2003 All-Star Family Car: Mazda 6
With the Mazda 6, you get pretty much the same deal as a big-time sport sedan from one of those fancy places in Germany. On the road, the Mazda 6 practically sings with liveliness. It turns briskly into corners with a kind of athletic purpose, evidence of the development put into the control-arm front suspension and uniquely packaged multi-link rear setup. You can even throw the Mazda 6 into corners like a rally car if you like, because it doesn't lose its poise when the tires are working hard. There's a terrific spread of power across the rev range from the 220-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6, thanks to Mazda-engineered variable valve timing. Just as important, Mazda has transformed the sound and feel of this engine so you'd never suspect its origins lie in the pedestrian Ford Duratec V-6. The 160-horsepower, 2.3-liter in-line four, with its counterrotating balance shafts, is equally great: smooth when you're cruising and crisp when you're not. The Mazda 6 is a sport sedan, and its high content of engineering and luxury features shows you that it takes this mission seriously. At the same time, it has a simplicity that makes it affordable. We particularly like it because it ends the stranglehold that family values have had on cars in this segment.