2018 Mazda6 Signature Review

The proper and more powerful evolution of the species


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Peerless driving dynamics in the segment, noticeable power increase, more refined interior is truly premium, exterior tweaks are near-perfect.
Negatives: Needs all-wheel drive traction to manage the power, smaller A/C vents don't blow enough air, infotainment system still looks dull, no manual transmission option for higher trim levels.
Bottom Line: The new turbocharged engine is a gem, but it's the upscale level of refinement inside that's the big news. The current Mazda6 has been our favorite family sedan since its inception, and now it's that much better. If you care about driving, styling, and comfort, this is the sedan to get.
 View Our 2018 Mazda MAZDA6 Overview
Mazda's 6 is the best driving sedan in the segment, and that was before the refreshed styling and the engine upgrade. With the introduction of the Mazda CX-9's turbocharged mill going under the hood of the refreshed Mazda6, the car gets proper power along with tasteful exterior changes and a near-overhaul of the interior. The timing is right since the 6 has to up against a new Camry, a new Accord, and a refreshed Sonata, so it has its work cut out for it. We test drove a top trim Signature model for a week to see if the changes really do make a difference. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

9.4

 

If there's one aspect of the 6 we wanted to correct, it was the power output. Mazda has addressed this matter rather late in the current generation's life (it arrived back in 2014), but it's better late than never. It also gets new chassis tuning that, along with G Vectoring Control, improves the 6's dance moves.

Ride Quality: The 6 has never been a cushy ride, but it's still very comfortable. What you get in return is connection with the road surface that most family sedans never even approach.

Acceleration: The power change is noticeable, and the torque kicks in smoothly. 0-60 arrives in the mid 6s, which is about a second better than the 187 hp non-turbo mill provides in lower trims, but it's still slower than the turbo Honda Accord and the V6 Camry by about half a second. But it makes up for the loss in driving fun.

Braking: The brakes are strong, and pedal feel is progressive. They work in great harmony with the new engine and the chassis.

Steering: The 6's electric, speed-sensing power assist steering is one of the best in the business and easily the best in the segment. You feel connected, and the effort is just right.

Handling: The 6 manages turns like a champ, and the car feels remarkably balanced. Most owners will never push this car as much as it can take.

Technology

8.6

 

Mazda's tech is very easy to use. From the steering wheel controls to the head-up display, it's all designed to reduce driver distraction. Their infotainment system falls in line with this philosophy but could use some aesthetic improvements.

Infotainment System: The 7" screen has good visibility and now sits a little higher on the dash. Main menu icons are easy to figure out, but the audio icons at the bottom require some deciphering. The graphics could use some visual punch and more color. They're pretty basic.

Controls: Touchscreen controls and physical knobs are well-placed and easy to use. The Mazda Commander control knob works wonderfully. Climate controls are much improved, as well, with digital readouts on the now larger knobs. The system looks great.

Styling

9.3

 

How do you improve on an already great design? Well, rather than adding on weird bits or totally changing aspects of the car just be different, Mazda made the 6 more sophisticated by making small changes. The result is the best looking Mazda6 ever.

Front: The new mesh grille that gets a gunmetal hue in Signature trim is stunning. It gets a more aggressive framing, too, with an overhanging lip that extends from the hood, just like the CX-9's, and the chrome trim under the grille now extends under the headlights instead of just over the top edges. The lower fascia grille goes from one bar to two, and the foglights move to the headlight cluster.

Rear: The rear gets subtle changes in the taillights and reflectors, while the silver cross bar now angles down at the ends instead of up.

Profile: Most will never notice the changes, but there's a new body crease in the doors, and the wraparound headlight taper is more aggressive. The rear turn signals also are now more visible from the side view, as is the front chrome trim.

Cabin: The new design of the interior actually goes a long way in terms of visual and tactile pleasure. The old cabin was excellent, but this new one is truly top-notch with ultrasuede and wood, as well as a new dash and instrument cluster that belong in a car far more expensive.

Comfort

9.1

 

The 6 lags behind the best-sellers in the segment as far as interior roominess is concerned, but that doesn't mean the 6 is small inside. The materials, visuals, and overall ergonmics make it one of the best interiors out there, regardless of segment or brand.

Front Seats: The sport seats are very comfortable, and the leather is very good. Cushioning and bolstering are also right for a sporty family sedan.

Rear Seats: There's less legroom, headroom, and shoulder room than the Accord, Camry, and Sonata, but six-footers can still sit comfortably.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The sound deadening in the 6 is better than before, and it lends to a more refined experience. The build quality is also excellent with no errant noises.

Visibility: Excellent visibility all around thanks to thin pillars. The 6's seating position for the driver also provides good forward visibility.

Climate: The 6 gets a demerit for a less than powerful climate system. Though we didn't test the heat during our summer test, we ran the A/C full blast, and the smaller vents limit the amount of cold air. We love the new ventilated seats that come standard on the Signature.

Safety

8.8

 

For 2017, the 6 got top ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA, but test criteria have become more stringent. It's still a remarkably safe car, and has an ample supply of safety tech that should make the 6 an appealing buy for families.

IIHS Rating: For 2018, the 6 gets the Top Safety Pick rating, scoring "good" in all categories except for headlights, where it attained a "marginal". It actually went up a notch in the LATCH child anchors by adding another position.

NHTSA Rating: It earns the same score as last year, a five full stars, the top rating from the federal government.

Standard Tech: The features are very robust and include Smart City Brake Support, Smart Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Hill Launch Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, high beam control, and a traffic sign recognition system.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

What the 6 lacks in terms of overall storage/cargo compared to its competitors is made up for by their usefulness. The Accord is bigger, and the Camry only slightly, but the Mazda makes smart use of the space it has.

Storage Space: Though the interior has been tweaked, the useful spaces remain the same in the cabin. The angled cubby at the base of the center stack is great for keys and smaller items, while the big cupholders with the retractable door can hold bigger items, as well. The armrest compartment is short but deep. The latter two spaces can keep items out of sight, which we love.

Cargo Room: The trunk space oddly gets knocked down from 14.8 cubic feet to 14.7 cubic feet. At least the trunk opening is wide, and the floor is flat. It's a good size but not as large as the new Accord's massive 16.7 cubic feet.

Fuel Economy

7.3

 

The new turbo engine isn't nearly as miserly as the naturally-aspirated version, but we didn't expect it to. The combined 35 mpg of last year's car eclipses the turbo's 31 mpg combined. We saw lower numbers, for sure. More conservative driving would definitely net better numbers.

Observed: 20.1 mpg

Distance Driven: 212 miles

Driving Factors: We drove it in Sport mode 100% of the time, wanting to exploit as much of the new engine as possible. We did both highway and local road time almost equally.

Audio

8.5

 

The BOSE 11-speaker audio system is unchanged for 2018. It comes standard on the Signature, which is great. In fact, there aren't any options for the trim level other than accessories. The stereo is potent and clear but could use more fullness and bass.



Final Thoughts

Though we expected a bit more from the upgraded engine in the new 6, we still were thrilled that there's more power on tap, and the 6 uses it well. The car feels more energized by the turbocharging, and the car handles even better than before. What's most noticeable, however, is the 6's interior, which bests some premium brands. Mazda knows what they're doing when it comes to styling and quality, and the 6 remains the only real driver's family sedan.
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