Standard advanced safety systems
Menu-dense infotainment system
Pricey top trims
Ride on the firm side
2019 Mazda Mazda6
The current-generation Mazda6 went on sale in January, 2013 as a 2014 model. For 2018, a refreshed front fascia, Grand Touring Reserve model, cylinder deactivation for the base 2.5-lliter engine, additional equipment across all trims, and a turbo for Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature models was added.
Aside from deleting the 6-speed manual, the changes Mazda hath wrought for 2019 are largely centered around the Sport model, which now features the automatic headlights with high beam control, rain-sensing wipers, and i-Activsense suite of advanced safety systems found on the rest of the lineup. In addition, Grand Touring Reserve models are now equipped with power folding side mirrors, while a second-generation G-Vectoring Control system, that introduces direct yaw control for the brakes to better handle emergency avoidance maneuvers, is standard across the board.
Not only is the Mazda Mazda6 design leader of the midsize class, but replace its winged logo with a roundel or three-pointed star, and the latest version - an amalgam of swoops, curves, and clean, organic lines - could easily pass for a BMW or Mercedes-Benz. The front fascia was freshened last year, giving the five-point grille a new insert, and outlining all but the upper edge with a wide, bold, chrome trim. Bookending the grille are narrow, "eagle eyed" LED headlights with integrated fog lights, while a lower valance with a narrow lower air intake below is flanked by thin chrome trim strips, all of which sit above an aggressive lower air dam.
The sculpted sides are defined by a gently curved character line that begins just above the headlight enclosures and terminates just below the outside rearview mirrors, while a second character line that begins behind the leading edge of the rear door just below the beltline ends at the trailing edge of the quarter panel above the rear taillights. The wheel wells on Signature models like our tester are filled nicely by 19 x 7-inch alloys finished in brilliant silver, wrapped in Falken ZIEX ZE001 P225/45R19 all-season tires.
The rear fascia is dominated by a wide, bright, chrome trim strip that bridges the gap between - as well as splits - the horizontal taillamp housings. A wide lower bumper, sporting a thin gray lower valance, houses a pair of round exhaust outlets, while the trailing edge of the deck lid on Signature trims features a small lip spoiler.
Every bit as stunning as the exterior, the cabin of our Signature model mixes soft-touch surfaces, Nappa leather, synthetic suede, and Japanese Sen Wood on the dash, seats and doors. A free-standing, eight-inch, upper dash-mounted touchscreen gives the cabin a very open feeling, while the instrument cluster features a seven-inch TFT display. A horizontal Sen wood trim strip extends from the instrument binnacle to the passenger door, with the space between it and the glove box door filled by a stitched, Alcantara panel. Lusting after an Audi A6? Save yourself thousands right here.
The 2-tiered instrument binnacle hood features real stitching and contains a head-up display, while the sides of the center console are also covered in a stitched, soft-touch, material whose quality varies by trim level. The instrumentation is clear and easy to read, and consists of a center speedometer flanked on the left by a tach, and on the right by temp and fuel gauges, and a multi-information center.
Front seat occupants are tended to with supportive, nicely-bolstered seats and offers plenty of knee, leg, and head room. The cooling function on our Signature tester - sucking heat away rather than blowing cool air from underneath – works better than advertised, while the outboard back seats are also comfortable. In addition, the wide trunk pass-through and split folding back seats add significantly to the Mazda6's versatility: with the rear seats flipped forward, we were easily able to load up a 52cm road bike without having to remove the wheels.
The driver’s view out the front and sides is excellent, despite side mirrors that steal some real estate. The view out the rear three-quarters and back, however, isn’t quite as good, with the sloping roofline and high deck lid cutting into those site lines.
At the same time, the console-mounted infotainment control knobs, though less awkwardly-placed on the Mazda6 than on other Mazdas, only does a middling job of reducing driver distraction as the infotainment software requires sorting through too many sub-menus for even the simplest of procedures. Frankly, we miss the less-distracting buttons and knobs of the older system – especially when it comes to functions like adding station pre-sets. In addition, though there’s sufficient room, the center rear seat is on the firm side, so we suggest attendance in back on long trips be limited to two adults. Finally, while the infotainment screen displayed both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay icons, after pairing an iPhone and plugging it into a USB port, we were still unable to activate this feature.
