By September 15, 2005

2005 Mazda 6 rental car review

Sorry there haven’t been a lot of updates while I’m in California. I have a few packages awaiting me when I get home (including my helmet), so the other reviews and what-not will have to wait.

In the meantime, I’m going to talk about my rental car for this trip. It’s of some relevance because I love cars, and because Lady Jaye owns the Mazda 3S, the smaller version of the Mazda 6 I’m renting. The Mazda 6 has a larger 2.3 liter four cylinder engine compared to the Mazda 3’s base 2.0L power plant. It’s worth noting that the 6’s preferred configuration contains the V6 motor, but my rental is the 2.3 4 cyl. It’s also worth noting that Lady Jaye’s “S” Mazda 3 has the same 2.3L four banger that my rental does. The 6 is a bigger car, probably fitting into the “four door sedan” category, while the 3 is in the “sport sedan” category. I imagine the competitors to the 6 would be the Camry and the Accord. The 3’s competitors would be the Scion tC, the Subaru Impreza, the Corolla, and the 4-door Civic. I don’t keep up with the American sedan market, so I’ll just hush up.

The 6 is several thousand dollars more expensive than the 3, and I wanted to see if Lady Jaye made the right choice when she got her 3S.

My rental is a 2005 base model Mazda 6 in silver, it looks just like this one:

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So, my first reaction was how completely boring and tacky the 6 interior was compared to Lady Jaye’s 3. The 3 is aimed at the young enthusiast market, and it shows in the more attractive and sporty upholstery and dash.

I couldn’t find an accurate picture on the Web, so this product shot from mazdausa.com will have to do. The actual dashboard in my rental is the same color as the silver plastic trim shown in this photo:

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Here’s the 3’s dash and center console:

Like Lady Jaye’s 3S, the 6 has an automatic transmission. I believe all of the auto trannies on the 3/6 platform also have the “tiptronic” hybrid manual mode, wherein you can shift up or down by flicking the shifter. It’s counter-intuitive in my opinion, you flick down to go up a gear, and up to go down a gear. One nice thing about the tiptronic system is that it automatically downshifts for you when the car comes to a stop. However, like all clutch pedal-less systems, it leaves a lot to be desired if you actually know how to drive stick. I tool around town with the hybrid mode engaged, but it still suffers from the same lag you’d normally associate with an automatic transmission. Since you can’t feather the clutch like you do in a real manual tranny, downshifting at the right points in the hybrid system results in a pretty violent lurch. I’m sure the transmission is shitting itself every time I do this, but hey, it’s a rental.

The 6 has much more interior room, or at least it seems that way. I’ve sat in the back of Lady Jaye’s 3, and while it isn’t uncomfortable, I wouldn’t want to make a multiple hour trip in the back. The 6 has more legroom, and probably more headroom. I’m sure the official specs from Mazda would shed more light on the dimensions of both cars, but this review is more about my driving impressions.

Whereas Lady Jaye’s 3S is a spirited performer, the same 2.3L engine struggles under the 6’s heavy frame. Sure, you can kick the car in the ass (particularly when you’re in the hybrid shifting mode and can crank up the RPMs), but if I were to buy a 6 I definitely would opt for the V6. 4 cylinder in the 6? Thumbs down.

The turning radius on the 6 totally blows. I have a hard time making a U-turn with two open lanes. You’d need three lanes or 2 and a shoulder if you wanted to do a U-turn at anything faster than granny speed. In contrast, my MINI Cooper S and Honda Element both require 1.5 lanes for a U-turn. The 05 Ford Mustang I rented the last time I was out here has a better turning radius than the 6. The Mustang has a super long nose that makes it hard to see where you’re going, but the 6 just turns like a pregnant yak. Thumbs down.

The gauges are nice and easy to read, just like the 3. At night they are red, which I’ve always liked compared to Honda’s bluish-white. Thumbs up, I reckon, although they are exactly like the 3.

So, all in all, there doesn’t seem to be any reason at all to buy the Mazda 6 with the base engine over the Mazda 3S. With all the goodies Lady Jaye got on her car, her 3S is still about $3,000USD less than the 6. And the base 6 doesn’t even have the option of xenon lights, which I think is one of the crown jewels on LJ’s 3S. To bump the 6 up to the V6 engine so it will have a similar horsepower-to-weight ratio as the 3S will cost you $6,100 over the 3S.

Zoom Zoom

  • Tiptronic hybrid transmission is fun to dick around with.
  • I’m not paying for the rental.
  • Well laid-out dashboard and controls.

Blown Motor

  • Poor low-speed steering.
  • The 6 is too heavy for the baseline 4 cylinder engine.
  • No xenon light option on the base model.
  • Tacky center console with lots of brightly colored plastic.
  • The best points of the 6 are available on the 3S at a lesser cost.

Rental Mazda 6, even though work is picking up the tab, I rate thee:

Three out of five STFU mugs

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