2018 Mazda 6 Signature Review - Serenity And Soul

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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Fast Facts

2018 Mazda 6 Signature

2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four, DOHC (227 hp @ 5000 rpm, 310 lb/ft @ 2000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
26 city / 31 highway / 23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
25.4 (observed mileage, MPG)
10.0 city / 7.5 highway / 8.9 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $35,640 US / $40,730 CAD
As Tested: $36,435 US/ $41,436 CAD
Prices include $890 destination charge in the United States and $1,930 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2018 mazda 6 signature review serenity and soul

Mazda has long been an enigma within the Japanese automaker realm. Never quite the volume player of Toyota or Nissan, Mazda targeted enthusiasts via the RX-7 and Miata — models that cast a echo of driving enjoyment over the rest of the lineup. While Mazda attempted to go after the premium end of the market in the early Nineties with the stillborn Amati brand, the automaker has generally left the high end alone.

Until now.

Much like the Denali line within GMC’s lineup, Mazda has unleashed its Signature trim, which adds a layer of lux upon an already impressive midsizer. This 2018 Mazda 6 Signature melds plush and performance into one.

I’ll admit, I was a bit shocked after hopping into this Mazda 6. The Signature trim makes a big difference in the interior materials, moving the 6 from a mainstream midsize sedan to a proper entry luxury car. To me, the combination of the expected Mazda driving experience and the unexpected plush interior made me think of a Lexus ES — but an ES that traded a nasty Ambien habit for a daily Red Bull.

The Deep Chestnut Ultrasuede pad that stretches across the dash, continuing onto the door panels, is one example of a upmarket detail that one wouldn’t expect on a mainstream model. The matching Nappa leather seats and trim is handsome, contrasting nicely with the black soft-touch plastics throughout. I’m still not a fan of piano black trim on any car, as it highlights any and all bits of dust (or french fry salt) that can accumulate. Thankfully, it’s limited to the panel near the shifter and control knob.

Big news on the glass screen beat — the 6 is the first Mazda to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity. I don’t love Mazda’s standard touch-and-knob interface, but it does get better with practice. Now that an even more familiar experience is available to use Waze or Spotify, secondary driving duties are much less frustrating than before.

Seating front and rear is nearly perfect. Both my wife and my kids dozed off quickly on a crosstown jaunt to a soccer match (sometimes, when you forget to make coffee before an early Saturday game, a little bit of silence from the passenger compartment is welcome).

The Mazda 6’s familiar styling received a subtle tweak for 2018. Most notably, the fog lamps move from the lower bumper to the main headlamp structure, replaced by a pair of chrome whiskers that match the new chrome handlebar moustache that stretches from flank to flank. The polished eggcrate grille is another highlight.

My tester was, to my surprise, not finished in Mazda’s traditional Soul Red. The car pictured here has an evolved hue, Soul Red Crystal, which is a touch darker than the familiar signature color. It’s a stunning shade, nicely offset by the dark polished 19-inch alloy wheels. It’s worth the $595 upcharge for this magnificent color.

Enough with the shiny bits — it’s time to talk about the greasy stuff beneath. And there is plenty to talk about, starting with the engine. Mazda has finally plopped a turbocharged four-cylinder into the Mazda 6, producing 227 horsepower (or more) and 310 lb-ft of torque. Mazda mentions the 227 hp figure on the window sticker, but if you’re willing to spring for 93 octane, the engine will produce 250 ponies.

[Get new and used Mazda 6 pricing here!]

This turbocharged powerplant comes standard on the Signature trim, as well as the Grand Touring and Grand Touring Reserve. Notably missing — a manual transmission, sadly. Those wishing to exercise their left foot are relegated to the base Sport trim, with the standard 187 hp 2.5-liter four.

The six-speed automatic is happy to kick down for quick passes. While many competitors offering eight or more gears in their automatics, this Mazda unit is perfectly matched to the torquey turbo four.

Handling is sharp, with the chassis quite willing to rotate when pushed. It’s not a sports car, and you won’t be taking to track day, but it is a comfortable highway cruiser that is more than happy to take a back road detour when the interstate is backed up.

Indeed, that’s what Mazda has always been — a competent daily driver capable of putting a smile on a driver’s face. With this sumptuous new trim level and the lovely turbocharged engine, the 2018 Mazda 6 Signature shows that Mazda can put formal attire on an athlete.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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2 of 61 comments
  • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Oct 13, 2018

    Perhaps the Signature model with its turbo will add enough Mazda 6 sales volume to move up a bit on the sales charts toward the sales volume of the Subaru Legacy, a vehicle that currently outsells it by a significant amount. Or perhaps not. I rather lean toward the "not".

  • Incautious Incautious on Oct 15, 2018

    36K for a 6. That gets you into an A4. Be curious to drive the two back to back

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.