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Two weeks ago, I flew into Dallas with three friends—Alan, Jim, and Meg—and picked up a new, 2009 Mazda 6i Grand Touring sedan. With a base price of $24,910, it included a 170-hp, 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission; 17-inch aluminum wheels; heated front seats; and a blind-spot monitoring system. Options on our test car included a $2000 navigation system and the $1760 moonroof & Bose package, which gets you a better stereo, a six-disc CD changer, and Sirius satellite radio. That made for an as-tested price of $29,340.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, as we all know, including the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, the broad roads, and the hairdos. But we were still pleasantly surprised by how big the Mazda 6 is in terms of both cabin and cargo space. The wide, deep, and tall trunk had no problem swallowing all of our luggage, and when Jim and Meg settled into the rear seats, they were thrilled by the amount of foot and legroom, having feared they were destined for a five-hour ride in a penalty box.

In the driver’s seat, I was happy with the general controls, the pleasantly tactile clutch and the gear shifter’s smooth, light action, and the steering feel. There was plenty of power from the four-cylinder engine; in fact, I initially assumed that the car had a V-6 until I checked the Monroney sticker. I was not as impressed by our car’s navigation system, which I assume was on the fritz, because we could not get it to display a map or turn-by-turn directions no matter how much we fiddled with it and consulted the owners’ manual. Very frustrating, but that’s why we also had AAA maps with us.

By the time we reached Rose Hill (, my sister’s country inn nestled into the Pedernales River Valley near the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, our patience with each other had worn thin and a glass of Viognier from nearby Becker Vineyards was sounding mighty good, but the Mazda had proved to be a comfortable steed for the four of us. We were a bit weary, though, of all the road noise that permeated the cabin, a result of a particular mix of asphalt that seemed common on Texas roads.

Over the next two days, we toured Hill Country, including Fredericksburg, with up to five people in the car, and made two forays into downtown Austin. The first, on Saturday, was so that Jim and I could pick up our registration packets for the Austin Half-Marathon. The second, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, was for the race itself. Parking at a meter outside a nightclub near the Sixth Street music district, we watched two groups of people make their way through the dim early-morning light: fresh-faced runners who were just arriving, and all-night partiers who were still stumbling home in fishnet stockings and high heels.

Over 806 miles, the Mazda 6i achieved an average of 25.4 mpg. As for my own mileage? I did the 13.1 miles of the Austin Half-Marathon in 1:46:51.
Joe DeMatio
Automobile Magazine
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