Soon, there will be a Hatchtopia feature story on what I consider to be the “Golden Age” of hatchbacks – generally the mid-1980s. But there are a few holdouts from that period that soldiered on into the new millennium – the first generation Mazda6 among them. Of course, the 6 is a direct decedent of the old 626, which was available as a hatchback during those golden years of the 80s – with the lustworthy 626 GT Turbo closing out the decade.
The demise of the #2# – model series Mazdas made way for the new 3 and 6 models, both available in a variety of body styles. The 6, being the larger of the two, aimed for the squishy midsection of the North American market, populated with such heavy hitters as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. What the 6 offered that these other mainstreamers didn’t was the choice of 4 or 5 doors in the form of a sedan, hatchback and wagon.
As expected, the take rate on the hatch and wagon variants was significantly less than the 4 door. Mazda also chose to equip the hatch with their boy-racer body kit and rear spoiler, moving that variant into a more sporting and less mainstream demographic. All of the various 6s were praised for tight handling and decent power, with the first year models making Car and Driver’s 10 Best list.
The 6 was available with a 2.3 liter 4 – also found in such varied applications as the Mazda 3, Ford Ranger pickup and Ford Escape SUV – and a 3.0 liter V6 sourced from the European Ford Mondeo. These were the days of heavy Ford/Mazda parts sharing, before Ford sold off a significant portion of its Mazda interests.
The 4 door version of the 6 was also available in Mazdaspeed trim, with a 274-horsepower turbocharged version of the 2.3.
6s are starting to make their way into the secondary market with the potential for unfortunate modifications looming – fortunately, today’s Hatch in the Wild has not yet succumbed to any heavy-handed Pep Boys styling treatments, only sporting a dark rear tint as a non-factory option. Although, the size of a potential subwoofer box in the back is only limited by the height of the parcel shelf.
The 6 hatch features a less steeply-angled rear light, giving a long and low fastback appearance more reminiscent of older sedan-based midsized hatches of days past. The Mazda 3 hatch on the other hand, has a longer roof and more wagon-y appearance. But that’s a post for another day…