Mazda6 update more than skin deep

Some of the updates to the 2018 Mazda6 are big and some small. The combination results in a car that I consider the best-looking and best-driving car in the segment.

 

VERNON, BC – Mazda Canada President and CEO Massey Kondo calls it a major refresh. That is an understatement. The update is more than skin deep – a lot deeper!

In addition to fresh styling front and rear, the entire interior is new interior. Almost all the mechanical and technical bits and pieces have been updated or replaced. There are two new engines and the front and rear suspensions and steering have all been upgraded. A new “Signature” trim level takes the Mazda6 into premium territory, against marques wearing much higher price tags.

The “car” market is shrinking as consumers shift to utility vehicles. But Mazda6 sales have been growing; with most of the increase coming from the higher trim levels. Equipped with that knowledge, the company is using the 2018 refresh as an opportunity to play to that customer.

Uncommon level of craftsmanship

Mark Peyman, National Manager of Product Strategy and Development says it is important to understand Mazda’s intentions. “We strive to deliver something more in our vehicles for those who also appreciate a rewarding driving dynamic and an uncommon level of craftsmanship.”

With the new Signature trim level, Mazda hopes to attract a new customer, someone who shops traditional luxury brands like Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti or Mercedes.

Peyman says the value conscious buyer will hopefully recognize the value of the new $38,800 Signature model. The base prices of luxury vehicles fall into a similar $40,000 – $46,00 rang, But, their as-equipped prices quickly get into the 50s when equipped with features that are standard on the top level Mazda6.

This may seem like “pie in the sky” thinking from the small Japanese company – but a great deal of effort has gone into ensuring the new model bears up to intense scrutiny and comparison. It truly is a premium vehicle in all aspects.

Even at the other end of the trim and price walk, things have been bumped up several notches. The base GX trim level has been dropped. “No more rental car interiors for the Mazda6,” Peyman says. Instead the entry level becomes a well equipped and finished GS. Standard equipment includes all the usual power assists and amenities as well as automatic levelling LED headlights, 17-in alloy wheels and heated front and rear seats. Automatic dual zone climate control, power driver’s seat, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, low-speed automatic brake application also appear on e very model. As does a 20-cm infotainment screen, USB ports front and rear, electric parking brake and the new four-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation. All that, at $27,000!

LED for both high and low beams

All models get new front and rear styling and wheels. While easily identified as a Mazda6, it has been cleaned up, especially up front where the new sculptured mesh grill has a three-dimensional feature that changes with the light. On the topic of lights, LED units for both high and low beam are now standard on all models.

While the exterior design has been tweaked, the interior has been transformed from carpet to headliner, rear parcel shelf to dash, including the seats. The quality of material has been vastly improved, satin-plated trim accents abound and the quality and feel of the soft touch material is worthy of note. The seats are all new fore and aft with particular attention to comfort and support. The instrument panel flows smoothly from door to door and the instruments themselves have been updated with much cleaner fonts and a less cluttered look.

The instrument panel flows smoothly from door to door and the instruments themselves have been updated with much cleaner fonts and a less cluttered look.

The interior of the Signature trim level displays an uncommon level of craftsmanship, from the deep finish of the Ultrasuede trim to the supple Nappa leather and piano black finish on the seat control surrounds. There is also a unique set of gauges with the ability to select a variety of supplementary info and configure the layout.

Elsewhere, from engines to suspension bushings, the development team seems to have tweaked everything that moves or contributes to movement and feedback to the driver. A new turbocharged four-cylinder engine that first appeared on the CX9 is available in the GS-L and standard in the GT and Signature models. It produces 250 horsepower and 310- lb.ft. of torque on premium fuel, and 227 horses and the same amount of torque on regular. Frankly, torque is the significant figure here and unless they ring the engine out to 5,000 rpm or more, the average driver will never notice the difference in fuels – except in the pocketbook.

New twist for base engine

The “base” engine started as the same normally aspirated 2.5-litre four used previously – with a twist. It now boasts cylinder deactivation, the first four-cylinder on the market to do so. Under low load conditions, cylinder numbers one and four are shut off to save fuel, seamlessly and immediately coming back into play as needed. I was unable to detect the transition during several hours at the wheel in mixed conditions.

There isn’t enough time or space to get into the changes inside and out to make this engine work, or to the automatic transmission, steering, suspension, body and chassis updates. More than 75 steps were taken to further reduce wind and road noise. The resultant silence on the road is another factor in the premium impression.

Some of the updates to the 2018 Mazda6 are big and some small. The combination results in a car that I consider the best-looking and best-driving car in the segment.

Instead of trying to slug it out for sheer sales numbers with the big guys like Toyota, Honda and Ford, Mazda hopes to stake out new territory for the Mazda6 – a premium image. Luring value-conscious consumers who enjoy driving and appreciate a premium experience is a worthy goal – it will be interesting to watch!

Mazda hopes to stake out new territory

The specs

Model: 2018 Mazda 6

Engine: 2.5-litre four, 187 horsepower, 186 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel OR turbocharged, 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, 250 horsepower, 310 lb.-ft. of torque, premium fuel, 227 horsepower, 310 lb.-ft. of torque. regular fuel fuel

Transmission: six-speed automatic

NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.1/6.7 or 10/7.5

Length: 4,895 mm

Width: 2,091 mm

Wheelbase: 2,830 mm

Weight: 1,551 – 1,662 kg

Price: $27,000 (GS), $33,600 (turbo GS-L), $35,800 (GT), $38,800 (Signature), plus freight and PDI

About Richard 94 Articles
At the age of five I was already obsessed with all things automotive being able to identify the make and model of car by just the sound of its engine going down the street in front of our house in the small town on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Although I have been covering and writing about the automotive scene for more than 40 years and the light still grows brightly.

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