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2004 Sedan Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Mazda6 sedan

The Mazda6 that dropped two digits from its designation last year and italicized the remaining one is more than a pretty facelift. To prove a point, it won a breathtaking number of honors -- some 60 in all following its debut. With that to chew on, can anything but praise follow?

This sedan that replaced the previous, less notable 626 model wasn't meant for the tentative driver who hugs the slow lane while munching on a donut. Mazda has never been that ho-hum. Rather, this hands-on vehicle is a toast to the "zoom zoom" tradition the Japanese auto maker is building as a staple into all of its vehicles.

A taut "driver's car" like the Mazda6 might suggest a few compromises, less rear seat legroom for one and that's what you get. You might want to save that golf foursome for the new, 5-door or wagon models this Spring if all players have oversized golf bags. But the stronger-structured, athletic body style, more international in character than some competitors, has a "no apologies" attitude. That's what owning the road is all about. Mazda coined the phrase "emotion in motion" to characterize the feeling.

For 2004, Mazda6 adds an "s" version (lower case, please like the companion, base-model "i"), with sporty, 17-inch alloy wheels standard. Optional for both are a new Luxury package including leather trimmed seating and heated front seats, and a Security package with braking enhancements, side curtain airbags and perimeter anti-theft. In true sports-driving tradition, the available short-throw stick shift is meant for performance rather than penny pinching. Put the Mazda6 on top of its 3.0 liter, V-6 (or 2.3 liter I-4) and you get an exciting sports sedan when the daily car has to serve both fun and function.