The 2008 Mazda6 Luxury Sports is a fantastic looking mid-sizer, just like the model it succeeded. Being so good looking, in fact has made it just that tiny bit easier to forgive some of the foibles with everyday ownership of the 6. For some perspective, I came out of the Fiesta ST (recent review here also) and purchased the 6 off a family member who has owned it since new.
I'll get the negatives out of the way first.
The 5 speed auto smooth as silk when under way. Take off from the lights in a straight line and it will do just as you expect. Seamless shifts with a relatively low final gearing to allow for fairly decent fuel economy (hovers around 8L/100km on the highway).
Ask a little more however, say, throwing it around some inner city streets at a brisk pace, and all notions of grace seem to fall off the radar. It becomes indecisive and the fairly hefty weight of the 6 becomes more than apparent. That being said, a manual transmission in the 6 makes a phenomenal difference in getting the most out of the engine (and it's got a superbly slick 6 speed transmission).
The 2.5L 4 cylinder, which pumps out 125kw/227nm, begins to feel breathless, torque-less and overworked; even more so with the dual zone climate control working hard. This also affects fuel economy in town (~11L/100km). Over 5,200kms I have recorded an average of 9.86L/100km. Admittedly, the engine can be very rev-happy and pliable on flat roads with just the driver on board so it does occasionally have it's merits.
Road noise is a constant battle for this generation of Mazda; and needless to say it is a large downfall of the 6. Tyre roar through the cabin can't be ignored and the sunroof makes for difficult conversation. This was also an issue in my SP25, however the brilliant 10 speaker BOSE system in the 3 made up for it. The 9 speaker BOSE in the 6 seems to lack clarity and also functionality with no standard bluetooth (i've got the dealer fit option), no USB and VERY unintuitive steering wheel controls.
Overall visibility in the hatch is probably the worst of any passenger car i've personally driven, and there's a few. The rear spoiler enhances the lack of transparency of anything behind the 6; so if you are to choose the hatch I highly recommend rear-parking sensors. The thick A pillars and high waistline also exacerbate this issue and I find myself double-checking blindspots more than most cars.
The GH Mazda6 does have several saving graces other than its handsome face, however. The handling is sublime for something so heavy - this generation is by no means overrated. The steering is perfectly weighted and it is VERY easy to chuck it around most corners. Entirely predictable, controlled and solid, there isn't much room for improvement. With the right tyres fitted, any corner can be had for lunch.
The boot is cavernous. I moved a 400L fridge in the back along with a couple of other things. With the easy Karakuri flat-folding seats, you've essentially got a ute. Overall passenger space isn't bad; better for 4 adults than 5; however it's worth nothing that the sloping roof height of the hatch isn't overly ideal for those lifting little ones into car seats - i'd most certainly pick the sexy wagon if this is the case.
Fit and finish is also fantastic. Panels are tightly aligned, the interior materials are well-textured and there has only been a few very minor intermittent rattles; usually when the outside temperature is very cold. The xenon headlights are also fantastic and the updated model in 2010 brought static cornering units that are even more purposeful.
Reliability wise - almost perfect after 88,000kms. The only issues being a thermostat failure, the bluetooth module fell out the day it was picked up from the dealership and a well noted problem of the exterior paint quality. Whilst the Stormy Blue finish of the 6 looks spectacular in all light; it seems to be marked by an autumn breeze. Plenty of very fine scratches and marks from the daily grind of shopping centre carparks etc. Service costs are also reasonable; however in light of the movement towards capped price servicing, the 6 month/10,000km intervals work out to be above average for annual maintenance - at around $700 a year. However the customer service and work quality at the local dealership can not be faulted.
Relative to its time, the GH Mazda6 Luxury Sports is a damned fine semi-sporting and practical car for families and singles alike. It's a very easy car to recommend to a wide range of people, although i'd certainly choose the wagon if you can live without the forgettable BOSE system, the sunroof and a couple of other cosmetic goodies.