Ask anyone to rifle off a few luxury automakers and Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Lexus are sure to be part of the conversation. Mazda has slowly started to migrate into the world of luxury vehicles with new trims, upscale designs, and more high-end features. It’s a smart idea, because everyone would love to have a Mercedes-Benz S-Class as a daily driver, but only a small portion of drivers can actually afford to do so. With the 2019 Mazda6 Signature, you get some of the same luxury from those upstream brands for a fraction of the price.
As a Mazda fanboy, I like the upstream move. Mazda has always been the hidden gem in the industry for people that genuinely like to drive cars. You might compromise on features, comfort, and reliability, but you know you were getting into something that you could thoroughly enjoy, which was something special for a mainstream automaker. But that recipe hasn’t faired well for the brand, as it has struggled to keep up with other Japanese brands like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda in terms of sales. It seems that the majority of drivers aren’t too keen on having a car that’s fun to drive.
While not everyone wants a car that has you yearning for more corners, everyone can get on board with more luxury. The sentiment especially reigns true with sedans, which are struggling to maintain their spot in the market against the likes of crossovers and SUVs. If sportiness doesn’t save sedans, maybe luxury will. Or at least that’s the thinking with Mazda’s new Signature trim and turbocharged engine in the Mazda6.
I loathe red cars. They’re too flashy, too “look at me I’m here and I desperately need attention.” Red also doesn’t bring out the best design in the majority of cars. Something about the red hides a lot of little elements, those subtle cues that you know a designer stayed up all night sculpting into a clay model. Obviously, this is just how I feel, and plenty of people don’t agree with me, because red cars are everywhere.
After just one glance at the Mazda6 in the unique shade of Soul Red Crystal Metallic, my knees buckled. This is a fantastic color, and I think it fits the vehicle perfectly. In fact, I don’t see the Mazda6 looking this striking in any other paint scheme. It’s worth every single dollar of the extra $595, and it even made me do double takes or look out my apartment window onto the street where the vehicle was parked just to see how pretty the color was.
Beyond the color, the Mazda6 is one of the more handsome sedans on the road. Toyota has gone with edgier, more radical designs that won’t appeal to everyone, while the Honda Accord is kind of meh. The Mazda doesn’t have any of these issues. It’s got curves, smooth edges, sharp lines, and just the right amount of chrome. I absolutely love the front end, with the slim headlights that lead directly into the grille that looks like it has thousands of tiny little points. In a world that’s trying to stand out with dramatic designs, the Mazda6 stands out because it’s beautiful, not because it’s different. And there’s a big difference between the two.
Some things can easily be summarized in one word, and that happens to be the case for the Mazda6’s interior, which is dazzling. Few cars feel this premium and start with a 3 in their price tag. The newly christened Signature trim really does rival luxury vehicles from the big German three. The dark brown leather looks gorgeous and feels great to touch, while the suede trim pieces are also premium pieces.
The design of the center stack, though, needs to be awarded. It’s simple, pleasing to look at, and downright easy to use. There’s no fiddling about, looking for a button that’s somehow disappeared after you swore it was there. Even Mazda’s infotainment system, which you can control via the well-placed touchscreen or the knob near the gear shifter, is well thought out and easy to get used to in little time.
While I could rant and rave about how amazing the Mazda6’s interior is for hours, there are a few downsides. For one, the push-button ignition is placed directly next to the touchscreen, which makes for a good game of try to start the car with your friends. Then, there’s the backseats, which I found to be a little tight. I’m no giant, mind you, just an average guy at 5’ 10”, but with the driver’s seat in my position, my legs were awfully close to the back.
Another issue is the touchscreen’s resolution when using the 360-degree camera. The screen splits itself into two, with the major portion looking forward or backward, while the other side provides an entire view of what’s surround the car. Unfortunately, the resolution is like 60 px, so if anything, it actually hinders you from parking. For a car from 2019, it’s staggering to see a resolution that’s this bad.
Lastly, there’s the placement of the heated rear seat controls. In most cars, getting the rear seats to warm your behind is simple enough, as the buttons are either on the rear doors or on the back of the transmission tunnel. Interestingly, in an attempt to feel upscale, Mazda hid the heated rear seat buttons in the rear center armrest, kind of like how some automakers put the rear seat adjustment controls there. Without any rear seat controls stashed away in the armrest, the decision to just put the heated seat controls in the center armrest is a little confusing.
As a Mazda fan, I was really hoping that the Mazda6 had some of the magic from the MX-5 Miata. The automaker’s commercials also get to me, and while “Zoom Zoom” may have been replaced with “Feel Alive,” I was really looking for the magic that made Mazda stand out from the mundane. When you bring that kind of mentality into something, you’re bound to be disappointed, as I was.
The turbocharged four-cylinder is a fine engine, lacking character but not torque. There’s a potent 310 lb-ft that’s available from 2,000 rpm, which is quite a lot for a midsize sedan. And at 250 hp, it’s not like it’s underpowered in that respect either. But the engine never feels like it’s one of the most powerful motors in the segment. Nor does it provide neck-snapping performance. There’s an ample amount of power for overtaking, but off the line, the Mazda6 feels sluggish.
While other automakers have moved toward 8-speed transmissions and continuously variable units, Mazda has stuck with a traditional 6-speed, which is fine for the most part, but struggles to keep up when really hammering along. And when you finally find a good road that can make you “Feel Alive,” the front tires are easily overwhelmed with the torque the engine’s putting out.
The “Zoom Zoom” aspect of this Mazda is clearly nonexistent. Instead, what you’ll find is scrumptious luxury. The cabin is incredibly silent, the suspension is soft and compliant, and the handling is sporty enough to where the average driver will probably find it enjoyable. Don’t be fooled by the Mazda6’s turbocharged engine, this is a sedan that’s aimed at a new group of drivers: those specifically seeking luxury, even in the way it drives.
Forget your preconceptions about the Mazda6. It’s not a fun sedan that you’ll want to spend hours searching for a good driving road in. Nor is it a Miata with four doors. What it is, though, is a comfortable, luxurious sedan that can seat four at an affordable price. Unfortunately, the move to be a more mainstream luxury vehicle that will appeal to everyone comes at a sacrifice to character.
For an automaker that used to prioritize character or that “it” factor before all else, finding the Mazda6’s soul is a bit of a scavenger hunt. Enthusiasts may be disappointed to hear that, but the mix that Mazda has conjured up now should appeal to more people, which is a good thing, because a car this pretty, affordable, and luxurious needs to be sold to the masses.