THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2009 Mazda6 s Grand Touring midsize family sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: Introduced in 2003, the 6 undergoes a major redesign this year. Besides nixing the hatchback and wagon body styles, the sporty sedan is up in almost every respect. Its wheelbase has been boosted 4.5 inches, length by 6.9 inches and width by 2.3 inches. Plus, there is 10 percent more cubic feet of trunk volume (16.6 cubic feet) and 6 percent more passenger volume (101.9 cubic feet). All this makes for a fun roomy ride with tremendous handling prowess on Tampa roads and highways.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: Sharing its engine with the CX-9 SUV, the front-wheel-drive sedan is equipped with a 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 engine, which pumps out 272 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 269 pounds-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. It's mated to a sprightly 6-speed automatic transmission, which also can be shifted manually. An independent front suspension of control arms, coil springs and stabilizer bar and a multilink rear suspension lend solid stability to the vehicle.
LOOK & FEEL: Upfront, the 6 sports the traditional five-point grille but the profile is coupelike, with R-8-style fenders, flared wing, jewel-like but angular xenon headlights and fog lamps housed in the spoiler. A Mazda6 imprinted on the front door sills welcomes occupants who will relax on plush leather seats. Metal accents enhance the top-notch and thought-out appearance of the dashboard as do the round blacked-out electroluminescent gauges in amber and violet colors. Just push a button under the dual-zone automatic climate controls to turn on the car as you place your hands on a robust three-spoke, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel. A 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, eight-way power and heated driver's seat, trip computer, center console sliding armrest and rear-seat armrest with cup holders and auto-dimming mirrors come standard.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes and traction control, Dynamic Stability Control, front and rear stabilizer bars, five-passenger, three-point safety belts, blind spot alert and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.
OUT THE DOOR: $28,260, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 235/45WR18 alloy wheels; wheelbase, 109.8 inches; length, 193.7 inches; weight, 3,258 pounds; fuel capacity, 18.5 gallons; city, 17 mpg; highway, 25 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: In the crowded midsize sedan segment, the redesigned Mazda6 will prove to be even more competition. It's an entertaining car to drive with the right mix of abundant power, graceful handling and attractive styling. The "zoom-zoom" factor is alive and kicking in this energetic sedan from Mazda.