New Cars

Mazda takes Mazda6 upmarket with mid-cycle refresh

New front and rear clips and almost all-new interior, floor to ceiling

2018 Mazda6

The Mazda6 competes in probably the hardest segment in North America, against perennial all-stars like the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Toyota Camry.

Anybody would have a tough time cracking that line-up. So, Mazda has given up.

Well, only sort of. Mazda has decided to refresh the mid-sized sedan and take it upmarket, pitting it against offerings from Acura, Buick, Lexus and Volkswagen, though it says it also wants to rival Audi, BMW, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz.

To take steps toward that somewhat lofty goal, it has given the “Six” a mid-cycle refresh, consisting of new front and rear clips and an almost all-new interior from floor to ceiling. Mazda also took the opportunity to tweak the engine offerings, providing cylinder deactivation to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, and adding a turbo version to the mid-level GS-L trim level. The base transmission is now a 6-speed automatic.

The exterior changes are dramatic when compared side by side with the current model. Follow the body-panel seams from the front wheel up to the headlights, and everything below the hood line is new. At the rear. Follow the seams up from the rear wheels to the taillights and everything from the base of the rear window between the fenders is brand new. The wheels are also new, as are the mirrors.

The grille and the chrome strip that supports it and connects to the headlights, as well as the headlights themselves, are the most evident changes, with the grille in particular doing away with the horizontal slats in favour of a mesh presentation. Similarly at the rear, the taillights are elongated, with the chrome horizontal trim piece that linked them above the licence plate now furrowing itself into the bezel for a more elegant look.

But in terms of elegance, you have to look inside, where everything is changed except the steering wheel, centre console shift knob and lever surround, and the control panels for the lights and windows. A horizontal line stretches door-to-door, linking the door-panel pulls and armrests, to create an illusion of width. It is the final step toward the complete redesign that will be coming in the next full generational change.

The seats present the biggest change, with the new presentation looking as if it was lifted straight from a Mercedes model. They’re bolstered more, and the inserts have longitudinal stitching, in complete variation to the current generation’s horizontal cinching that made them appear and feel flatter.

And perhaps the biggest push upmarket comes from pricing, with Mazda doing away with the entry-level trim and introducing a Signature trim at the top of the range. It starts at $38,000, which is below the new competitors Mazda is aiming for, but it quickly catches and even surpasses them when you start adding on features.

The GX trim level (that was the entry point to the line at $26,625) has been eliminated, with the GS now the entry level offering at $27,000 (last year, it started at $29,925) with the GS-L now starting at $31,600 ($33,600 for the turbo version). The GT starts at $35,800 ($34,825 last year) and the Signature starts at $38,800.

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