I first saw the 6 at the 2002 New York Autoshow last year. The trio of variants (4-door sedan, 5-door notchback, and wagon) on display caught my eye with their sporty styling, efficient and roomy packaging, and the promise of a rare combination of driving enjoyment and practicality. At that point, the details of the upcoming '03 Accord were still speculative, it was pretty clear that the prospects of a V6 Accord sedan being offered with a manual transmission were pretty dim, leaving many Honda enthusiasts somewhat disappointed. With the 6, there were no such disappointments, at least until some Mazda executives apparently underestimated the demand for the 5MT V6 models. Due to high demand for the 5MT V6 models, I was unable to secure a loaner with this configuration, so my impressions are based upon two days and a few hundred miles behind the wheel of a Mazda 6S with the 5-speed manumatic transmission.
The car I tested was a lightly optioned version of the S, which bases at a very reasonable $21,100 (+$520 destination). The add-ons were limited to the $900 automatic transmission and a dealer-installed appearance package that included most of the cosmetic elements of the $860 Sport package, with the exception of the 17" wheels/tires. I would have preferred to drive a car with the Sport Package, as that is what I would have ordered myself, because at an MSRP of $860, the Sport package goes down in my book as one of the best option values in recent memory (it would be nice if Honda and Acura would start offering such sport-oriented bargains). It includes stylish aero elements all the way around the car, the aforementioned 17" wheels, wider and lower tires (215/50VR-17s vs 205/60HR-16s), and foglights integrated into the headlight cluster (otherwise there are some fake "lenses" holding their spot). Were it my 6 to purchase, my options list would certainly include the sport package, the leather seats, and perhaps the Homelink/compass mirror. Equipped this way, the damage would remain well under $24000. Quite a deal.