With perennial favourites in the midsize sedan segment continuously taking the lead in North American sales, the underdog is frequently forgotten. The Honda Accord (reviewed here) and Toyota Camry are definitely some of our favourite sedans available today, but for 2018, Mazda gave their own midsize entry the freshening it deserves. Along with some styling updates to button it down a little bit more, the 2019 Mazda6 Signature 2.5T gets a turbocharged engine and a new top-tier trim level. We grabbed the keys for a quick weekend road trip to Michigan to evaluate its highway manners and conduct a winter fuel economy test.
Equipped on our test car, Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal Metallic is easily one of the most vibrant mainstream paints around right now. It’s hard to see just how special it is in photos, but in person the colour pops in both daytime and low light situations. It also solidifies just how pretty a car the Mazda6 is, with excellent proportions, full LED lighting (including the reverse lights), and elegant 19” wheels on this trim level. The tacky LED light bar that accentuated the grille is now gone, and the Signature model gets a sharp new fascia as well.
The big news here is the availability of the 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, previously only available on the flagship CX-9 (reviewed here). This engine is much better suited to the Mazda6, where it’s rated at 250 horsepower at 5,000RPM and a whopping 310 lb-ft. of torque at just 2,000RPM. These numbers, however, are only available using 93-octane fuel. If running regular as most buyers will, it will deliver 227 horsepower. This engine boasts direct injection and is fairly responsive, though it still doesn’t offer that immediacy that a traditional V6 would.
Unlike other players that get either CVTs or eight-speed automatic, the Mazda soldiers on with a conventional six-speed auto. Response from this transmission is certainly decent thanks to Mazda’s quick-acting torque converter setup, but we experienced some very clunky and jerky transitions at low speeds. The manual transmission is now gone in Canada, which leaves only the Honda Accord for those craving a three-pedal midsize sedan. The business case is obvious, but with how good Mazda’s manual is, we’re sad to see it go.
The Mazda6 Signature has excellent highway manners, hugging the road with minimal steering correction required. Where this car really excels is in the handling department. It handles well like every other Mazda, but also has great steering feel, sharp turn-in, and a good weight to the wheel. Mazda’s G-Vectoring control is in play here, which works behind the scenes to improve handling using weight transfer. Ride quality is also smooth, however the Mazda6 is firmer than the Camry XLE (reviewed here) by a fair bit. A midsize sedan with a firmer ride in favour of an actual personality? Sign me up.
One of the biggest challenges we have with the SKYACTIV-era of Mazda vehicles is overall road noise and lack of sound insulation. The latest CX-5 (reviewed here) and this Mazda6 Signature try to remedy this a bit, with added insulation throughout the vehicle as well as laminated dual-pane glass on the front windows. As a result, the 6 Signature is quieter than the previous top-trim model, and it was easy to have a conversation with my passenger at highway speeds without having to raise our voices.
Fuel economy on the Mazda6 Signature is rated at 10.0L/100km city and 7.5L/100km highway. In combined driving throughout our test week, we observed 9.2L/100km, which is just about on par with our initial test of the turbocharged model. Over approximately 850km on the highway, we observed 8.3L/100km on the 62L tank. This is a bit worse than the estimate, but our test took place in frigid temperatures on winter tires and generous use of heat.
The interior is the highlight of the Signature trim, and is actually one of my favourite current mainstream cabins. It implements “Sen” wood and Ultrasuede materials subtly around the cabin, complementing the Deep Chestnut Nappa leather extremely well. All fit and finish throughout the interior is near perfect, with virtually no hard plastics on this trim level. However, we did find the leather-wrapped steering wheel a bit hard, and the airbag cover could stand to look and feel more premium.
The driving position in the Mazda6 is okay, but the power (and heated/ventilated) driver’s seat needs more adjustability. I found myself at 6’1 struggling to find the perfect position throughout my test week. Head and legroom are both on par for the class, though those carrying taller passengers in the rear will want to consider the cavernous Accord. Mazda has implemented heated rear seats as standard equipment, starting from the base GX trim level. The trunk will hold 416L of cargo.
Mazda has finally implemented Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the new MazdaConnect system. The Commander knob is also improved over the outgoing model and feels significantly more upscale. The i-ACTIVSENSE safety suite includes radar cruise control with stop and go, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and a 360-degree camera. It all works very well, and isn’t as intrusive as other systems. This suite is standard on the Signature model.
Canadian pricing for the 2019 model isn’t available at the time of this writing, but the 2018 Mazda6 starts at $29,176 for the base GS trim, which still comes extremely well equipped. The volume-focused GS-L can be had with the turbo powertrain as an option, and starts at $33,776. The Signature tested here gets all of the available features including a seven-inch LCD display in the gauge cluster, and comes in at $40,976. There are no additional packages on the Signature.
The 2019 Mazda6 Signature 2.5T is more than just the underdog. It’s the second best driver’s car in its class. The Honda Accord Sport 2.0T is available with a manual and was a contender for our Car of the Year award, but if only shopping for an automatic, the Mazda6 would be my pick. It’s gorgeous inside and out, the fit and finish is better than the Honda’s, and I’ve come to prefer this 2.5T over the competing forced-induction offerings. If you don’t need all-wheel-drive and want a premium-feeling sedan that feels German in many ways, the Mazda6 is the ticket.
2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T