Emma Jayne Williams

Mazda6 sedan gets a major update for 2018, with more elegance, tech

The Mazda6 midsize sedan has been completely redesigned for 2018, moving it into its fourth generation. It has comfortable seating for up to five people.
The Mazda6 midsize sedan has been completely redesigned for 2018, moving it into its fourth generation. It has comfortable seating for up to five people.

For more than 50 years, Mazda has used a set of guiding principles known as “Mazda Premium” to build vehicles that compete a class above and complement the builder’s human-centric design and engineering. “Mazda Premium” is about an experience, not a higher price tag.

Introduced in 2002, the mid-size Mazda6 midsize sedan was marketed as the first example of the Japanese company’s “Stylish, Insightful, and Spirited” design philosophy. Improvements have been the norm every year, up to and including the current model, which is the fourth generation.

The Mazda6 has been re-engineered and refined for 2018, with many newly available technologies and premium features with unequalled craftsmanship and design.

Newly available technologies include Mazda’s award-winning turbocharged SKYACTIVE-G 2.5T four-cylinder engine, and new materials include Deep Chestnut Nappa leather, UltraSuede NU, and fine-grained Japanese Sen wood in the top-tier Signature trim.

The all-new interior includes fully redesigned seats featuring high-density, vibration-absorbing urethane foam for improved comfort and reduced fatigue. Thicker steel in the floor helps block road noise, and the suspension is re-engineered to provide a better driving experience.

Five models are available: Sport ($21,950, manual; $23,000, automatic); Touring ($25,700); Grand Touring ($29,200); Grand Touring Reserve ($31,700); and Signature ($34,750).

For 2018 some features, such as the CD player, are dropped or replaced, and some new features are added – all depending on the model chosen. For this review I drove a Mazda6 Signature, which is one of two new top trims, along with the Grand Touring Reserve.

My Mazda6 Signature had the new 2.5T engine mated to a six-speed SKYACTIV-DRIVE automatic transmission with Sport mode, paddle shifters, front-wheel drive, new 19-inch alloy wheels (new 17-inch design also available), LED headlights (with integrated fog lights, all models) with Adaptive Front Lighting, and LED front and rear turn signal lights (all models).

Also included were the Gunmetal front grille (all models have a new front grille design), new Soul Red Crystal exterior, windshield wiper de-icer, Smart Brake Support/Full-speed Cruise Control with Stop and Go/Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist/High Beam Control/ventilated front seats/rear seat center armrest with storage and two USB charging ports (Touring and above), and Smart City Brake Support (all models).

All 2018 models have a new, standard eight-inch MAZDA CONNECT infotainment display with sharper color contrast.

Adaptive Front Lighting helps increase safety during night driving by pointing the low-beam headlights in the direction the driver turns the wheels.

Smart City Brake Support and Smart Brake Support help the driver avoid or reduce the severity of collisions by applying the brakes and reducing engine output if the driver does not respond appropriately – SCBS at slow speeds and shorter distances in urban or congested traffic, SBS at higher speeds and distances up to 218 yards. SBS, coupled with Distance Recognition Support System visually displays the distance, and Forward Obstruction Warning alerts the driver via alarm and warning light.

The MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system (with navigation) display sits on top of the dash, with a console controller knob in addition to touch-screen functions. The knob is handy for using while driving, instead of reaching for the screen with a wobbly hand. The menus, however, could be a little confusing, with multiple submenus for even simple tasks. Voice recognition was spotty, perhaps due to my ever-so-slight Appalachian accent.

Signature and GTR have the exclusive windshield-projected, full-color Active Driving Display, heated rear 60/40 fold-down seats, and heated steering wheel, while Signature has an exclusive 360 View Monitor, frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror and overhead console LED courtesy lights, black headliner, leather-wrapped steering wheel with unique stitching, re-configurable seven-inch TFT gauge display, and the new interior materials.

