The 2018 Mazda6 remains one of our favorite midsize sedans, and this year it gets even better. In our 2017 review, we raved about the Mazda6’s nimble handling, elegant interior and impressive features set. Our only real complaint was the lack of power under the hood. For 2018, Mazda has remedied this issue by offering a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine on the Grand Touring and Signature grades. There are other changes, too. Where competitors such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have taken to bold exterior designs with plenty of exaggerated creases and folds, the new Mazda6 keeps it simple, with elegant flowing lines, a large chrome-surround trapezoidal grille molding and brilliant paint colors.
Of course, as sedans go, this one offers the latest in driver-assist features and occupant safety. There’s plenty of room for four adults, with more rear-seat legroom than in a Honda Accord or Nissan Altima. However, the Mazda6’s cargo area is about 1 cu ft. smaller than in either the Accord or Altima. Fuel economy is near the best in the class, and you can still get a manual transmission, but only on the base Sport trim.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the Mazda6 gets a thorough makeover, with improved styling, better ergonomics and a more powerful turbocharged engine option. The interior has been completely remade, with wider seats, a more streamlined dash and premium materials. The base 2.5-liter engine gains cylinder deactivation.
What We Like
Elegant styling; fantastic interior; wide and comfortable seats; sporty ride; standard driver assists
What We Don’t
Small trunk; no hybrid or all-wheel-drive option; manual only available on entry-level trim; turbo requires premium fuel; touchscreen lockouts when car is in motion
The 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Sport and Touring employ a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. On Sport trims, a 6-speed manual is standard and earns an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. When equipped with the 6-speed automatic, the Mazda6’s fuel economy improves to 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy.
Moving up to the Grand Touring and Signature trims brings a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine good for 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
For 2018, the Mazda6 is offered in five trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve and Signature. Only the Sport offers the option of a manual transmission, while only the Grand Touring and Signature trims offer a turbocharged engine.
The Mazda6 Sport ($22,840) comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, power-operated windows, mirrors and door locks, auto-leveling LED headlights, 17-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry and push-button start, cloth seats, a tilt-telescopic steering column, driver’s seat manual lumbar adjustment, a 60/40-split folding rear seat and the MazdaConnect infotainment system with an 8-in color touchscreen, AM/FM radio, HD Radio and 6 speakers. Also standard is Bluetooth, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and low-speed emergency braking. A 6-speed automatic transmission is available, which opens the door to the optional i-Activesense Package, which includes high-speed emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, auto high-beam control and auto on/off headlights.
The Mazda6 Touring ($26,590) adds an automatic transmission, auto on/off headlights, 19-in alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a power glass moonroof, leatherette-trimmed sport seats, a 6-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, proximity key keyless entry and start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.
The Mazda6 Grand Touring ($30,090) adds a 250-hp turbocharged engine, heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, 11-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2 Surround Sound audio, SiriusXM, navigation and an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror.
The Mazda6 Grand Touring Reserve ($32,590) adds bright silver alloy wheels, a rear decklid spoiler, a windshield wiper de-icer, leather seating, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support and memory, a 6-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a full-color active driver display with traffic-sign recognition, and adaptive headlights.
The Mazda6 Signature ($35,640) adds a gunmetal-finish front grille, a frameless auto-diming rearview mirror, Nappa leather seating, Ultrasuede dash and door trim inserts, wood dash inlays, a black headliner, a 7-in TFT LCD meter display, a 360-degree monitor and front and rear parking sensors.
NOTE: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are late additions for 2018. Any model sold before the factory-installed package was added can be taken back to the dealer for an upgrade.
The Mazda6 comes with a full set of standard safety features, including electronic traction and stability control, hill-start assist, low-speed collision avoidance and emergency braking (up to 18 mph), blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and front, front-seat side-impact and front and rear side curtain airbags.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2018 Mazda6 its highest rating of five stars overall, with five stars in the front and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave the Mazda6 is best score of Good in every crash test, as well as a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test.
Behind the Wheel
The standard 187-hp engine is quick enough to satisfy most midsize sedan buyers, plus it offers exceptional fuel economy and can be paired with one of the best 6-speed manuals in the business. However, for those who enjoy the rush of rapid acceleration, there’s a new 250-hp turbocharged engine that finally gives the Mazda6 the muscle it needs to compete against the Honda Accord and Kia Optima. With the addition of the turbocharged motor, we were hoping for a bigger, faster and more comfortable version of the Mazda3, and that’s exactly what we got. Thanks to a retuned suspension, the Mazda6’s already excellent handling gets even better, with a smoother ride, even more precise steering and impressively level cornering. The overall result is a very lively sport sedan as stylish as it is capable.
In the turbocharged car, off-the-line acceleration is brisk, but once the tachometer passes 2,500 rpm, the turbo’s power surge seems to fall off a bit. As a result, the Mazda6 doesn’t have the same exhilarating feel as the turbocharged 4-cylinder engines of some rivals. And, with no manual to play with, the turbocharged Mazda6 cedes some territory to the Honda Accord Sport 2.0T. It’s also important to note the turbo requires premium fuel to achieve its full 250-hp rating. Use anything less and the engine-management computer will adjust by dropping the horsepower. Still, we have no complaints with the Mazda6’s combination of performance, ride quality, safety and interior amenities. If you’re looking for an affordable sedan as fun to drive as it is attractive, this one deserves to be on your top-5 test-drive list.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Honda Accord — The Accord offers a larger trunk and better fuel economy, plus you can have a manual transmission with the turbocharged engine. Unlike the Mazda6, the Accord offers a hybrid model and holds superior resale values.
2018 Toyota Camry — The Camry offers a high-mileage hybrid trim and V6 engine option, but it’s not as sporty as the Mazda6, and its interior isn’t as polished. Android Auto isn’t available on the Toyota, but the Camry does hold its value better than the Mazda6.
2018 Ford Fusion — The Fusion offers more engine choices, optional all-wheel drive and both hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. It’s also a very sporty drive, with lots of high-tech features.
Used Audi A4 — For about the price of a new Grand Touring trim, you can pick up a nicely optioned 2014-2016 Audi A4 and get more features, luxury, performance and style, plus the option of quattro all-wheel drive.
In the Mazda6’s case, we’d go with either the Touring trim for its balance of equipment, driver assists and price, or the turbocharged Grand Touring Reserve for its combination of power, features and interior upgrades. If you’re all about shifting your own gears, the smaller Mazda3 is a better choice because, unlike the Mazda6, it offers a manual transmission on the well-equipped Grand Touring trim.