The Mazda6 was unfortunately the first Mazda I was exposed to, and ultimately set me up for a decade-long unjustified stigma to the brand. I don't mean the first generation Mazda6, a 2004 V6 6MT in this case, was necessarily a bad car. You could get a wagon with this configuration! But because I knew someone with this car and they didn't like it, it meant that I didn't like it. And that shaped my opinion about Mazda until 2017. Influence can be a really bad thing.
Fast-forward to today, where TestDrive has featured almost all of Mazda's North American lineup, and I've personally driven all their vehicles for 2018/2019 at this point. Mazda has consistently proven themselves to be one of the premier automotive manufacturers producing some of the best vehicles in the consumer segment. Much like Volvo, Jaguar, & Land Rover, Mazda was partially owned by the Ford Motor Company throughout the 2000s, but now that they're independent from Ford, much like Volvo, Jaguar, & Land Rover, Mazda is excelling.
Our test model, the 2019 Mazda6 Signature is similar to the 2018 we featured early last year. Small changes have made their way to our $39,350.00 test vehicle, including Mazda's updated G-Vectoring Control Plus, rear seat belt occupancy notifications, power folding mirrors, and Mazda's new 7" driver information system for the gauge cluster. Aside from this the rear auto-dimming mirror has moved down from the GT to the GS-L trim. With these changes all 4 trims sold in Canada have increased in price by $100.00, on top of our $200.00 Snowflake White Pearl paint optioned on this press car.
I really enjoyed my brief time with the Mazda6 Signature last year, and wanted to spend more time behind the wheel of it. We ranked the 2018 Kia Optima SXL Turbo our top pick in the mid-size consumer segment last year, with the Mazda6 a runner up at second. The Kia did everything well, whereas the Mazda had a few small issues we'll talk about later on. When it comes to the exterior design of the Mazda6 though, it's seriously good. Major step up from that first generation in 2004, and an entirely different ballgame from the 626 that preceded it.
The Signature comes fully loaded, with adaptive LED headlights and high beams, LED signature lighting, those new for Canada automatic power folding mirrors, and the full i-Activsense safety tech like adaptive radar cruise control, traffic sign recognition, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, forward collision braking, and lane departure alert. While the Mazda6 hasn't gotten some of the 2019 Mazda3 GT's featured we saw last week like evasion assist, automatic reverse emergency braking, or integrated wiper nozzles, the overall tech package is on-par with the competition. Some features like the 360° work, but the image resolution is very poor compared to other vehicles we've tested.
The interior is where business really gets serious. One could argue that the exterior is a little conservative, but once you step inside the Mazda6 shows it's premium-focus. The Ultrasuede and leather dash area are still just as stunning in Mazda's deep chestnut nappa leather as it was last year in the pure white leather. Seating is comfortable, although a little flat. I found the seating position good overall though the seats sit a little higher, meaning my overall headroom was shorter at six feet tall. The updated 7" gauge cluster computer is a nice addition, and Mazda's colour HUD is still one of our favourites in the segment.
The weak point for the 2019 Mazda6 Signature is the infotainment system. While I used the built-in Apple CarPlay support (Android Auto works also) on my drive home on my first day, I ended up using the built-in navigation and music the rest of the time and found significant startup latency. I could have been the system always downloading my phone's contact list on startup, or the fact that I opted for the 360° camera to turn on immediately, but the time the vehicle starts up to the time I can change the radio station or zoom out the navigation system took anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds every single time. We've already tested Mazda's next generation infotainment with the Mazda3, however buyer's today will still be plagued with this system.
Personally I'm expecting to see a full update to the Mazda6 by 2021, I think it might be a little hard for the Japanese automaker to launch a complete overhaul within the next 6 months, but the Mazda6 is their oldest North American product as of writing this, and could use some of the great advances found on the 2019 Mazda3. Unfortunately for sedan buyers vehicles like the Mazda6 aren't selling as well as they did a decade and a half ago, and crossovers are taking over, so an update to the CX-3 or CX-9 might come before we see a complete change for their mid-size sedan.
But the infotainment system and camera are problems we can live with considering how great the rest of the Mazda6 truly is. The 2.5L Skyactiv-G turbocharged engine can produce up to 250 horsepower with premium fuel and 310 lb-ft of torque. Power delivery to the front wheels is good with little traction loss and without much drama from the dual exhaust out back. Mazda is sticking with their 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and manual mode, and while we kept the car in normal mode, the sport setting does give drivers a bit of extra oomph.
Driving is effortless with the Mazda6, the car isn't designed to be overly sporty, but that doesn't mean it isn't spirited on the curves. Comfortable driving is what helps make Mazda stand above the competition, and I experienced no driver fatigue during my week with the car, even on longer trips. Though if you're looking for a replacement to the Mazdaspeed you'll have to go aftermarket, as 250 horsepower is plenty for daily driving, but not for true performance.
Fuel economy during our week was good, coming in at 7.4L/100km during our 100km test loop, and 8.9L/100km overall during our week. Fuel economy could probably be improved through an 8 speed transmission but overall the Mazda6 lined up well with testing we've conducted with other similarly sized vehicles. More highway driving would definitely improve the overall fuel economy, and one day we hope Mazda will offer some sort of hybrid option.
If you're in the market for a new mid-size sedan and AWD isn't a deal killer for you, then seriously consider the 2019 Mazda6 Signature. The pros significantly outweigh the cons when it comes to this sub-$40,000 sedan, and continued sales in the segment should ensure future updates to the Mazda6 for buyers. You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Snapshot on the 2019 Mazda6 Signature here: