Underdog Mazda6 sets high standard for midsize sedans Featured

Posted On Thursday, 04 April 2019 02:27 Written by
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The Mazda6 is more fun to drive than your average midsize sedan. The Mazda6 is more fun to drive than your average midsize sedan. Photo by Matt Myftiu/AutoTechReviews

Mazda, strictly by the numbers, shouldn’t be leading the pack at anything. For background, in 2018, Mazda sold about 300,000 vehicles in North America. Toyota, by comparison, sold more than 2 million vehicles in North America in the same time frame.

Given those numbers, and the assumed budgets behind the scenes that one would imply from them, it’s truly an impressive feat that the Mazda brand continues to deliver quality the way it does.

While there may not be as many of them on the road as other brands, anyone who has ever driven a Mazda will usually have very kind words to say about the experience and how impressive the vehicle design and drive quality was.

Recently I was able to test a Mazda6, the midsize sedan taking on names like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, VW Passat and Kia Optima. I’m back with a full report on whether the Mazda6 lives up this underdog’s past successes at it battles in this busy segment.



In terms of what’s new, the latest Mazda6 features a redesigned interior with an updated dashboard setup, and an even spiffier interior design quality than in the past, which is no small feat. (Note: I tested a 2018 Mazda6, but the changes from 2018 to 2019 are minimal).


In my experience, no manufacturer outside of the luxury brands can touch Mazda in terms of vehicle interior quality. The Mazda6 follows that trend, and it stands out in the segment, making a strong case for best in segment on the interior (and the exterior too, for that matter).

The high-end Signature trim Mazda6 I tested featured Nappa Leather seating; and its smooth-looking exterior was an attractive machine gray metallic color, with a gunmetal front grille.

The vehicle featured 19-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power side mirrors, and heated side mirrors.

The interior is quite roomy for the segment, seating 5 comfortably, and both driver and passenger seats were heated and cooled. There is memory storage for two different driver settings. To increase storage, there is a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat.


A power moonroof allows you to let the sunshine in. Lighting is strong, too, including: Auto on/off LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED tail lights.
Among other interior highlights are ultrasuede trim inserts, wood trim inserts, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, power automatic door locks, power windows with one-touch and dual-zone temperature controls.


A new addition to the Mazda6 is a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, output is 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, numbers that help deliver arguably the best driving experience in the class.

Paddle shifters are also included on the steering wheel if you want to control the gears on your own. The turbo engine will get you from 0-to-60 mph in under 7 seconds.

The base, non-turbo engine offered on the Mazda 6 offers a more pedestrian 187 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft.

The Mazda lineup stands out in large part because of the sporty and enjoyable driving experience it offers. With the right amount of power and excellent handling, they know how to make the ride something you’ll look forward to, whereas most competitors in the segment offer a ho-hum driving experience.

If you love to drive, the Mazda6 is probably the best non-luxury midsize sedan out there for you, as it’s built with performance in mind and cornering is extra smooth.

One downside: The Mazda6 is a front-wheel drive vehicle only, and does not offer an option for AWD like some of its competitors. There is also no hybrid version offered.

The Mazda6 features: Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Hill Launch Assist, Electric power assisted steering, an independent front/rear suspension, and front/rear stabilizer bars.


Safety is an area where the Mazda6 gets high marks, earning five stars overall in government ratings. It’s among the safest vehicles in the class.

I loved many of the tech features offered, in particular the Active Driving Display (Mazda’s name for a head-up display). This image projected onto the windshield in the sightline of the driver lets you keep your eyes on the road, and what’s extra cool about it is that Mazda’s display also includes traffic signs, in case you don’t see the stop sign that’s coming up quickly.

There are also helpful steering wheel mounted controls in the Mazda6.
You get a full array of airbags throughout the vehicle, and lots of safety features are included, such as: Blind Spot Monitor; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; Radar Cruise Control and more. Options include Lane Departure Warning and Lake Keep Assist.

Mazda’s navigation system was accurate and responsive to voice commands. An 11-speaker Bose sound system is offered to enhance your listening pleasure, and the infotainment system revolves around an 8-inch color display atop the center console.

While the infotainment system overall is decent and easy to learn, the menu system is a bit dated and not as intuitive as other tech systems. Mazda would be wise to give it a more modern and user-friendly refresh soon.

The Mazda6 features Bluetooth connection, to allow for hands-free phone and audio. There’s also a rearview camera, keyless entry system, 3-point safety belts for all 5 passengers, LATCH child safety seat anchors, anti-theft engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitoring system, and anti-lock brakes.


Fuel mileage numbers have improved on the updated Mazda6. Official numbers on the turbo engine with automatic transmission are 23 city/31 highway/26 combined. The standard (non-turbo) engine paired with automatic transmission offers 26 city/35 combined/29 combined. And finally, the 6-speed manual offers 24 city/33 highway/27 combined.

Compared to the many midsize sedan competitors, these numbers are strong but not best in segment, and are surpassed by a few vehicles. On the plus side, the Mazda6 beats some of the competition, and the ones it trails are nowhere near as fun to drive, so it’s a tradeoff many buyers will be willing to make.

The Mazda6 I tested was priced just over $36,000 after options. Signature trim level starts at $34,750, Grand Touring Reserve starts at $31,700, Grand Touring starts at $29,200, Touring starts at $25,700; and the base Sport trim starts at $21,950.

You get a 60-month/90K miles powertrain warranty, and a 36-month/36K bumper-to-bumper warranty, from Mazda.

Offering a genuinely enjoyable ride, The Mazda6 continues Mazda’s impressive run and is one of the leaders of the pack in the midsize sedan category. While the brand is smaller than most of its competition, anyone who tests the Mazda6 will be very likely to want to take it home, even after testing all the big-name competitors.


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Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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