2018 Mazda 6 puts a turbo on excellence
Mazda has added a turbocharged option to the 2018 Mazda 6 line-up, bumping up power by 40 or more horsepower in the process. But the new engine is only half the equation in making the already excellent Mazda 6 even better.
A few months ago, Mazda offered us a 2017 Mazda 6 as a test drive. Not for review, directly, but in order to give a comparison to the then upcoming and almost all-new 2018 model. This gave us the opportunity to pit the two cars against one another for comparison. We found that though very well executed, the 2017 Mazda 6 did have room for improvement, especially in its interior.
The 2018 Mazda 6 has a completely revamped interior, with a more upscale feel to it. The dashboard has been lifted and gives the cabin a more roomy feel up front. Material use is more selective, with higher quality and better masking of lower-end plastics. The front seats are similar to the previous model, but have a more comfortable feel to them. The back seats are similarly well done, though the deep slope to the roofline makes getting in and out of those seats more difficult than it could be.
The rear seats are split-fold with the trunk space standing at 14.8 cubic feet (419 liters) and the expansion into the rear seating adding more. We'd like to see those rear seats fold a bit flatter for easier cargo use, but note that the wide opening of the trunk allows better access for getting big things into the space.
Another high point in the new Mazda 6 is with sound dampening. Mazda went to great lengths to improve interior noise levels and it definitely paid off. There is added dampening at the front, inside the dashboard, and at the back of the car. The new 6 is far quieter than the previous model was. This is especially clear at highway speeds.
One area where Mazda didn't make massive improvements was infotainment, but there's still some to note. The smaller screen found in the 2017 model has been replaced with a larger 8-inch screen with a crisper graphics interface that's easier to read and better responsiveness. The downside is that the same clunky menu system is still in place, and though common things like radio tuning and Bluetooth calls are easy, getting anything more out of the infotainment system requires some practice. Another quirk is that the Mazda's infotainment is a touchscreen only when the car is parked – otherwise it must be controlled through the command knob near the shifter. A lack of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay or anything equivalent is another issue.
Perhaps the biggest upside to the new and improved Mazda 6 is with the aforementioned engine upgrade. The previous 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine remains as a base engine option, bringing 187 horsepower (139 kW) and a choice of manual or automatic transmission (both 6-speed units) in front-wheel drive. This is a great engine for this vehicle, though it's not terribly charismatic. It offers a good daily drive quality and good fuel economy ratings at 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway (9.0 and 6.7 l/100km). A week with the 2017 Mazda 6 proved those numbers to be generally accurate under normal driving conditions.
The upgrade engine, though. Whew! This is a serious boon. It's the same 2.5L, but turbocharged to boost it to 227 - 250 horsepower (169-186 kW), depending on the fuel's octane level. This engine turns the 2018 Mazda 6 into a fun-driving sports sedan that becomes competitive with most of the European makes – even luxury offerings from Germany. The six-speed automatic is the only option for this engine, but it shifts well and keeps the excitement going. The fuel economy loss is not serious, dropping EPA ratings to 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Our experience here, though, showed that getting those numbers is easy.
The new engine does a good job taking advantage of the Mazda 6's inherent ride and handling excellence. The Mazda's chassis (part of the SKYACTIV series) is tight, well-designed, and makes the car feel quicker and more maneuverable. The 6 is a lot of fun to drive on the open road, but gets around town with ease thanks to great driver visibility and a fun nature. Of course, most Mazdas are like this.
In our view, the 2018 Mazda 6 improves on what was already a great car. It's easily the prettiest midsize sedan on the market and its inherent fun driving dynamic and new improvements to its interior make it a top contender. As possibly the most overlooked sedan on the market, we think the 2018 Mazda 6 deserves much more attention than its gets.
Product Page: 2018 Mazda 6