For those who enjoy a pinch more performance handling within a five-passenger confine, the Mazda6 continues to evolve and deliver. It's the largest sedan within the Zoom Zoom family consisting of four-cylinder powered cars and crossovers.
Mazda6 debuted in the 2003 model year replacing the rather pedestrian 626 sedan. A third-generation makeover arrived in 2014 and our 2018 tester is based off this solid platform. Mazda has added upgrades each ensuing year since 2014 with 2018 breaking more ground than ever.
A new four-cylinder turbocharged engine is now available, joining a returning naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) offering.
Both engines team with Mazda's G-vectoring control, monitoring the amount of power sent to the wheels to deliver assured cornering confidence while maintaining stability and minimizing body sway. It's the performance darling of the often staid mainstream mid-sizers including segment sales leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
The front grille gets tweaked for 2018 and technological advances include radar-enhanced cruise controls standard in all but the base edition, automatically speeding and slowing the '6' down based on the distance of the vehicle ahead. Dual-zone front temperature controls are now standard in all trims.
Speaking of trim levels, 2018 jumps the number to five from three. Joining returning Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims are two new up-market offerings: the Grand Touring Reserve and top-shelf Signature. The 2018 editions began arriving rather late in the calendar year to dealers as shipment began this past April.
Mazda6 simplifies the purchasing process with relatively few extras and option packages. The higher one travels up the trim level ladder, the greater number of standard features.
The front end continues with Mazda's familiar winged logo, with the top Signature trim sporting an all-new three-dimensional-like 'Gunmetal' honeycomb theme. Gentile, not harsh character lines (actually swoops) continue adorning smoothed out side fenders and doors. One such soft curve starts at the wrap-around headlight housing and ends under the side-view mirror. A secondary swoop starts near the front 'A' pillar base, extending towards the rear-doors strap-like body colored door strap. The thin nature of A and C pillars contrast with a large rear window and short deck lid.
Our Signature tester included a diminutive spoiler at the trunk lid's upper back edge. Every trim sports bright dual exhausts and narrow, wrap-around headlight and tail light housing. The LED headlamps in the top two trims include an adaptive function, adjusting the light beam as the steering wheel turns.
Mazda6 continues strictly as front-wheel drive with no all-wheel drive companion. Alternative powertrains (gas-electric hybrid, plug-in electric hybrid, all electric EV) are not yet offered in the 6, as Mazda continues to tinker and tweet the traditional internal combustion engine.
SkyActive technology, which debuted in 2013 Mazda3 compact sedan, increases performance in part by delivering a higher engine compression ratio. SkyActive DNA technology now runs through all Mazda family members.
Sport and Touring trims return with a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 187 horsepower. This engine's also serves the compact Mazda3 sedan. Standard is cylinder deactivation, saving fuel by incorporating a 'sleep' mode at prolonged stops, returning to action once the right foot lifts off the brake pedal.
Upper trims feature a new, peppy turbocharged edition of the 2.5-liter four cylinder engine cranking out 227 horses. Turbochargers run off of recycled exhaust gases spinning a pinwheel-inspired turbine to pump concentrated air into the engine, increasing horsepower numbers without adding more weight in the form of more cylinders.
The naturally-aspirated four delivers better than average fuel estimates for a mid-size when teamed with the six-speed automatic (26 miles per gallon city and 35 mpg highway). Expect three miles less city and four highway with the turbo. Both utilize regular 87-octane fuel.
Sport is the sole trim with a six-speed manual transmission standard. All other trims opt for a six-speed automatic standard with Sport offering one as a $1,050 option.
Our well-equipped Signature tester with just about every bell and whistle Mazda6 offers in 2018 started at $34,750. The sole factory option was a $300 Machine Gray exterior paint choice and with a few additional dealer-type options (a $75 cargo mat and $125 scuff plates the bottom line ended at $36,140 with $890 destination charge. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a six-speed manual Sport starts at $21,950.
A new Nappa leather interior with white stitching is a Signature exclusive. New in all trims and contributing to butt and back comfort, fully redesigned seats with high-density, vibration-absorbing urethane foam. In back, three riders can fit in a pinch, but two travel in optimal comfort. Plus with the middle free, a fold-down arm rest flips open to contribute dual beverage holders and (in the top three trims) two additional USB ports.
An eight-inch multi-function flat screen serves as the dashboard's prominent visual. Its bottom half tucks inside the central dash with a foot stage extension along the bottom, while the top portion extends up above the nicely padded dash. Sharp four-color graphics impress, and drivers have multiple ways to interact with the screen.
A rather large 'Command Control' circular chrome tactile twist-and-push knob between bucket seats allows scrolling through a host of horizontal tutorial screen options, selectable by a downward push. A smaller, stalk-like chrome volume knob resides to the right. Three select buttons (home, music and navigation) are located in front of the twist-push dial for quick access by fingers. It's not the most intuitive design, but secondary volume and station preset steering wheel buttons help speed the process and one still can simply touch the screen to choose an option (although pinching and swiping accomplishes nothing).
The top-trim Signature includes a slightly larger format instrument panel. A circular center circle, while seemingly analog, is actually digital while the Mikey-Mouse-ear like three-quarter circles to the side are largely analog driven. All information is readily sight-able with a nifty miles-to-empty readout consistently visible on the side of the curved gas gauge.
A few wishes.... Second row confines need a bit more leg room. Popular Smartphone connections (Android Auto and Apple Car Play) allowing cell phone interaction with the center screen, has yet to join Mazda6.
Trunk cargo capacity runs a bit short in side-by-side comparisons too as it's not as deep as some rivals. A nice upgrade includes housing pads surrounding the goose-style hinges, preventing boxes or luggage from being compromised. The trunk region provides pull tabs for unlocking the 60/40 split back rest.
Price as tested: $36,140
Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo
Wheelbase: 111.4 inches
Overall length: 191.5 inches
Overall Height: 57.1 inches
Overall width: 72.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,560 pounds
Fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Assembly: Hofu, Japan