The Good, And Not So Good, of the 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Signature

mazda logoAs a Mazda CX-5 owner, it’s always fun to get behind the wheel of a different model Mazda vehicle. A chance to see what’s the same and what’s changed. The car in question this time was the 2018 Mazda6 Signature, Mazda’s higher end sedan with a base MSRP of almost $35K. Introduced back in 2003 it replaced the 626 and Millenia sedans and has been slowly evolving ever since. It’s a peppy drive and there’s lots to like about the simplified and streamlined dashboard design (particularly the environmental controls, as I’ll talk about in a bit), but there were some definite issues and surprises with the car too.

According to my colleagues in the biz, about 80% of all cars sold in Colorado are either all wheel drive (AWD) or 4-wheel drive, which makes sense with our complex weather and mountain driving conditions. By comparison, national numbers estimate about 35% of all vehicles sold are AWD, so we’re trendsetters. I point this out because the Mazda6 is not AWD, it’s a front wheel drive vehicle (54% of vehicles nationwide are FWD). And the one night I was driving it in a rainstorm with a lot of water pooling on the roads, it was hydroplaning all over the place and forced me to slow down to safe conditions for this particular vehicle. Since my CX-5 is AWD, it was surprising to realize that I had to compensate for the car’s lack of traction. I did, and no harm done, but in Colorado or another snow state, I would be leery of this FWD vehicle. An AWD Mazda6? Rumor has it that’s a non-starter.

Having shared that experience, however, I will say that the rest of the time, the Mazda6 has been terrific fun to drive, zippy and sleek looking. In fact, heck, time for a photo, right?

2018 mazda6 signature

It’s a great looking car with its long, low front hood and aggressive styling, and who doesn’t love that front grill? Honestly, I surmise I could change the badging to a BMW or Lexus logo and people would just wonder what model it was, not reject it as looking “too Mazda” to pass.

Being the Signature edition, the car also had ever bell and whistle that Mazda offers, including moving headlights that aim towards your destination when you’re turning at night, automatic wipers, a head’s up display, heated steering wheel, smart cruise control and lots more. It also offers paddle shifters for the hardcore among you who want to dream about being in a high performance car while still having space for the kids and groceries in the back. Most drivers are going to rely on the Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed sport automatic with its 227 horsepower and G-Vectoring control. It’s fun!

The dashboard features the raised display on the top of the dashboard, just like my 2017 CX-5, though there are now more cameras and more views you can watch instead of looking out the window when you’re parking:

driving cameras, mazda6 2018

Okay, to be fair, it looks like I parked in a narrow box, but in fact that’s the garage in front of me and the car is otherwise in the driveway. Though it takes a bit of getting used to, I like these camera views, particularly the rearview camera, which is fantastic for parallel parking!

Stepping back a bit, here’s the overall dash and driver’s cockpit design:

2018 mazda mazda6 signature dashboard interior

Cosy, comfortable and everything’s in easy reach, whether it’s the control knobs on the right side in front of the shifter that control the entertainment and navigation system, the environmental controls that look like an old radio tuner or the many buttons on the steering wheel itself.

The environmental controls area is definitely quite different to the CX-5, so let’s have a closer peek at that:

2018 mazda mazda6 dashboard controls

I quite liked the blue and red lights, and you can see that the steering wheel and both seat warmers are engaged. There are also seat coolers, a true luxury on a hot day! All in all, I really like the compact design and easy controls for managing the interior environment.

Speaking of design, the fuel efficiency indicator and gas tank monitoring indicators were both really nicely positioned on the main gauge area. Can you see ’em below?

2018 mazda6 gauges

I am still amused at a tachometer on an automatic, but if you did want to try the paddle shifters, it would be useful to know how high your engine is revving at a given speed. Overall fuel efficiency was impressive too for its (non-hybrid) class: 30.8 mpg across a few hundred miles of varied driving. The official EPA numbers are 23/31 so it’s nice to be so close to the theoretical best case scenario without eschewing the performance features of the drive system.

Here’s another exterior view:

rear view, 2018 mazda6 signature

From this vantage, it’s no surprise that the Mazda6 sports a huge trunk. Plenty of space for luggage, groceries, sporting equipment and much more. You can also fold down the back seats and gain even more space for skis or other long objects. Very nice!

One of the hidden features of the back seats is that the armrest has quite a few handy features, ranging from rear seat warmers to cup holders to dual USB charging ports:

back seat armrest - 2018 mazda6 signature

This works best with two rear passengers, for obvious reasons, but if you do have a smaller family, it’s great to have access to all of this instead of having to trail charging cords from the front of the car. My CX-5 has this too and the kids have definitely extolled its virtues, particularly those rear seat warmers (or “toasty buns” as we call it in my family).

Which brings us to the biggest problem I had with the 2018 Mazda6 Signature: The design and placement of the main post between the front and back doors made it difficult to get into the car gracefully. It’s just not designed for taller drivers:

awkward seat placement, 2018 mazda6

Maybe if the vehicle included an automatic retracting steering wheel then perhaps it wouldn’t have involved the convolutions I found I needed to be able to get into the car successfully. It was, in a word, a pain. Getting out was easy, but if you’re tall – I’m 6’3″ – then you’ll really want to test drive this and decide for yourself whether the body of the car is in the way of your body being in the car. Or maybe it’s Mazda’s way of telling me I should do more yoga. 🙂

Getting into the car, not so easy for me. But once I was in, it’s relaxing, comfortable as heck, has a lovely sound system and is great fun to drive. Nothing to complain about at all, really. All was going great until I glanced over a few days after it was dropped off and realized that somehow the loaner car had picked up a crack in the passenger window:

cracked side passenger window - mazda6

Can you see it in the picture above? I’ve never seen the side window crack – cracked windshields are a common sight here in Colorado – and after discussing it with the loaner agency, we decided that getting it fixed was top priority, so the Mazda6 drove off after just a few days of driving, not my usual 7 days behind the wheel. I was sad to see it go, actually.

There’s a lot to recommend the Mazda6, particularly if you’re not a tall driver and live in a region with lots and lots of nice weather. The 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Signature is fun, sleek, looks just as fancy as far more expensive imports and is reasonably priced for a 5-seater sedan with tech and comfort to spare.

CONFIGURATION: 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Signature, Machine Gray Metallic exterior, DP Chestnut Nappa Leather interior. Skyactiv-G 2.5T DOHC 4-Cyl Engine with 6 Speed sport mode. Front wheel drive. Only options with this model: Scuff plates, Cargo Mat and Metallic paint upcharge. MSRP: $34,750. As Driven: $36,140.

Disclosure: Mazda loaned me the Mazda6 to drive in return for this writeup. Thanks, Mazda!

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