Review: Mazda6 sedan covers all the bases

The news about Ford dropping all its four-door sedans might be disturbing, but that leaves a larger slice of the pie for the rest of the group, especially the latest Mazda6.

Yes, there’s trouble in Sedan Land these days as growing legions of buyers abandon that body style and instead head for utility vehicles. Apparently many of these folks have forgotten about the wonderfulness of family, four-door cars; about how they provide superior ride quality, carve the corners more precisely and generally consume less fuel. And let’s not forget they are, pound-for-pound, cheaper to buy.

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One more thing: Most sedans now have locker-room-sized trunks that, combined with split-fold-down rear seats, will tote most of whatever indulgences you’ve acquired from the local big-box mart.

Other than the taller ride height that a utility vehicle offers, the only thing most sedans are missing is all-wheel-drive availability, but a good set of snow tires should be compensation enough.

The current Mazda6, which showed up for 2014, is a thoroughly excellent piece that continues to fly under the radar while major-leaguers Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima rake in much of the shrinking midsize-sedan market.

For 2018, the Mazda6 receives a number of improvements, starting with a more attractive nose and grille, and standard LED headlights (with integrated fog lamps). There are also fresh alloy wheel designs.

There’s a new dashboard and instrument panel, a 20-centimetre touchscreen (larger by 2.5 centimetres), plus redesigned seats that use denser foam.

The 6’s steering has been improved for greater precision, and the suspension revised for a smoother ride (also reducing noise, vibration and harshness).

Mazda has touted a sporty driving experience as the primary strength of its SkyActiv technologies. A 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine in the Mazda6 is part of that package, making 187 horsepower (up from the previous 184) and 186 pound-feet of torque.

For 2018, the Mazda6’s performance has literally been given a boost with the addition of an optional turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder (called SkyActiv-G) that was originally installed in the 2018 CX-9 wagon. Output is 227 horsepower on regular 87-octane gasoline, and 250 horses when you fill up with 93-octane premium. Torque is rated at 310 pound-feet with either fuel.

Mazda engineers specifically focused on reducing dreaded turbo lag — that moment spent waiting for the engine to react after pressing the gas pedal — so that acceleration is almost instant. The first time you punch the throttle on a turbo-equipped Mazda6 will confirm that they were successful.

A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with both powerplants.

The turbo’s fuel economy is estimated at 10.0 l/100 km in city driving and 7.5 on the highway. That compares with 9.1/6.7 for the non-turbo 2.5.

With a staring price of $28,900 including destination charges, the Mazda6 GS arrives with a number of standard ingredients that aren’t always found in competitors’ base models. You get dual-zone climate control, electric parking brake, 17-inch alloy wheels and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The GS-L adds a power driver’s seat, power moonroof and the latest in dynamic-safety technology, such as emergency braking.

Along with the more muscular turbo engine the GT gets an 11-speaker Bose-brand audio package, a navigation, adaptive front headlights and 19-inch wheels.

The Signature pushes the Mazda6 squarely into the entry-luxury bracket with premium Nappa leather seat covers and wood trim. The Signature also adds nearly $12,000 to the out-the-door cost, compared with the base MSRP.

It’s unlikely that all the updating and improvements to the Mazda6 will make a significant dent in buyer appetite for utility vehicles, but anyone who enjoys driving a comfortable, responsive and practical automobile should definitely give this one a try.

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