough power to get on and off the expressway without raising my pulse.
This engine was quiet, gave my test vehicle a fair amount of oomph and it was fairly fuel efficient. The 2009 Mazda6 had an EPA rating of 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. And as long as I downshifted to get more torque when needed, there was plenty of power.
I got in the back seat and found plenty of headroom and legroom. Even the "hump" was not that pronounced and could take a third passenger almost comfortable. Since I was back there by myself, it's hard to say how much hip room there was but I did not have to adjust the driver's seat forward to make me feel comfortable. That was impressive.
I don't think there's a market for a mid-size sedan with a six-speed manual transmission in regions like this one, with a real winter. You know snow, slush, and ice and stuff like that make for adventurous driving during the winter months. However, there is a Mazda6 with an automatic transmission and V6. But my four-cylinder powered Mazda6 was just fine.
And the manual transmission is a reasonable consideration in regions that have snowless winter months.