Active Driving Display shows speed, navigation instructions, speed limit signs (flashes red if the limit is exceeded), and alerts from Lane Departure, Forward Obstruction, and Smart City Brake Support.

First available in the current-generation CX-9 crossover SUV, the 2.5T engine is Mazda6’s greatest upgrade, with the industry-first Dynamic Pressure Turbo building pressure nearly instantaneously and producing 310 foot pounds of torque, on a par with a 4.0-liter V-8. The 2.5T produces 250 horsepower on 94-octane fuel and 227 with 87-octane. Mazda6 uses cooled exhaust gas re-circulation to reduce combustion temperatures, prevent knocking and reduce the need for fuel-enrichment.

Mazda6 elevates Mazda’s KODO—Soul of Motion design language (a sense of motion, even at a standstill) with a “Mature Elegance” theme, a sign of revitalized focus on elegance.

A new grille for 2018 – Gunmetal on the top-level Signature – accentuates the look of depth, with a strong framework, lower center of gravity and wide stance. The striking grille has a diamond-pattern mesh with vertical “buttons” on the junctions. Chrome underlines the grille and extends under the thin-profile headlights.

A thin chrome strip accents the stylized outer bumper. A prominent wave sweeps from the headlight across the wheel well, down to the front door under the mirror.

Chrome outlines the windows, to a point behind the rear door with gloss black at the B and C pillars. In the rear, a chrome strip extends from side to side, connecting the slim, wraparound taillights. A thin chrome strip trims the lower edge of the rear bumper, between bright exhaust tips. Deeply sculpted, 10-spoke 19-inch wheels are also gunmetal.

Eight exterior colors are available, including Snowflake White Pearl Mica ($200), new Machine Gray Metallic ($300), Titanium Flash Mica (dark brown/gray), Blue Reflex Mica (medium ocean blue), Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Jet Black Mica, Sonic Silver Metallic, and the new Soul Red Crystal ($595) – vibrant red with a glassy appearance, very striking.

According to the manufacturer, the aged wood in ancient Japanese temples inspires Deep Chestnut Nappa leather; UltraSuede NU is adorned with a subtle gold tint using a technique similar to that used to make ornate kimonos; and the Sen Wood is a type of wood used in taiko drums and Japanese furniture.

The steering wheel and small trim pieces are the only carryovers from the 2017 Mazda6, with the striking new horizontally stretched dash accentuating Mazda6’s width.

Sen Wood, UltraSuede NU, and Nappa leather adorned the dash, door panels, console, and seats with touches of chrome around vents, and controls. Chrome door handles blended into a chrome strip on the door panels. Sen Wood and gold-tinted UltraSuede were very luxurious, and invited touching.

In addition to firm, supportive high-density urethane foam, the front seats are wider, and designed to keep front passengers’ spines in a natural S-shape. All seats are supple enough for occupants to be comfortable on long road trips. Ventilated front seats are a first for the Mazda6, wicking away warm air for added comfort on hot summer days.

Headroom was adequate, with 38.4 inches in the front, 37.1 inches in the rear. Legroom was 42.2 inches in the front and 38.7 inches in the rear. The trunk held 14.7 cubic feet of cargo – groceries, crafting/DIY supplies, etc.

My Mazda6 had an 11-speaker Bose audio system, two USB ports and one 12-volt outlet in the front console bin; Blind Spot Monitoring/Rear Cross Traffic Alert; rain-sensing wipers (wiped away condensation as I stood outside the running car); and SKYACTIV-Body Ring Structure for added safety and stability.

The Mazda6 was a pleasant drive, stable and quick out of the gate. This is a compelling midsize sedan, capable of competing with others at a much higher price.

It’s EPA rated for 23 mpg city/31 highway/26 combined. I managed an impressive 27.8 mpg driving mostly locally.

With a cargo mat for $75, scuff plates for $125, the Soul Red exterior for $595, and $890 destination charges, the delivered price of my beautiful, eye-catching Mazda6 Signature was $36,435.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.