First Drive: 2019 Mazda6

The 2019 Mazda6 is an elegant and affordable family sedan with a sporty side.

2019 Mazda 6 Grand Touring

The Mazda6 sedan is more than a pretty face. With sharp-handling, a classy cabin, and optional turbo four-cylinder, the Mazda6 is both entertaining and economical.

By Nick Kurczewski, Contributor, | Jan 2019

Can a family sedan be kind to your car shopping budget, but still provide actual excitement when you’re behind the wheel? The Mazda6 is engaging to drive, but remains a high-value proposition when faced against rivals like the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima.

What is this vehicle?

The 2019 Mazda6 is a sedan that wants to prove you don’t need to sacrifice driving excitement for practicality. For many car shoppers, the default choice when shopping for a new vehicle is a compact to midsize SUV. With that in mind, Mazda has several great alternatives (CX-5, CX-9) if you’re determined to buy a sport-utility. Yet, when it comes to taking on rivals like the highly-regarded Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the Mazda6 presents a unique spin on the traditional family sedan.

That’s because this midsize four-door has sharp handling that pays more than a passing resemblance to Mazda’s own MX-5 Miata sports car. The 6 is much bigger and doesn’t have a folding convertible top, of course. But there is an energetic personality lurking beneath the surface of this elegant Mazda sedan. And while we’re talking about surfaces, let’s point out that the Mazda6 is arguably one of the best-looking mainstream sedans currently available.

While the latest Accord, Altima, and Camry all went for more aggressive exteriors during their most recent updates, Mazda has kept the styling of the 6 relatively understated and, arguably, that much more handsome and timeless. In other words, this is a car that should age well. Better still, it’s also one that will put a smile on your face whenever you’re behind the wheel.

Who is this vehicle for?

The 2019 Mazda6 is a great choice for anyone who needs a solid dose of practicality with their new car, but wants to avoid fitting into the same mold as every other sensible family-sedan or cargo-toting SUV owner. This Mazda combines a comfortable and controlled ride with excellent handling, to give the 6 an athletic demeanor that’s rare among similarly-priced sedans, and almost non-existent when it comes to bulkier, heavier SUVs. An optional turbocharged four-cylinder gives the Mazda6 plenty of punch, too. While the base 187-horsepower four-cylinder is fine for everyday driving tasks, the 250-hp turbo four gives a noticeable improvement to passing power and acceleration.

With the base engine coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, the Mazda6 returns an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in city driving and 35 mpg on the highway. That’s impressive, though the optional turbo motor is also pretty frugal at 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway. If you absolutely want to save money when it comes to refueling, and don’t mind giving up the extra jolt of horsepower, the entry-level engine should be fine for most car shoppers.

Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?

The Mazda6 has been a stand-out performer in a market segment that’s typically defined by safely-styled alternatives that offer ho-hum driving dynamics. There have been some exceptions, of course. The Honda Accord has often veered towards the sportier side of the family sedan segment, at least when it comes to offering a smooth ride and crisp handling characteristics. And while Ford is turning almost all of its attention to hot-selling SUVs, the Fusion sedan remains a good choice with equally sharp and engaging handling.

Until recently, it was the Toyota Camry that lagged behind when it came to driving dynamics – the popular Toyota wooed shoppers much more for its promise of dependability and long-term value. Yet, even the latest Camry now has a surprisingly sporty streak, with much improved steering and a more controlled suspension, all of which comes coupled to its strong record of reliability.

Midsize sedan buyers aren’t looking for tire-smoking acceleration and a car tuned for the nearest racetrack, however. The Mazda6, like its main competitors, puts a strong emphasis on balancing cargo space and passenger room, along with strong safety scores in crash test ratings, and a long list of standard features. As we already pointed out, among its mainstream rivals, the Mazda6 is possibly the most attractive of the bunch. But beauty is far more than skin deep, as proven by this Mazda’s 5-star overall safety rating (the highest possible score) in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The 2018 Mazda6 also scored a “Top Safety Pick” rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Since the 2019 model year is nearly identical, that impressive result is almost guaranteed to carry over into the 2019 model year.

The only caveat in the IIHS’ scoring of the Mazda6 came down to the effectiveness of the car’s headlights, which were deemed “Acceptable” – one level down from the highest rating of “Good.”

Interesting facts about this vehicle!

The Mazda6 is one of the increasingly rare vehicles that still offers a manual transmission, though it’s only available in the entry-level Sport trim. That means having to make do with the base 187-hp engine – again, it’s not a bad choice, but the turbo-four is lots more fun. While some key rivals had massive makeovers within the past 1-2 years, Mazda made a number of well-timed improvements for the 2018 model year. This included upgraded cabin trim, with greater use of soft-touch materials, along with an improved infotainment system, as well as the availability of luxury touches like heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, surround-view camera, and Bose audio system.

Even the standard Mazda6, which starts at only $23,000, comes with a long list of standard features. This includes safety touches, like a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, and frontal collision warning. Tech fans will be pleased to note that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now supported in the Mazda6.

