Mazda has long had one of the better looking midsize sedans, its Mazda6. But if there was anything to slow its sales it may have been its somewhat modest horsepower.
Mazda’s efficient 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G I4 isn’t a weakling, it pumps out 184 horsepower, but there are competitors in this super competitive market segment with engines delivering 200+ horsepower.
Now Mazda has an answer. It has turbocharged the 2.5-liter I4 to give it 227 horses, or by some reports 250 horses if you feed it premium gasoline.
Along with that new turbo engine Mazda has upgraded its already spiffy interior, retuned the suspension for more comfort and installed wider seats and a larger infotainment screen. The result, the Mazda6 has matured into one of the finest midsize cars on the market.
Always handsome, the Mazda6 also is a driver’s car. Now it has the power, while its handling remains on the edge of sporty, and its ride feels like a luxury sedan – think similar-sized Lexus. Over bumpy roads the Mazda never felt jittery, it handled great with quick steering and just the right amount of steering wheel weight. Mazda uses something it calls G-Vectoring Control that adjusts power delivery and automatically shifts vehicle weight to aid cornering and make for smoother and easier handling.
There are several sets of railroad tracks between home and work and they are a good test of any car’s ride quality. The Mazda6 cruised over these with little jostle inside, delivering a well-controlled ride. The test car rode on R19 tires.
There’s also a Sport drive mode toggle that allows the driver to boost torque and firm the ride and steering further. It helps, but in normal driving you’ll likely never need it.
Braking comes from four-wheel discs and stability and traction control are standard. The tested Mazda6 Signature model (where the turbo is standard) also includes lane keep assist and lane departure warning, plus smart city brake support that helps avoid fender benders by clamping on the binders when it senses a possible front-end collision.
Blind-spot warning and a rearview camera also are standard as is a 360-degree camera, which aids maneuvering in tight parking spots. Smart cruise control is standard here too.
The interior, always a Mazda6 strongpoint, also is improved. The test car’s black leather interior featured a padded dash and thickly padded center armrest atop the center storage bin. Trim is brushed chrome on the doors and dash, with fake wood on the dash and doors between that chrome. The console has black gloss trim and there’s some on the doors too.
Most importantly to us old crabby drivers, the interior is quiet to complement comfy. Little road noise and no wind noise, like a luxury sedan.
The steering wheel is manual tilt/telescope with the usual array of controls on its hub, while the dash is attractive and easy to see and reach all controls. Climate controls spread out below the 8-inch infotainment screen, up from 7-inch screens in earlier models. Climate control buttons are easy to see and use.
That screen is not a touchscreen, but controlled via a fiddly knob on the console. I still find these hard to use while driving as you must look directly at the screen to make any adjustments. A few preset buttons on a dash or a touchscreen would easily fix this, as many other car makers have.
Mazda’s perforated Nappa leather seats are comfortable with mild hip and leg support, but more contoured back support. Both front seats are powered and the Signature edition models come with heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel too. The driver’s seat has two memory selection buttons.
Rear seats were comfortable and riders said head and legroom was fine. The rear seats split and fold down to extend cargo space and the trunk itself is quite deep.
Standard are inside releases for the trunk and fuel filler door, sun visors that slide, paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, and cup holders in the console that can be hidden via a roll-top cover, similar to what you’d see on a roll-top desk.
There are plenty of electronic hookups too for the digitally obsessed.
Other pluses include rain-sensing wipers, a head-up driver display, heated side mirrors, and adaptive front lighting.
Gas mileage, thanks to that Skyactiv turbo engine, also is a plus. I got 27.9 mpg in about 60% city driving while the EPA says this car is rated at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. It was happy enough on regular unleaded. But as mentioned earlier, this turbo is said to gain roughly another 25 hp if you use premium fuel.
The test car was so well equipped its options list was brief, including cargo mats for $75, scuff plates on the door sills for $125 and the beautiful dark metallic red (Soul Red) paint job for $595 and well worth it in my book.
The Signature is the top-end Mazda6, listing at $34,750 including delivery and after the paltry options listed above, hit just $36,435. That’s basically the average cost of a new car today, so Mazda is right on target there.
The Mazda6 comes in four trim levels, the base Sport model with a manual 6-speed transmission and the standard 2.5-liter I4 with 184 horses. The Sport comes with blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and the new 8-inch screen. It lists for $22,500, including delivery, so a respectable bargain. A 6-speed automatic transmission as was in the test car adds $1,050 to the price. So you might as well move on up to the Touring model at $25,000. It adds all that plus leatherette seats, dual-zone climate controls, a powered driver’s seat, 19-inch wheels and tires, the rain-sensing wipers and smart city braking.
The $32,000 Grand Touring model adds navigation and smart cruise control, perforated leather seats, a power passenger’s seat, paddle shifters and an illuminated grille. The tested Signature includes all of the above plus the wood trim and suede dash, seats and door panels.
One more thing, as if all the above is not enough to get you shopping for a Mazda6. The car also gets a 5-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Bottom line? This is a fine family sedan that now has the power you want, the features you demand, and the luxury feel that you deserve.
FAST STATS: 2018 Mazda6 Signature
Hits: Handsome sedan with improved power, good handling and ride and a luxury feel. Heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, easy to use climate controls, sunroof, Bose sound system, 360-degree camera, rearview camera, blind-spot warning, deep trunk and quiet interior.
Misses: Fiddly console knob-controlled radio screen.
Made in: Hofu, Japan
Engine: 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G turbo I4, 227 horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 3,560 lbs.
Length: 192.7 in.
Wheelbase: 111.4 in.
Cargo: 14.7 cu.ft.
MPG: 27.9 (tested)
Base Price: $34,750 (includes delivery)
Cargo mat, $75
Soul red paint, $595
Scuff plates, $125
Test vehicle: $36,435
Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage