SkyActiv Turbocharged Fun
It took Mazda quite some time to put a turbocharged engine in the Mazda6, but the wait was worth it. The Zoom-Zoom heritage continues with a well-balanced engine that offers performance and fuel economy. Add in sharp handling, and the 2018 Mazda6 Signature can handle those backroad curves and highway road trips with equal ease.
Driving Experience: Powertrain
Mazda tells us “exhilaration is just a step away” in the 2018 Mazda6 Signature, powered by a smooth and responsive 2.5-liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine. With 310 pounds-feet of torque, Mazda says that using 93-octane will deliver 250 horsepower, while opting for 87-octane drops that number to 227. So, it’s your choice if the extra 23 horsepower is worth the money spent on premium fuel.
While a six-speed manual transmission is available with the 2.5-liter non-turbo engine, Clean Fleet Report’s Mazda6 Signature was equipped with a six-speed automatic–with paddle shifters and Sport mode-which is the only transmission available in the Grand Touring and Signature trim levels. The EPA rates the Mazda6 2.5T at 23 city/31 highway/26 combined miles per gallon. In 240 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 27.4 mpg. However, in a 179-mile all freeway run with Mazda’s radar cruise control set to 65 mph, we averaged a respectable 33.1 mpg.
Mazda achieved these numbers through its SkyActiv engine and vehicle design philosophy, a slick-shifting automatic transmission and a coefficient of drag (Cd) of 0.285.
Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains, spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Out on the road the 2018 Mazda6 will make driving enthusiasts smile. The sporty, confident nature of its handling comes from the MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link independent rear suspension and the rack-and-pinion, electric power-assisted steering. Clean Fleet Report’s Signature model, weighing in at 3,560 pounds, was equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and shod with P225/45/R19 all-season Falken tires. Replace these with summer tires, and the grip + handling would improve to an even higher level.
With this combination, the ride is a bit stiffer than other midsize sedans, but such is the trade-off for an above-average handling car that can seat five passengers. As noted, enthusiasts will appreciate the cornering ability of the Mazda6. There is no body roll, with little torque steer or under steer, which is commendable from a front-wheel drive car. The driver-selectable Sport mode only affects the transmission shift points, so the handling is unaffected.
Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system is what they say achieves “the pursuit of Jinba-Ittai, the feeling of unity between driver and vehicle.” Mazda prides itself on being a company staffed with driving enthusiasts (but what about the six-speed manual for the 2.5T engine?) that put their hearts into design and technology. Starting with the accelerator pedal being hinged to the floor as opposed to being suspended, the ability to get on-and-off the gas is nicely sensitive to the foot. The driving dynamics for G-Vectoring basically help the front tires get into a corner more smoothly. Rather than walk through the details of G-Vectoring, let’s let Mazda do it here.
Stops were solid and consistent with a power-assisted braking system consisting of vented front and solid rear discs, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution. The latter adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo, and even adjusts as fuel is consumed. This is invisible and instant to the driver and passengers, making for a comfortable and controlled ride.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Mazda6 received subtle but tasteful changes for 2018; the chiseled exterior catches your eye from every angle. Clean Fleet Report’s Mazda6 Signature was painted in Snowflake White Pearl, which enhanced the distinctive design, one Mazda calls “mature elegance.” Starting with slim LED headlights and a new deep-set grille, the sculpted front fenders lead to a roofline that softly arches at the B pillar, then gently slopes to a short deck lid that has an integrated spoiler. The rear is finished-off with LED taillights, a chrome eyebrow framing the trunk lid, and twin bright exhaust tips. Overall, it’s a very stylish design that will hold-up well over its lifetime.
Driving Experience: Interior
The 2018 Mazda6 interior is all-new, with redesigned seats and a new dash. Clean Fleet Report drove the top-of-the-line Mazda6 Signature. The deep chestnut-colored Nappa leather seats with high-density, vibration-absorbing urethane foam provided comfort and support. The front seats are heated and ventilated. The driver’s is eight-way power adjustable (with lumbar) and two memory settings, while the passenger receives a six-way power adjustable seat.
Designed with the driver in mind, the freestanding 8.0-inch infotainment (information and entertainment) display erupts from the dashboard, providing data from the Mazda Connect connectivity system, including navigation. It also is where the 360º cameras for rear, front and overhead views are found. The large, round gauges are black with white lettering for easy viewing.
Mazda’s Active Driving Display includes the head-up display (HUD) which is projected onto the windshield, directly in front of the driver. Being able to keep your vision straight ahead is a major safety factor as it minimizes distractions. The HUD shows driving speed, the speed limit, a red box if you exceed the posted speed, and street signs (such as “Stop” and “Do Not Enter”) as well as lane departure and brake warnings. The HUD is very helpful and useful and should be standard equipment on all cars. A big pat on the back to Mazda’s engineers!
Clean Fleet Report’s 2018 Mazda6 Signature came equipped with a power moonroof and tasteful Ultrasuede and Sen Wood inserts on the dash and doors. The 60/40 rear seat seats three adults, but with the center armrest folded down two would be more acclimated to a long journey. The rear, dual zone climate control and air vents are a nice touch.
The infotainment system includes an excellent 11-speaker Bose sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX HD radio, USB input, SiriusXM (four-month subscription), Aha and Stitcher internet radio integration. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has mounted controls for Bluetooth that offers hands-free telephone and voice control. To manage the radio, Mazda has a wheel on the center console for changing channels, and a smaller one for volume control. We found the wheel cumbersome to use. It required multiple steps to control a single function, diverting the driver’s eyes from the road. Maybe in time it becomes a seamless, by-touch operation, but after a week and 300 miles, we did not get the hang of the system and found it more annoying than useful.
Convenience comes your way with power automatic keyless door locks, push button start/stop, power windows with one-touch up and down, rearview camera, auto-dimming rear view mirror with Homelink, tilt and telescopic steering column, rain-sensing windshield wipers that have a deicer, power and heated side mirrors with turn indicators, and an electronic parking brake.
The 2018 Mazda6 comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features including airbags, dynamic stability and traction control, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring system, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert.
In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2018 Mazda6 received five stars (their highest rating) for overall crash protection, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Mazda6 its highest rating of Top Safety Pick.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s 2018 Mazda 6 Signature had a base price of $34,750. With optional equipment the MSRP came to $35,150. All prices exclude the $890 delivery charge.
The 2018 Mazda6 comes with these warranties:
- New Vehicle Three years/36,000 miles
- Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance Three years/36,000 miles
Observations: 2018 Mazda6 Signature
With consumers looking more and more to crossovers and SUVs, sedans are taking a beating in sales. It’s such a shame as there are some very nice sedans on the market, with the 2018 Mazda6 Signature being among the top models.
Mazda has created the best-handling five-passenger sedan that isn’t considered a “sports sedan.” The 2018 Mazda6 Signature has a sleek, chiseled design that has evolved into a true driver’s car.
When at your local dealer, make sure to request (demand?) a lengthy test drive that will include high-speed highway onramps and maybe even a few mountain or country road twisties. The Mazda6 Signature wants to be driven, and the usual one-mile loop around the dealership isn’t going to give this car the justice it deserves.
Now, about the radio control and specing the six-speed manual with the turbo. One can only hope.
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Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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