The Car That Made Me Love Corners

In a truck and SUV crazed family, I learned some cars could hold the road

3w ago

My childhood was always shockingly lacking in interesting automotive experiences. Sure, my parents had owned interesting cars from before I can remember, but I can only recall three of them. Long gone were the Datsuns and Volvo wagons when I was having my formative childhood experiences. In their place was an admittedly awesome Toyota Tundra (which I reviewed here) and an unreliable Ford Explorer, later to be replaced by an even more impressively unreliable Volvo XC90.

That front wheel drive Volvo in all its torque steering, turbo blowing, understeering misery wasn't strictly boring to drive, but it could neither accelerate at any pace or go around a corner with any confidence. The Tundra was fun to drive but even less adept at holding the road. Through this all, the very concept of even riding in a car that was fun around a twisty road was a foreign concept only guessed at by devouring automotive periodicals.

When it came time for my older brother to buy his first car, he somehow ended up with a genuine sport compact that revolutionized the way I thought about cars. Enter: a thoroughly depreciated Mazda6 sedan.

This particular example, pictured on the day it came home, was a 2008, then just 8 years old, and was a ridiculously cheap $3,500 (ish). Most importantly, it had the 3.0 Ford sourced Duratec V6 engine putting out 212 horsepower through a 6 speed automatic in a car that weighed a little over 3,000 pounds.

2000s Mazdas are famed for punching way above their weight in the sportiness category and I can safely say this car lived up to that reputation. It was just about the only vehicle I'd ever ridden in that was sporty and, better yet, this time I was behind the wheel. It's hard to state how revolutionary it was to me to discover corners could be fun even at modest speeds.

Unfortunately, the poor 6 didn't last long. My brother's high school parking lot wasn't kind to it and it quickly acquired many dents and dings plus increasing sun damage from sitting outside. The above photo also reveals a mismatched rim from an OEM one splitting randomly. It may have been a fun car to drive, but it wasn't a particularly durable vehicle. A little over a year after he brought it home, the V6 developed the timing issues that have killed nearly all 6s with that engine culminating in bent valves. The unexpected blessing of a genuine sport compact was gone from my life.

I loved that car nearly as much as my brother. We still occasionally comment on what a riotous load of fun it was to not just drive but to ride in. The goofy wing that went on the V6s also afforded a unique opportunity: seasonal decorations. He wrapped Christmas lights around the wing, bought a Christmas tree designed to be mounted on a car roof, bringing joy to anyone lucky enough to witness such a spectacle.

I can safely credit that car for my current love of cars that elevate handling. Before I drove the 6, I was obsessed with just the appearance of cars, mainly trucks and SUVs because they looked tough. The homely Mazda didn't take itself too seriously but was still a joy to use and that changed my preferences for vehicles forever.

I think everyone had a car in their life that shaped their perceptions of what a car can be. What experiences have led you to where you are today?

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Comments (7)

  • Mazda sedans are generally underrated for their performance, especially in the twisties. My one and only new car was a 2002 Protege, and it was a ball to drive. As was the 1989 Ford Probe I had a few years back (based on the 626 platform). In 2004, I did a Mazda-sponsored autocross event called RevItUp, and the cars we were given to use were V6 6es. They are fun to flick around corners.

      22 days ago
    • Mazda has moved away from its sport compact cars from the 2000s but their cars are still supposed to be fun to drive. I think the gen 1 6 was a high water mark for sporty affordable Mazdas though in terms of pure driving experience. Too bad the V6s...

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        22 days ago
  • The Mazda6 is a wonderful car and quite underrated

    Can’t wait to see the new 6 with the straight six engine and RWD

      22 days ago
    • I live what Mazda has done in the premium segment but in doing so, they've lost some of the sportiness they had in their more plebian 2000s models. This 6 was cheap and felt cheap, but it was ok. It didn't try to be anything it wasn't.

        22 days ago
  • Love my 2006 Mazda6!

      6 days ago
  • My dad had a 2005 mazda 6 2L petrol with a 6 speed manual. I loved the car so much that when he wanted to sell it I offered to buy it off him for £500, but instead he sold it (probably for scrap) for like £200.

      21 days ago
    • That's a shame. They did love to rust in a hurry. Fortunately, being a Georgia car, it didn't have a hint of oxidation anywhere.

      Was your dad's a hatchback? They're hard to spot due to being so similar in appearance to the sedans and barely...

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        21 days ago