With the Mazda 6, I can say I bought the exact car I wanted, a car that agrees with my every sense. Before I decided on it, I looked at virtually all other cars in the group, and then some. The Toyota Camry would’ve been very easy to live with, because it is – by far – the most popular car in Saudi Arabia, but I wasn’t buying a washing machine. The Honda accord was too expensive: Even the base Accord was pricier than the loaded Mazda. The same applies to the VW Passat, in addition to the fact that European cars generally don’t lend themselves to the harsh climate. I would’ve been behind the wheel of a Subaru Legacy, but at the time of the purchase, the dealer had shut down completely. Even with a new Subaru dealer having just opened, I have no regrets. The 6, however, has something all the others lack: Character.
Sure, like every car, it has its shortcomings, but the 6 gave me what I wanted (mainly capable handling) and suited me better than anything else. And to top it off, it has character, an intense flavor to it, unlike the plain vanilla of, say, a Toyota Camry.
Speaking of shortcomings, the major one is the lack of low-end grunt from the 2.3-L four-pot. This engine needs to rev beyond 3000rpm to really start pulling. Being an automatic further blunts its performance, making it mandatory to resort to the manual shift gate most of the time, mainly because the transmission is either too sluggish to respond at times, or because it shifts down too aggressively at others. A minor redeeming factor is that you pull back at the shifter to shift up and push forward to shift down, which is the way it should be, in my humble opinion.
The car can be very noisy at times, which is a known problem with pre-2006 cars. I have to turn up the volume on the sound system (which is excellent) to drown out the noise from the engine and tires.
One other thing that irks me about the 2005 model is that the steering doesn't telescope. If I adjust the seat to my liking in relation to the pedals and my back, the wheel ends up too far for comfort. I have to keep the seat back slightly forward to be able to grip the wheel securely.
But those are minor issues in what is essentially and excellent product. This is a well-engineered, well built vehicle that really satisfies a driver who sees driving as an art rather than an act. Handling (with the 17-inch wheels and tires) is sublime for a family sedan, with delightful steering response and turn-in. straight-line tracking is tack sharp - which was a major problem with my previous W124 Benz 300E (for some reason, it was uncontrollable in gusty side winds.) Body lean is minimal in fast corners, and it always feels stable and secure. The brakes are strong and straight, and the pedal feel reassuring and easy to modulate. Handling was a little compromised with the switch to 16-inchers, but that’s partly my fault: The original tire size was 215/45R17, and the correct size on 16s should be 205/55R16, but I made the mistake of fitting 215/55R16. Although I got a softer, quieter ride, these wheels are simply too big. They don’t hold their composure as well in fast corners, and they dulled acceleration even more. I’m buying a new set of 17-inchers to use for traveling in my vacation, and I’m going to try out 225/50R16 for my daily driving.
Build quality is variable, but generally excellent. There seems to have been a lot of thought going into some things, but a few things seem to have been mere afterthoughts. One example is the rear headlights. I can't think of a good reason why the inner taillights (the ones on the trunk) don't even have bulbs in them. The dealer would charge me money to modify them so they would light up with the outer ones. Another example is the way the carpet is cut around the ventilation tubes under the front seat. A third example is the key for the hazard warning flasher. It's too small and doesn’t light up when using the flasher. Illumination for the sunroof keys would've been nice, too.