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2018 Toyota Camry vs. 2018 Mazda6: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Chris O'Neill August 2018
  • The Toyota Camry is all new for 2018.
  • The 2018 Mazda6 introduces a new 250-horsepower turbocharged engine.
  • Both vehicles score exceptionally well in crash testing and offer great safety features.

Two of the most compelling midsize sedans on the market currently are the 2018 Toyota Camry and the 2018 Mazda6. While the Camry is all-new for 2018, the Mazda has received a significant update, moving the vehicle further upmarket and introducing an available turbocharged engine with more power.

Both vehicles have different selling points, and despite the fact that they compete in the same class, will likely appeal to buyers looking for different things. Below, we'll outline the main differences between the two vehicles in an effort to help you to better determine which one may be right for you.

Basic Specs

The Camry received a full redesign for 2018 and now wears a more muscular and aggressive design. Every trim level -- from the humble LE to the sporty SE and XSE models -- has been sharpened. Non-sport models still wear a large, wide-open black grille, while SE and XSE models get a performance-oriented body kit complete with numerous scoops and vents. Around back, V6 XSE models get an attractive rear valance complete with four exhaust outlets, although only two are functioning.

Speaking of the Camry's different engines, it's offered with two traditional powerplants -- a 4-cylinder making 203 hp and a potent V6 making 301 hp, plus an efficient hybrid model. The 4-cylinder model earns 32 miles per gallon combined, the V6 earns 32 mpg and the hybrid earns an impressive 46 or 52 mpg combined, depending on trim-level.

The Mazda6 was last all new for 2014, but received a significant update for the 2018 model year. The vehicle also wears an attractive design, and while it's been largely the same since it first went on sale, a number of updates have helped keep things fresh.

Among new features like a 360-degree camera and ventilated front seats, the most notable addition for 2018 is a new 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Still offered with lower trim levels is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 184 hp. The non-turbocharged model earns 29 mpg combined, while the new turbo earns 26.

Dimensions

The exterior dimensions of the 2018 Toyota Camry and Mazda6 are nearly identical. The Camry is 192.1 inches long, the Mazda6 is 191.5 inches. Both vehicles are 72.4 inches wide, and the Camry is two tenths of an inch shorter at 59.6 inches tall to the Mazda6's 57.1 inches.

Inside, the Mazda6 offers 38.4 inches of front seat headroom and 42.2 inches of front seat legroom. Back seat passengers get 37.1 inches of headroom and 38.7 inches of legroom.

The Camry is slightly smaller in most dimensions. The Camry has 38.3 inches of headroom up front and 42.1 inches of legroom. In the back, passengers get 38.0 inches of headroom and 38.0 inches of legroom.

The Mazda6 also offers slightly more cargo room, with 15 cu ft. of trunk space to the Camry's 14.

Interior Design

The design of the Mazda6 is far more premium than that of the Camry, especially when it comes to the interior.

The new Camry features a driver-oriented cockpit, with an asymmetrical center stack tilted toward the driver. This is great for the driver, but serves to inconvenience the front seat passenger, as it isolates them somewhat from the rest of the cabin. Overall, the Camry's interior has been given a stylish redesign for this new generation with a number of sporty touches. Nicer trim is available with either a wood- or aluminum-look finish, while XSE models can be had with an exciting red leather interior with brushed aluminum accents, complemented on the outside by an available contrasting black roof.

The 2018 Mazda6 shines just as brightly on the inside as it does on the outside. This year's update brought about a redesigned dashboard segmented by a horizontal trim piece that comes wrapped in a unique suede material on the Signature trim level. Lower trim levels offer either a black or gray fabric interior, while upper trim levels get leatherette or true leather. High-end signature models get Nappa leather available in either brown or gray. The only area of the 2018 Mazda6's interior that we could find to criticize is the carpeting -- it isn't up to par with the rest of the vehicle, but that speaks more to the quality of materials used everywhere else.

Technology, Features & Infotainment

Features available on the new Camry include a 360-degree camera, a heads up display, heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, sport and eco modes and paddle shifters.

The Mazda6 doesn't offer a panoramic sunroof, instead employing a traditional design, but goes on to offer features not available on the Camry. While the Mazda, too, offers a 360-degree camera, heads up display and heated seats, it ups the ante by offering available ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel.

On top of all this, buyers of the 2018 Mazda6 can have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto retrofitted from their dealership this September, while models sold after September will assumedly have the capability fitted prior to sale. The 2018 Camry, on the other hand, doesn't offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, forcing buyers to instead stick with Toyota's dated Entune system. High-end Camrys employ a JBL audio system, while a comparable Mazda6 gets a Bose system.

For 2018, every Mazda6 touts a new and improved 8-in center infotainment screen operated primarily via a rotary knob on the center console, which we've found to be pretty intuitive and simple to use. The screen also has touch-functionality, but it can only be used when the vehicle is stopped.

The 2018 Camry comes standard with a 7-in infotainment screen but offers an 8-in screen on higher trim levels.

Reliability

JD Power ranks both Toyota and Mazda above the industry average with regard to overall dependability. Therefore, buyers of both the Camry and Mazda6 should see above-average quality and reliability from their vehicles. Both brands offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty; on par with the rest of the industry.

Safety

Both the 2018 Camry and Mazda6 perform well in third party crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2018 Mazda6 earns a Top Safety Pick designation, while the new Camry does one better, earning Top Safety Pick+ honors.

Both the 2018 Camry and Mazda6 offer a lot in the way of driver assistance safety features as well.

The 2018 Mazda6 comes standard with forward-collision warning, front automated emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Available as part of Mazda's iActiveSense suite are lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and traffic sign recognition.

The Camry offers even more as standard. Every single 2018 Camry comes with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning, front automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. Front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and rear automated emergency braking are optional.

Overall, the tech offered by both vehicles is pretty comprehensive, but the Camry offers slightly more.

Value

Given its upscale feel in higher trim levels, the new Mazda6 represents an excellent overall value. While Toyota reliability is proven, with the Camry, you pretty much get what you pay for. With the Mazda6 though, you seem to get way more than what the sticker price would entail.

Autotrader's Advice

While the redesigned Camry is an extremely competitive midsize sedan, the Mazda6 is in a different league in terms of refinement and luxury. Mazda has made an effort to move upmarket in recent years, which we've seen in the 2018 Mazda CX-9 Signature, which Autotrader is currently driving for a year, as well as the new Mazda6. The vehicle's overall refinement is evident in such intangibles as the confidence-inspiring weight of the doors, the quietness of the cabin, the high-end materials used and in the feel of every different button and switch. While still targeted toward many mainstream competitors, the Mazda6 in its Signature trim level could be cross-shopped with luxury offerings from the likes of Lexus and Audi.

Fully loaded, the 2018 Camry rings in at $38,000, while the 2018 Mazda6 reaches only around $36,500, serving to only increase its value proposition, as one would assume they were in a far more expensive vehicle while riding in the Mazda. Don't get us wrong, the 2018 Camry is a massive improvement over Camrys of generations past, and offers for the first time a truly engaging driving experience, especially when fitted with the potent V6, which offers quicker acceleration than the Mazda's 250-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder. On top of that, the Camry gives buyers an additional powertrain option in the Hybrid model, which achieves excellent fuel economy.

Still, the Mazda6 represents likely the best overall value in the category and it gets the nod in this comparison.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota Camry vs. 2018 Mazda6: Which Is Better? - Autotrader