Under the hood
For 2019, two carry-over engines are offered. Sport and Touring models are equipped with a direct injection 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, with cylinder deactivation, that delivers 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque matched only with a 6-speed automatic, since the 6-speed manual was dropped this year. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 on the highway, and 29 combined.
All other trims receive a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that generates 227 horsepower (250 horsepower with premium fuel) and 310 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway, and 26 combined. We managed to score a vehicle-measured 20.9 mpg in spirited suburban driving.
On the road
Hit the entrance ramp and be prepared for day-long cruising comfort, as the Mazda6’s front strut/rear multilink suspension does a nice job of meting out a soft, smooth ride. The 2.5-liter turbo supplies plenty of off the line acceleration, as well as effortless merging and highway passing. Toggle the Sport mode switch and the transmission offers energetic downshifts, while holding gears longer for improved performance.
All the while, the Mazda6's combination of relatively light weight, and balanced, sporty ride make it one of the most entertaining sedans in the mid-size class, while the second-gen G-Vectoring Control engine management system boosts driver confidence during cornering and in straight-line acceleration and stability. The result is a compliant and well damped ride - wherein potholes and other road imperfections are handled with ease. The steering is direct with great feedback to the driver, while braking is also excellent, offering a nice initial bite to the pads, very short stops, and a pedal that's easy to modulate. Even at freeway speeds, the Mazda6 feels extremely stable - unaffected by crosswinds or grooved pavement. The combination of suspension tuning and precise steering means you know exactly where you are on the road.
At the same time, even we admit that the Mazda6's sporty ride – especially on the Signature model’s 19-inch wheels – is on the firm side, probably isn't for everyone, and may turn off drivers conditioned to a softer, more forgiving suspension tune. In addition, despite the suspension’s firmness, we noticed more body lean in corners during aggressive driving than we have in the past.
Aside from the usual power bits (windows, locks, mirrors), entry-level Sport models are equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, integrated outside mirror LED turn signals, LED auto-leveling headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, electronic parking brake, keyless push-button start, leather-wrapped shift knob, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity.
Standard advanced safety features include pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, low-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitor, and automatic high beams.
Touring models add 19-inch alloy wheels, moonroof, 6-way power driver’s seat, leatherette seating surfaces, heated front seats, rear seat center armrest with storage and two USB charging ports, advanced keyless entry, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.
In addition to the more powerful engine, Grand Touring models feature an auto-dimming driver’s outside mirror, heated outside mirrors, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, Bose 11-speaker sound system, steering wheel paddle shifters, and satellite radio.
Grand Touring Reserve models are offered with adaptive front lighting, unique 19-inch alloy wheels, windshield wiper de-icer, rear lip spoiler, bright front lower molding, LED signature front lighting, 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar and 2-position memory, 6-way power front passenger seat, cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, leather-trimmed seats, full color head-up display, and heated rear seats.
Finally, the Signature model adds to that list with a gunmetal front grille, 7-inch TFT instrument display, frameless rearview mirror, black headliner, door pocket illumination, ambient interior lighting, unique stitched leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED trunk, glove box, overhead console, and vanity mirror illumination, black headliner, head-up display traffic sign recognition, Nappa leather seats, navigation system, Sen Wood and Ultrasuede trim, Sirius XM traffic and travel, weather, sports scores, fuel prices, and nearby parking or parking by destination, 360 view monitor, and front and rear parking sensors.
2019 Mazda6 prices
2019 Mazda6 pricing starts at $24,7200 for the Sport model and can top out at well over $36,000 for the Signature trim. Our Soul Red Crystal Signature model was very close to the very top with a base price of $35,100. Adding $75 for a cargo mat, $595 for the paint job and $125 for brushed aluminum door sill trim plates brought the total, including a $920 delivery, processing and handling fee, to $36,815.
The Bottom Line
In terms of the competition, the fuel economy of the Mazda6 is bested by both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, while those models double down with even more efficient hybrids. In addition, the infotainment software remains subpar, the price for sporty handling is a firmer ride, while purists with anguish over the loss of the manual.
Despite those foibles, the best qualities of a sedan converge with latest Mazda6, including a stunning exterior, luxury-level interior, agile handling, and entertaining engine. We also have more fun driving it than nearly any rival, which makes the 2019 Mazda Mazda6 a top choice in the mid-size class.