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2006 Mazda 6 S Grand Sport Wagon Review

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In short: A sporty, well-equipped family wagon.

Alternative is a popular word nowadays. Tofu is an alternative to meat. Alternative medicine sends you to the herb garden in lieu of the folks at Pfizer. Doing things differently than the norm is cool. Take the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon, for example, an alternative to a pair of popular types of vehicle—family sedans and compact SUVs.

Want a little more sport and versatility than the omnipresent Camry and Accord can offer? Voila, the 6 provides three body styles (sedan, five-door hatch and wagon) and plenty of that famed zoom-zoom attitude. How about those driving enthusiasts who need extra space, but who’d rather back over themselves with a sloppy-handling SUV than drive one? For them, the Sport Wagon can pack in a spacious 33.7 cubic feet of cargo (the same as a Honda CR-V), but has the ability to slice through twisty roads.

There is only one engine offered in the Sport Wagon, a 3.0-liter V6 that—while powerful enough—isn’t as robust as other six-cylinders in its class and is noisy at higher revs. There are two transmissions offered, a six-speed automatic and our test car’s five-speed manual that felt a little sticky. Also, manual wagons might be attractive in Europe, but for most here in the United States, they’re as sought after as pickled herring. Don’t count on finding many at your local Mazda dealer.

Styling has been tweaked for 2006, and the interior now features “piano black” glossy surfaces in lieu of the outgoing model’s silver plastic. Instrumentation glows red, while all vital radio and A/C info is transmitted high onto the dash in one wide display, keeping the driver’s eyes close to the road. The sporty steering wheel telescopes far out, which provides a very comfortable seating position for taller drivers, while rear passengers enjoy ample space even if Hakeem Olajuwon’s up front.

Our 6 came in S Grand Sport Wagon trim that included almost every feature we could desire at a reasonable $28,570. Heated power leather seats, Bose audio, a moonroof, xenon headlights and steering wheel controls were welcome luxury features, while the aggressive 18-inch wheels filled out the fender arches with hunky muscularity. With this much equipment, the Grand Sport Wagon can also be considered an alternative to entry-level luxury wagons like the Volvo V50, Saab 9-3 SportCombi and Audi A4 Avant. It may not have the hoity-toity badge recognition, but the 6 offers many of the same features for a lot less money.

If you’re one of those independent people who, instead of keeping up with the Joneses, enjoy running in the opposite direction, the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon could be a great choice. It is the tofu of automobiles, substituting for several types of cars by offering a healthy mix of practicality, luxury and driving excitement. If being alternative is cool, then count the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon as yet another example.

Warranty/Service: 48-month/50,000 Mile Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty; 24-hour roadside assistance, loaner car program.

Base Price: $23,610 / As tested: $28,570

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon

Engine: 3.0-liter V6
Horsepower: 220 bhp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 199 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Curb weight: 3461 lbs
Wheelbase: 105.3 in
187.8/70.1/57.3 in
Turning circle: 38.7 feet

Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS
independent front and rear
traction control

0-60 mph: 7.2 seconds
Top Speed: 120 mph (governed)

EPA City: 19 mpg
EPA Highway: 27 mpg

Sporty looks and handling; practical; proven reliability record; high-feature content

Noisy engine at high revs; wide turning radius; sticky gear box

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Photography: AlphaMedia

(Updated: 12/20/11 NW)

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