Review: 2018 Mazda6 Signature

When I first fired up the engine of the redesigned Mazda6, I had a momentary flashback. I was a teenager again, watching a television commercial for Mazda’s claim-to-fame at that time: a rotary engine.

Don’t misunderstand; you’ll find no rotary power in the 6. The last time the company used that particular engine in a standard production car was in the RX8 six years ago. It was just a fun memory for me. These days Mazda goes the traditional route, and the 6 is essentially a stepping-stone for entering the luxury market.

Why? Because slowly but surely the Japanese carmaker is stepping up their game, delivering a smooth, powerful ride in a comfortable, close-to-luxurious setting. For the price, the Mazda6 is a player to be reckoned with.

The Basics

Every car, it seems, must be labeled. It’s mostly so the various competitors can compare apples to apples – and sometimes lemons to lemons.

You’ve got your subcompacts, your compacts, your sports cars, sport utility beasts, and the good ol’, reliable family sedan. That last category is where we slot the Mazda6.

I’ve driven lots of family sedans, and there are few that provide the combination of family functionality with sporty and stylish good looks. Ain’t nothing jaw-dropping about the Volkswagen Passat or the Kia Optima. Good cars, but nary a head-turn generated by either.

The Mazda6, however, is stylish, dare I say sexy. It has great lines, which turn out to be design-friendly, too.

Mazda offers a variety of trim levels in the 6, starting with the base model (smartly named Sport – good move, guys) through the Touring and Grand Touring, up to the Signature series. For one week I drove the Signature.

That base entry Sport features a 2.5-L engine, and by the time you get to the Grand Touring you’ve added turbocharged power. These higher trim levels also step up the luxury game, delivering better material inside and a few extra bells and whistles.

The 2018 models have all been slightly redesigned, with most of the changes aimed at the aesthetics. It was a good call, and brought the 6 into line with some competitors.

The Drive

My Signature didn’t disappoint off the line. No one will confuse it with a Formula 1 jet, but I found the power satisfying.

I especially enjoyed the 6’s steering and handling, and found myself opting for curvy roads when the straight path would’ve been quicker. It was just a fun car for turning left and right.

For now you’ll have to be content with front-wheel-drive. Mazda has attempted to introduce an AWD version, but things haven’t worked out. For the foreseeable future it’s not an option, but there are whispers that they’re still trying. Fingers crossed.

The Inside

No bones about it, this is a nice car on the inside. For starters, I simply liked the design of the cockpit. Everything is laid out nicely, and there’s padding in all the right places so your legs never bang against anything awkwardly.

With the step up to the Signature, I experienced very comfortable, Nappa-leather-trimmed seats. But I also enjoyed the stitching and the superior materials.

The setup for the dash – and the accompanying 8-inch color touchscreen – is user friendly. Nice chrome touches around the vents add to that luxury appeal I mentioned earlier. I’m telling you, they’re sniffing at the heels of some of Europe’s luxury makers.

There’s good storage up front, and plenty of storage in the trunk, which seems exceptionally deep.

The car has good visibility, too. Plus, getting in and out are a breeze. Lately I’ve been in some cars with massive doors that make for difficult entry and exit. Not the 6.

The Tech

The aforementioned touchscreen is handy and intuitive. Even the base Sport model comes with a nice array of toys, but once you get up to the Grand Touring and Signature you’re picking up extra goodies.

Every car comes standard with a backup camera, which people scream for these days. The upper-trim levels also offer surround-view cameras, which are interesting. You can read about how they work here.

You’ll like the active driving display on the windshield and the digital gauge cluster. My Signature included tire-pressure monitoring (another of those newer treats that you never want to give up after having for a while).

Starting this year Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be built in to the upper trim levels, available as an option for the lower end. For now, however, existing cars in the Touring and above class can be upgraded for no charge at a dealership.

The Bottom Line

Again, we’re all about putting vehicles into their respective boxes, and the Mazda6 has pretty much lived in the mid-priced family sedan category.

With the spiffy new looks, including the gunmetal front grille, and the quality materials upgrade inside, we may be seeing the model elbowing its way into the luxury class.

The price betrays that move, though. Including optional equipment, my Signature series still came in with a mid-30k price tag. Given the good looks and the fun drive, one could consider this car one of the better values on the road.

Too bad it doesn’t still have the hmmmmmmm of the old days. (Kidding)

The Details

2018 Mazda6 Signature
2.5-L 4-cylinder
Mileage: 23/31/26 combined
MSRP: $34,750
As tested: $36,435

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer

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