What Impressed Us / Top Likes:

We know you’re probably getting tired of hearing about this sedan’s fun-loving driving nature. Too bad, because the Mazda6 is one of those rare cars that makes a great case for being a sensible grown-up choice, without feeling like you’ve caved into the demands of almighty cup-holders and cargo room. Frankly, this is the kind of sedan that should make many SUV shoppers take a moment to rethink their options. True, today’s small and midsize SUVs drive much more like sedans, but almost none have the reflexes you’ll find in the 2019 Mazda6.

After all, one of the best ways to avoid an accident is by having a car that can steer and/or power around any potential mishap (versus plowing into something head-on, because the suspension and handling wasn’t up to the task). We’re not trying to scare you. It’s simply that nimble driving manners – like those offered in the Mazda6 – should also be considered a valuable safety aspect.

From the driver’s seat, all the controls for heating and ventilation are within easy reach, and arrayed in an attractive dashboard that bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain premium brand (here’s looking at you, Audi). The 8-inch touch screen for the infotainment system is reasonably intuitive, though some commands require too many steps and could be streamlined. Scrolling through stations on the satellite radio fitted to our test car was one prime example – though the Bose audio system itself was clear and powerful. Cargo space and total rear legroom were acceptable, though we’ll touch upon both these topics in the next section.

Choosing between the available engines could be a matter of what kind of deal you’re being offered. The standard engine is perfectly acceptable, and it offers mileage that puts the Mazda6 right in the thick of the most economical midsize sedans. Opting for the turbo motor nets you a sizable bump in power, particularly considering this engine also comes with a solid 310-pound-feet of torque. This gives the turbocharged Mazda6 some real legs when it comes to merging onto a bustling highway, or when hitting the gas pedal once a traffic light turns green. But do you want extra speed, or more money left in your pocket? There is a sizable price jump of several thousand dollars from the base Sport and Touring trim levels, fitted with the standard engine, to the Grand Touring model, which comes with the turbo engine. We think most buyers would be happy with the standard engine (and a wad of cash leftover).

Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):

The Mazda6 might outmaneuver many key rivals, but it trails a few of them when it comes to rear legroom and overall cargo capacity. The Mazda offers 38.7 inches of rear legroom and a trunk capacity of 14.7 cubic feet, with the split-folding rear seat backs in place. The Honda Accord, on the other hand, offers a total of 40.4 inches of rear legroom, and a trunk that stretches to 16.7 cubic feet of space. Splitting the two is the Toyota Camry, which delivers 38-inches of rear legroom and 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space. Those are hardly make-or-break differences, though there’s no denying the Mazda6 trails these two fierce competitors when it comes to stretch-out room and cargo-hauling capability.

We’ve also already pointed out the big price difference between the base engine and the punchier turbocharged motor. While we love power and performance, it might be hard to justify spending thousands more to get the better-performing engine. Of course, this doesn’t factor in the longer list of standard equipment that you get on the Grand Touring trim, which comes automatically with the powertrain upgrade.

Segment and Competitors:

The 2019 Mazda6 faces a long list of rivals, many of which have received a recent overhaul to stay competitive in this hotly-contested segment. We’ve also included some SUV alternatives, since so many car shoppers are abandoning sedans for sport-utility vehicles.

  • Honda Accord
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota Camry
  • Volkswagen Tiguan
  • Ford Fusion
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Kia Optima
  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Nissan Altima
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Ford Escape

It’s worth remembering that some SUVs get pretty pricey when you start adding options, along with mechanical upgrades like all-wheel drive. If you really need the extra cargo space, then consider models like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, and Mazda’s own CX-5. All of them offer the higher ride height many SUV shoppers love, not to mention a greater degree of cargo-hauling capability. The entry-price will be higher, however, and you’ll pay more at the gas pump.

Unique Specifications:

We’d aim for at least the Mazda6 in Touring trim level, since it offers one of the best blends of value and features. The 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic will provide for smooth (if hardly neck-snapping) performance on a day-to-day basis. Mileage figures are also strong, at 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway. Standard equipment includes features like dual-zone climate control, Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support system (including front collision warning and automatic emergency braking), a rearview camera, lane departure warning, blind spot monitors, a moonroof, leatherette seating surfaces, two USB ports, and a power adjustable driver’s seat.

If you want to add everything possible to your Mazda6, the Signature trim comes fully-loaded with every option and carries a still-reasonable price of just under $35,000. When you’re in the mood to indulge yourself at a Mazda dealership, but don’t want to haggle about adding extras, this could be your ideal choice!

Pricing and Availability:

The 2019 Mazda6 sedan is available now and carries a starting price of $22,845 (including destination fee, and the 6-speed manual transmission). A mid-level Mazda6 in Touring trim level and equipped with a 6-speed automatic will cost $26,595. This is more indicative of the price an average buyer will pay to put a fun and frugal Mazda6 in their garage or driveway.

2019-02-11T18:13:31-05:00Jan 2019|Car Reviews|