Carelessly tossing it into a corner like I would a pair of dirty socks onto my bedroom floor, the 2018 Mazda6 responded with zeal, not the expected apathy so typical of midsize sedans.
Engine: 2.5L turbo 4-cylinder
Output: 250 hp (on 93-octane fuel), 310 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 23 city, 31 hwy, 26 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 10.0 city, 7.5 hwy, 8.9 combined
U.S. As-Tested Price: $36,435 including $890 for delivery
CAN Estimated Price: $42,938 including $1,795 for delivery
Steering feel is one of the most surprising dynamic elements of this significantly updated four-door sedan, though it’s hardly the only one
This car changes direction with crispness and immediacy, dominating corners with near sports-car assertiveness, not like something with two doors, a backseat and trunk in tow behind the driver’s shoulder blades.
SEE ALSO: 2018 Mazda CX-3 Review
Steering so perfectly dialed in is unheard-of at this blue-collar price-point; it even eludes many luxury automakers that build vehicles several times more expensive. But once again, Mazda has proven that smaller can be better, that they can do what the big boys in this business can’t. Inside, outside and especially in motion, Hiroshima’s latest feels like it was crafted by a team of artisans, people who love what they do, not folks merely satisfied collecting a paycheck.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Helping deliver this handling magic is a rigidly mounted steering rack; no squishy rubber bushing get in the way of your palms feeling the road in high fidelity.
Beyond this, the chassis was also reworked to quell roll understeer, giving the tiller that feeling of urgency. New rebound springs and larger, lower-friction dampers better control body roll without necessitating beefier stabilizer bars. This results in a ride that’s always in tension, but free of any harshness. It’s quite a remarkable achievement as the car just flows from one turn to the next like water tumbling down a mountain stream.
More Than Skin Deep
The 2018 Mazda6 received plenty of engineering attention, but designers also made their share of alterations for model year. Visual changes are numerous, if subtle. Up front you’ll find standard LED headlights with integrated fog lights. The updated Mazda6’s grille texture is new, seemingly inspired by a wicker chair, plus its signature chrome accent wing has been stretched, daggering underneath the lamp housings for a wider, more dramatic facial expression.
Naturally, the car’s wheels have been redesigned, spanning up to 19 inches. Keeping things tidy, the rear end has been reshuffled for a broader, more planted look. Finally, you’ve got to love that newly available Soul Red Crystal paint, which is worth every cent of the $595 upcharge. It absolutely glows, especially in direct sunlight.
But these are just a few of the changes you can see; there are still more alterations of note in places you’ll likely never get to glimpse of, like the chassis, which has been reinforced. In addition to this, the car’s floor and wheel wells are now made of thicker steel to help reduce sound intrusion. In total, more than 70 enhancements have been made to quell NVH, effort well spent as the new Mazda6 is dramatically quieter and smoother than before.
But that doesn’t mean this car has forgotten how to have fun. Pressing me back into the supportive new driver’s seat, which is padded with higher-density foam and re-sculpted to keep your spine aligned as it would be while standing, is an engine that’s just as eager as this sedan’s sensational steering. Exploring the accelerator pedal’s lower limits delivers a great swell of torque, which comes on strong at low engine speeds. The up-level 2.5-liter turbocharged four-banger serves up a 310 foot-pound wallop cresting at just 2,000 rpm, a torrent of twist that brings to mind the spillway of a hydroelectric plant when they crack open the taps, a heady rush.
Keep its tank topped off with the good stuff (read: 93 octane dinosaur juice) and this Mazda6 will serve up a healthy 250 horsepower; cheap out at the pump and that figure drops to a still-reasonable 227.
For drivers that prioritize efficiency over speed, a newly improved 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-banger is also offered. It features cylinder deactivation and is supposedly more refined than ever, delivering a respectable 187 horsepower. Upping its allure, this engine can be paired with a manual transmission; the force-fed unit is only bolted to a six-speed automatic, a shame really, even if the self-shifter is an exemplar of refinement.
Huffing air into its quartet of intake runners is a Dynamic Pressure Turbocharger, Mazda lingo for a blower that builds boost almost instantly. Thanks to shrewd engineering, there’s basically zero lag, with it pulling like a mule from a get. Enabling this, the two center cylinders share an exhaust port, which means hot waste gasses are always exiting in a way that improves intake scavenging. Further bolstering its responsiveness, there’s also a series of control valves within the manifold that restricts outflow at low RPM to spool the blower almost immediately. At higher revs they open wide to prevent unnecessary restriction.
The result of this careful attention to detail is instant response since there’s no waiting for the engine to spin up and transmission to downshift, an advantage over rival cars with smaller-displacement powerplants and many more ratios in their gearboxes. Showcasing Mazda’s technical prowess, there’s also zero torque steer despite routing more than 300 foot-pounds to the front tires. Oh, and yes, this car is extremely quick on its feet, accelerating with vigor at all speeds.
This sedan’s interior is also practically brand new, improved from firewall to backlight. Only the steering wheel and a few minor trim pieces carry over.
In top-level Signature trim, a new offering for 2018 along with Grand Touring Reserve, the Mazda6 is borderline luxurious, dressed to the nines with Nappa leather and UltraSuede NU accents. Genuine Japanese sen wood – a type of ash timber – is also included, though unfortunately it looks and feels like plastic, about this cabin’s only disappointing element.
The other noteworthy pain point is the infotainment offering. Even though an eight-inch display is standard, the up-level Mazda Connect system is haphazardly organized and slathered with more chrome than a 1950s Cadillac. Just look at those icons! Android Auto and Apple CarPlay aren’t even offered… yet. Support for both is coming soon, though the required hardware isn’t available right now, so stay tuned.
On the flip side, dual-zone climate control is standard, as is Smart City Brake Support, which should help prevent low-speed collisions. Niceties on the options menu include things like a windshield-wiper deicer, adaptive cruise control and additional driver-assistance aids like lane-departure warning and automatic high beams.
Whether it’s driving dynamics, fuel economy, practicality or even pricing this car is all over its competitors like frosting on a cupcake. You can get a new one for less than $23k including delivery, a price hike of just $5.
The top-shelf Signature-trim model evaluated for this review was, naturally, a bit more expensive, though not unreasonably so. Including $890 in delivery charges, out the door it rung up at cash register for $36,435, including a handful of options like a cargo mat, Soul Red Crystal paint, and scuff plates.
The Verdict: 2018 Mazda6 Turbo Review
The 2018 Mazda6 is a damn-good midsize sedan, though it’s hard to crown it the segment’s best without subjecting it to the rigors of a comparison test because, let’s not forget, the Honda Accord is exceptionally good as well. But, it’s probably safe to say this machine is the best driving family four-door available today, truly a delight.
Discuss this story on our Mazda6 Forum