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5-month 5,000-mile review of 2018 Mazda 6 Signature.

10677 Views 23 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  maigre
Hi everyone,
My impressions after trading in a 2016 Meteor Grey iGT with a Black and chocolate interior) for a 2018 Machine Grey Metallic 6 Signature with Chestnut interior. FYI, While I leased my 2016, I purchased the Sig (0% financing).

The good:

  • Quick, quick, quick. Scary quick in some cases. Passing power is ridiculous. I’ve easily surpassed 100mph without much effort. By comparison my 2016 made it clear when I was beyond 80mph.
  • With the right tires (I swapped the Falkens for Yoko Advan Sport A/S) no concerns around handling or take-offs from zero. Zero to minimal wheelspin off the line. Even with winters (Falken Eurowinters) this car grips well. I can feel it hunker down when I hit the accelerator.
  • Ride is firm but comfortable. As with ALL the Mazda I’ve owned, this company knows how to calibrate a suspension.
  • IMO Mazda’s “Jinba Ittai” mantra is more than marketing hyperbole. As has been the case with my other Mazdas, the 6 Sig is loosening up and I feel very much connected to the driving experience.
  • I feel like Mazda did a nice job improving NVH, while retaining a very connect feeling. I also appreciate this quality on days when I’m tired and just want to get home or have a long road trip. Quiet enough, but still willing to make good noises and deliver excellent reflexes when you put your foot down.
  • The upgraded Bose stereo is impressive. Not “audiophile perfect”, but a definite step up from the system in my 2016. I believe the addition of tweeters (i.e. going from a “two-way” to “three-way” driver set-up) in the door sails enabled Bose to keep each driver in its “comfort zone”, i.e. instead of asking the midrange driver in the dashboard and the bass driver in the door to reproduce higher frequencies (for effective cross-over blending) the woofer, mid and tweeter are able to stick in the frequency ranges with enough bandwidth for a cleaner cross-over and therefore retain linearity with less distortion. IMO all types of music from acoustic to orchestral to electronic sound great. Lower noise floor enables me to listen to orchestral without having to pump volume.
  • While I do hear a slight buzz with certain music, higher build quality of interior and especially doors/cards no longer buzz/rattle like crazy with lower bass. My 2016 doors would buzz and rattle when I played any music with aggressive or low bass. Bass is noticeably tighter and more tuneful. FYI, this is with EQ set to flat in both cars.
  • The lack of noises from interior materials (along with better NVH) contribute to a better musical experience. i.e. when I just feel like sitting back for a relaxing drive my tunes are more enjoyable, IMO more musical.
  • Gorgeous Interior. Feels upscale and extremely well-screwed together.
  • Nappa seats are breaking in nicely. Initial concerned about lateral support are no more. As the seat has broken in, the bolsters have conformed to my 6’2’ 190lb frame.
  • Styling continues to impress me. Mazda sure knows how to design sheet metal. More people have mistaken my 6 for a Jaguar or Maserati. And the Machine Grey is just gorgeous.
  • The styling by light approach really shows itself as daylight progresses to dusk, and as the position of the light source changes as the car drives along. I’m incredibly impressed with the way the exterior paint and the interior materials (e.g. Ultrasuede, Sen wood and Nappa leather) color shifts. Really makes the car feel premium and fresh.
  • Love, love, love the way the dash vents cut into the door. Honestly this interior feels more “bespoke” and concept-car like, than something from a mass-manufacturer.
  • Love Waze integration. Use it ALL the time. Map display looks more premium than MzConnect (Google maps are the most premium-looking IMO, but with less sophisticated Nav). I no longer feel like I’m forfeiting features compared to Audi’s MMI or BMW’s iDrive.
  • Chassis is tight and feels more premium.
  • Love the black headliner.
  • Excellent heads-up display.
  • Excellent look and feel to ALL switchgear (except maybe the turning and wiper stalks)
  • Continue to love the MZ Connect knobs (one of the things I’ve loved about Skyactiv platform).

