- What’s best: Even at the base GS level, this new Mazda6 is a premium offering.
- What’s worst: No all-wheel drive availability.
- What’s interesting: The new range-topping Signature trim takes the Mazda6 into entry-luxury territory.
Just as it did with its top-of-the-line crossover, Mazda is taking its flagship sedan upmarket.
A new Signature trim model, highlighted by a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine becomes the 2018 range-topper for the Mazda6.
Signature now sits above GT in the Mazda6 trim hierarchy with the GS and GS-L at the lower end of the scale. The previous GX entry-level trim has been dropped for 2018 as Mazda makes its flagship four-door sedan a more premium offering.
The 2.5-litre turbo engine puts out 227 hp on regular fuel and 250 hp with 93-octane premium unleaded.
A 187 hp naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is standard in the GS and GS-L models.
The turbo engine is new to the Mazda6, but has been around for a couple of years in the CX-9 crossover.
And while crossovers are all but taking over the automotive world, Mazda is hoping these changes help grow sales of the Mazda6, which has drawn critical acclaim from automotive scribes over the years yet that has never translated into big sales numbers.
After spending a week with each of the GS-L and Signature trim models, I’d have to say the Mazda6 should be thought of among the leaders in the mid-size sedan segment.
Admittedly, I’m a big fan of this upstart Japanese brand with my wife and I having owned or leased 16 different Mazdas over the years.
But the upgrades for 2018 also seem to be resonating with others in the buying public. As of the end of May, Canadian sales of the Mazda6 sit at 1,194 units year-to-date.
That’s an increase of 17.1 per cent over the previous year, yet nowhere near those put up by the leading Toyota Camry (5,953 units) and Honda Accord (5,180).
The 2018 refresh, the third since a full-scale redesign in 2012, adds both luxury and power to the Mazda6.
The switch to a more premium product is a plan by Mazda to attract buyers in the entry-luxury market with the Signature edition.
From a visual standpoint, the new Mazda6 doesn’t look significantly different, although both the front and rear ends have a refreshed look.
The exterior styling is more refined with a new mesh-style grille and standard LED lights.
Mazda said its stylists worked hard for a look of “mature elegance,” aiming to raise the quality of both the interior and exterior.
Speaking of the cabin, it is a thing of beauty particularly in Signature trim with high-grade materials including Japanese Sen Wood, often used in traditional Japanese instruments and furniture.
Both our test vehicles came with Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, a $450 option that is worth the money in my books. The colour is bright, vibrant and oh so sexy.
On the technology front, new this year is a cylinder deactivation system on the non-turbo 2.5-litre engine, which helps offer superior fuel efficiency of as much as 20 per cent at 40 km/h. Mazda says cylinder deactivation is a first for four-cylinder engines in North America.
A bevy of new safety technologies that help the driver identify potential risks as well as reduce the likelihood of damage or injury are also offered on the Mazda6.
Among them is Mazda Radar Cruise Control that can now bring the car to a standing stop and then start again when the vehicle ahead moves away.
The car also adopts Mazda’s latest 360 View Monitor as well as offering blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, smart city brake support, adaptive front lighting system, head-up display with traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, and a host of other features.
Mazda has dropped its manual transmission for 2018 and all models get a six-speed automatic. Steering wheel mounted paddle shifters come on the GS-L and up.
The Mazda6 entry level is the GS, starting at $27,000 for 2018 and featuring 17-inch alloy wheels, heated seats both front and rear (outboard), eight-inch colour infotainment touchscreen automatic dual zone climate control and much more.
The GS-L ($31,600) adds leather upholstery, power glass moonroof and 10-way adjustable driver’s seat. The turbo engine is optional for an extra $2,000.
The GT ($35,800) gets the 2.5-litre turbo standard, 19-inch alloy wheels, an 11-speaker Bose sound system, ventilated front seats, and adaptive front lighting system.
Signature ($38,800) adds plush Nappa leather upholstery, Sen wood-trimmed front and rear door panels and dash panel, ventilated front seats, Sirius satellite radio and much, much more.
First Drive: 2018 Buick Regal Sportback and Regal GS
But for Mazda, all the creature comforts are unimportant if the vehicle doesn’t live up to the firm’s philosophy of making it a driver’s car first and foremost.
From my experience, the Mazda6 is better than ever, particularly with the new turbocharged engine that provides the more power to go along with the sportiness.
The turbo would be my choice, although the base engine is more than capable for this 1,551 kg automobile.
Steering and handling is first rate and Mazda engineers have been successful in their quest to reduce interior noise, vibration and harshness.
All this adds up to a four-door sedan that has both the styling and the bells and whistles that buyers in the premium sedan segment expect to find.
For those of us who are still “car” fans, more vehicles like this new Mazda6 will help slow the migration of buyers from sedans and hatchbacks to crossovers.
BODY STYLE: Four-door midsize five-passenger sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 2.5-litre DOHC direct-injection four-cylinder (187 hp, 186 lb/ft of torque); 2.5-litre direct-injection turbo (227 hp on regular unleaded, 250 hp on premium, 310 lb/ft of torque) with a six-speed automatic transmission.
FUEL ECONOMY: 2.5-litre 9.1/6.7 L/100 km city/highway; 2.5-litre turbo 10/7.5 L/100 km city/highway.
CARGO VOLUME: 416 litres.
TOW RATING: Not recommended.
PRICE: GS $27,000; GS-L $31,600, turbo $33,600; GT $35,800; Signature $38,800 plus $1,795 destination fee.
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