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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, November 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Autos

2019 Mazda6: Midsize family sedan makes a case for balance, safety, refinement

ts flowing lines, handsome cabin and engaging dynamics lend the 2019 Mazda6 a unique spot among midsize sedans.

In the Mazda tradition, the 6 ($23,600) does many things well. It balances comfort and performance, style and functionality, thrift and innovation.

Other sedans may be quicker, roomier or more efficient. Some boast creamier rides. None cohere more harmoniously. 

Just last year, Mazda treated the 6 to an extensive facelift that went far deeper than the usual skin-deep treatment. 

Less is more

Chassis and suspension updates produced a smoother, more compliant ride and improved handling. Nearly every aspect of the cabin — from materials quality to redesigned climate controls and more comfortable seats — was upgraded.

A redesigned dashboard reflected a Japanese-influenced less-is-more aesthetic. Extensive sound-deadening measures cut cabin noise.

That tranquility was not happenstance; Mazda had updated its flagship sedan three times in just five years, each time with the intent of boosting refinement.

In its upper trims, the 2019 Mazda6 carries the ambience and appointments of the near-luxury classes.

Last year’s updates included a new up-level engine choice, a turbocharged 2.5-liter four that makes 227 horsepower on regular unleaded and 250 hp when fed premium. It powers the 6s’ three upper trims. 

The Sport and Touring trims run a 187-horsepower four.

Responsive powertrains

Both engines pair with a six-speed automatic transmission that makes sure, smooth shifts. When the driver asks for more acceleration, it slips into a lower gear without hesitation.

Whichever engine is planted beneath the hood, the 6 is responsive and eager, if not the quickest in the segment. 

We drove the top-level Signature trim and the turbocharged four provided a deep well of power at passing speeds. 

At 6.4 seconds, its not the quickest car in its class from 0-60. But its 30-50 and 50-70 times lead the class .

Out on the road, the 6 feels planted and stable. Steering feel is a heavier than most of its competitors’ and is surprisingly communicative. It has a solid on-center groove and returns naturally to center.

The 6 is built on a front-wheel-drive platform; AWD is not available.

Focus on safety

For 2019, Mazda shifts its focus to safety. Its i-Activsense suite of driver aids — adaptive cruise control; blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert; low-speed forward-collision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection; rain-sensing wipers, automatic high-beams and more — is now standard on all 6s.

Also newly standard list is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Plus (GVC-Plus), which uses a bit of brake-management wizardry to stabilize handling during quick transitions. It’s especially helpful during accident-avoidance maneuvers and on slippery surfaces.

Enthusiastic drivers will find that GVC-Plus reduces understeer when entering a corner. Last year’s suspension upgrades yielded a more compliant ride while checking body lean and other unwanted motions.

All Mazda6s are equipped with an 8-inch display screen pegged to the top of the dash. It operates as a touchscreen only at low speeds; otherwise, control of Mazda’s Mazda Connect infotainment system defaults to a console-mounted knob.

For my money, it’s the most user-friendly control system this side of those found in the big bucks German cars.

Helpfully, Mazda uses knobs to manage volume, temperature, and secondary infotainment operations. They work with a satisfying heft and precision.

Other standard features include keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and dual-zone automatic climate control.

SUBHEAD: Limited options

Mazda limits the options available on each trim so shoppers hoping to add features are obliged to consider a higher trim.

One step up from the Sport, the Touring ($26,400) trim adds a sunroof, high-quality simulated leather seats with perforated center sections, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver's seat, keyless entry and ignition, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration and 17-inch wheels.

The Grand Touring ($29,500) fetches the more powerful engine, along with paddle shifters and an 11-speaker audio system and satellite radio.

Shoppers looking for leather must step up to either the Grand Touring Reserve ($32,000) or Signature ($35,100) trims. 

Even as sedan sales shrink, some makers press forward. With the 6, Mazda makes its bid to play among the leaders.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 Mazda Mazda6 Signature
Vehicle base price: $23,600
Trim level base price: $35,100
As tested: $36,220 (includes destination and handling)
Options: cargo mats, scuff plates
EPA rating: 26 combined/23 city/31 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.