by: Mike Ginsca,
Last year, I reviewed the 2017 Mazda 6 GT that had a few small and subtle changes but overall it was essentially the same car as the 2014 model. For the 2018 model year, the Mazda 6 may look pretty much the same but it is drastically different to drive.
Engine – The engine is the reason why the 2018 Mazda 6 Signature is very different than the 2017 model. Essentially it’s the 2.5L turbocharged engine from the Mazda CX-9. Depending on the fuel you use, it can produce up to 250 hp at 5,000 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. That’s on premium fuel, on regular you’ll be getting 227 hp at the same rpm range but surprisingly the same torque figure. The addition of a turbo makes the Mazda 6 Signature feel much more “alive” in terms of acceleration. The naturally aspirated engine in the 2017 model (which is standard in the GS trim) never felt sluggish but it did leave the car behind when compared to the competition.
The turbocharged engine is responsive and there is no hesitation when you stomp on the throttle pedal. In the CX-9, the cabin was well insulated so you couldn’t really hear the engine but in the Mazda 6 I think the engineers purposely made the engine a bit more noisy at higher rpms because it makes a fabulous noise around the 4,000 rpm mark. It’s also fairly fuel efficient on a highway with a claimed rating of 7.5 L/100km. In a city the rating is 10.0 L/100km and during my week long drive in a mostly city environment, I managed approximately 9.0 L/100km.
Transmission – Sadly for the Canadian market there is no more 6-speed manual option on the Mazda 6. Not even on the base engine. It’s gone. A 6-speed Skyactiv automatic is the only transmission that Mazda offers with both engines. For daily driving and for spirited driving, the transmission is great. Fast, smooth shifts that almost rival the best twin-clutch transmissions out there. But I just can’t help it think how much more fun this car would be if a manual transmission was offered with this turbo engine.
Brakes – Stopping in a Mazda has never been an issue and the 6 is more of the same story. Strong brakes bring the approximately 1,500 kg body to a stop with no fuss at all.
Handling – This being “the sporty one” among its competitors, the Mazda6 continues to be a fun and engaging drive on a gloomy Monday morning commute to work. Precise steering with a balanced feel of not too heavy nor too light, make the a Mazda stand out. The G-Vectoring control system takes into account the steering, braking, and throttle input to control the engine’s torque output not only around corners but also in a straight line. The idea being that it reduces driver input when driving in a straight line thus reducing fatigue and also making the car feel more stable around corners, giving the driver more confidence.
Ride Comfort – Although the Mazda6 is trying hard to be sporty, it’s not uncomfortable at all when you drive over a bump in the road. The suspension soaks up road imperfections with ease and the creamy white leather seats provide excellent comfort. The seats feel pretty much identical to last year’s model which to say is comfortable and fairly supportive when going around corners.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – For the most part NVH is subdued in the Mazda. Engine noise doesn’t intrude into the cabin until after 3500 rpms but as mentioned earlier, it’s a very nice noise for a 4-cylinder. Wind & tire noise is kept to a minimum on highways.
Interior Design – Compared to the 2017 model, the interior of the 2018 Mazda 6 Signature sees only slight revisions to the design. The central vents in the dashboard are smaller and the controls for the climate control system are also more compact. The instrument cluster also sees a revision to the gauges and the gauge pods for a more contemporary look. This Signature trim comes equipped with plush Nappa leather and premium feeling materials on the dashboard and seats.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Last year I complained that the 2017 Mazda 6 didn’t have convenience features such as a 360 camera system and ventilated seats. Well, Mazda must have heard my complaints because they are now standard on the Signature trim. But they could have gone with a better supplier of cameras for the 360 system because it’s probably the worst resolution 360 camera system I’ve come across. The ventilated seats though work very well.
Other than those two features, the Mazda 6 comes standard with forward collision warning, emergency braking, and blind spot monitor on all trims. Other features like lane keeping aid, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, etc. are all available on the higher trims. But still no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto… however Mazda says that it’s coming.
Exterior Design – Like the interior, the exterior of the 2018 Mazda 6 only receives a few subtle changes. This Signature trim has a unique mesh grille and fog lamps are no longer available on any trim. The rear remains pretty much unchanged apart from slightly different taillights and fewer curves in the bumper. It’s a nice design overall but those wheels just look a bit bland. Thankfully Mazda has quite a range of optional 17, 18, and 19 inch wheels to choose from. My favourite are the M012 wheels. Head to their “Build & Price” page to check them out. (No, I’m not sponsored by Mazda. I genuinely like the look of those wheels)
Mazda has always been the sporty one of the mainstream auto manufacturers but the Mazda 6 was being left behind by the competition. Now with the introduction of the turbocharged engine in the sedan, it can take the fight back to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.