An oft-overlooked sedan gets a much-needed power boost and continues to be one of the best driving cars in the class.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2018 Mazda6
Base price (Signature trim): $38,800
Options: $450 Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $41,145
The Mazda6’s stunning design still looks fantastic, and my car’s Red Soul Metallic paint is one of the best options out there. Spring for it. It looks deeper than words can describe when it’s clean, and it gets so many looks and comments. Mazda nailed it with this colour.
The 6 gets LED head lights with signature driving lights. The handsome 19-inch rims wear 225/45-sized tires.
The simple and clean styling inside works very well. Mazda uses a very nice selection of materials – plenty of stitched soft-touch panels, a surprising swath of Ultrasuede on the dash and doors, as well as Sen wood trim on the dash and door panels. I do have to mention the plastic trim on the console around the part that shows what gear you’re in. It’s glossy and I’m not sure what happened there prior to my taking delivery of the car, but that trim appears to scratch very easily and it was terribly marred. It looked awful.
The heated steering wheel is grippy and just the right shape and size. The instrument bin behind it contains 3 gauges, the middle one being a crisp, large driver-configurable screen. We found the dark brown Nappa leather seats – which are heated and ventilated – comfortable and aggressively bolstered for sportier driving.
While the centre console is pretty wide, Mazda has seen fit to put upholstered panels on the sides that go all the way back, which is great for those of us who rest their knee against the console. Above it, you’ll find an 8-inch screen jutting out of the dash (not huge by today’s standards, but big enough) – it’s a touchscreen and can also be managed using the HMI rotary control knob on the console. It’s not my favourite user interface, and occasionally things feel a bit nested, but overall, it works fine. This handles all of your phone, navigation and sound functions. The BOSE-branded system with 11 speakers is decent but not spectacular.
The top trim has plenty of driver assistance technology – blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, adaptive head lights, 360 degree camera with front and rear parking sensors, an excellent heads-up display, traffic sign recognition, collision avoidance braking with pedestrian detection, a lane-departure warning and a lane-keep system.
Sitting in the back is comfortable, with good leg room and decent head room for me, at 5’10”.
The middle seatback folds down to become a bit of a control centre for rear passengers – there are two cupholders and an armrest, a carpeted storage bin, the seat heater buttons and two USB charging plugs. On the flipside, if you have 3 rear passengers, you can’t access any of that stuff. There are two sets of LATCH anchors for child seats.
I liked the rubberized open bin at the front of the centre console, as well as the scrolling lid that covers the cupholders. There’s also a very small carpeted bin, as well as two USB ports and a 12V plug, under the armrest lid.
The trunk is spacious at 416L.
Under the Hood
The biggest news for the Mazda6 is the newly available turbocharged 2.5L inline-4 engine. Mazda says it puts out 227 HP on regular fuel and up to 250 HP on 93-octane gas. But the more important part is the 310 lb.ft of torque, available at a low 2,000 RPM. This power is sent to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission, and the combination is rated at 10/7.5 L/100 km city/highway. I averaged 10.1 L/100 km making absolutely no effort to drive efficiently so that’s alright.
As expected from a Mazda, the driving experience was excellent. On paper, the new turbo engine has more than enough to motivate this 1622 kg (3576 pound) sedan, but I found that it doesn’t feel like it puts down all of that torque. Perhaps that’s because of the slight lag, or something in the programming. But once it connects, it pulls strongly when you ask it to. One other nitpick – I found the new engine a bit coarse-sounding and -feeling at higher revs and I wish it was a bit more refined. With all that said, the newfound power is wonderful and definitely resolves my biggest complaint in the previous Mazda6. The transmission has a Sport mode which will hang on to gears a bit longer, and you can use the paddle shifters too, but they’re not particularly fast. Occasionally I wished for another gear or two.
Where the Mazda6 truly shines (and always has) is in the suspension department. You’ll notice the suppleness of the suspension first. It’s firm, but quiet and luxurious and it absolutely handles anything our Edmonton roads threw at it. Yet it turns out the handling is the car’s trump card. The Mazda6 is truly fun to drive. It turns in quickly and it stays remarkably flat. The combination of a well-tuned suspension and effective torque vectoring lets this car feel playful and willing.
Its braking abilities are good. I found the Mazda6 to be mostly quiet, although on the highway, the road noise picked up considerably.
I wasn’t fond of the weird, distorted views that the Top View Monitor camera(s) provided, nor the fact that the guidelines for the back-up camera weren’t dynamic trajectory lines – as in they didn’t move as I turned the steering wheel. It felt oddly dated and less than helpful.
My review car had about 11,000 kms on it and there was a loud and very noticeable resonance consistently any time the vehicle was driving between 80-90 km/h. I’m not sure if that’s a wheel bearing or what, but it wasn’t something I’d expect on a relatively new vehicle.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was pretty high. She said it is a very sharp-looking car and she thought it drove nicely and felt well-appointed inside.
The Mazda6 has long been one of my favourite sedans because it’s such a wonderful driver’s car. The balance between comfort and handling is sublime, and it now has substantially more power on tap, which was one of the chief complaints in the past.
It’s a wonderful car, and I’d love to see more of them on the road. But the competition is very, very tough here in the shrinking mid-size sedan market. When you’re stacking up against the incredible new Honda Accord and the new Toyota Camry, it’s tough. Kudos to Mazda for making a car that focuses on the experience behind the wheel and for letting their designers do their thing – the Mazda6 is a thing of beauty.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mazda Canada.
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