The not-so-good (many nitpicks)

  • Not a fan of the door pocket LED accent. Half the time the passenger-side pocket LED comes across as annoying shadow out of the corner of my eye.
  • Android Auto is buggy and not well integrated with third party music apps.
  • Arguably this is more a knock-on Google and 3rd party integrators rather than Mazda, since all the bugs I’ve come across also occur using the Android Audio App on my mobile phone.
  • Finding that I’m taking my eyes off the road more with AA than when I used MZ Connect. Mainly since AA isn’t doing what I’m asking of it! For instance, it won’t allow me to choose a different album via JetAudio player. While it allows me to select the UI element via the command knob, the request gets dropped when Google Assistant hands off to JetAudio.
  • Google Assistant is also a mixed bag. I’m guessing phone to cloud communication is spotty enough at times to kill requests I make, e.g. send text.
  • Engine may still be breaking-in, but the overall character of the engine seems to change depending on environment. No doubt this is a side-effect of it being a turbo engine.
  • For instance, at times it feels N/A in the way it pulls and the way it sounds going to redline, while at other times, it sounds less sporty and more “agriculturally gruff” (FYI I’m using Shell 93 exclusively).
  • I’ve also found that the Skyactiv tranny has moments where it does sound CVT-ish in the way it holds revs. I find this more apparent with the turbo (compared to my 2016 N/A 6).
  • Sport or manual mode fixes the tranny CVT-ish behavior but not the periodic engine gruffness.
  • Redline is a bit schizophrenic. At times cut-off comes in just under 6K, while at other times the engine revs to 6.1 or 6.2K. No doubt ECU doing some magic under certain situations. Or maybe it’s a function of break-in period? Never happened with the N/A engine.
  • Manual downshifting, especially 4 to 3 is annoying since I feel like I should be able to downshift sooner (i.e. higher revs). No doubt a function of the lower redline compared to the N/A engine (I also did not check on gear ratios of the N/A compared to the Turbo. Are they the same?)
  • Wish the steering wheel rim was thicker.
  • I installed a Xuji cover on my 2016 that fattened the wheel perfectly. Not sure I’ll do that on the 2018 given the heating element probably isn’t strong enough to conduct heat through another layer of material. Also, may cheapen an otherwise more premium-looking wheel design compared to 2016.
  • Digital gauges are a bit of a gimmick. Cool-looking to be sure, but wish they were a bit more configurable.
  • Not a fan of the Tachometer style. Having zero rpm at 6-oclock and a 6K redline at 11-o’clock doesn’t give me the physiological excitement of going past 12-o’clock when ringing this engine’s neck. �� My 2016 tach (as well as 2018 GTRs and below have zero at 8-o’clock, which places 6K at 1-o’clock.
  • Despite a more solid feeling chassis, the doors and handles could be a smidge more premium. I can see that Mazda has fixed this with the new Skyactiv 2 platform. The new Mazda3 uses new door handles with capacitive sensors instead of the black button.
  • Hate the fact that Mazda locked down MZ Connect from any hacking. But given the negative optics that can come from cybersecurity scares, I can understand this decision.

Overall, I’m very happy with my 2018 Sig. While the gauges and some LED lighting are a bit of a mixed bag, the upgraded Sig interior materials and design more than makes up for the price difference from the GTR, IMO.

Before choosing the new 6, I drove the competition as well as higher-end options, including Audi, Alfa, Kia’s Stinger etc. I perform the same exhaustive research every time it’s time to buy a new car and every time (except for one Golf R in 2012) I’ve come back to Mazda. In fact, my better half was on board with an Alfa Romeo Guilia or Stinger, but after what seemed to be countless test drives I just couldn’t rationalize the added expense or intangible worries (e.g. reliability, dealer support, maintenance costs). I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but IMO this car possesses enough of the “premium” detail and “je ne sais quoi” found in more expensive European and Japanese marques that I no longer see the point of spending 20-30K more for those products.
IMO this new premium design direction Mazda is going in truly separates it from Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Nissan, while making it harder to rationalize the added cost of “luxury brands”. Add in the increased power, refinement, voluptuous design and Mazda’s ever improving quality and reliability just reinforces how much value the redesigned 6 brings to the table. Can’t really wait to see what the new generation of Skyactive 6 brings. But for now, I’m a very happy.
Will continue to update this review as the miles pile on. But I just see this well-engineered sedan just getting better with age.


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Thanks for the impressions. Mine are similar, though not identical.

I have a '18 GTR with about 3200 miles on it. I also like the power and styling, enjoy the car quite a bit, look forward to my drives in it. But I also have nitpicks, kind of a lot of them, more than I'd prefer. Most of my complains come down to Mazda's corner cutting. The car has a tinniness to it that German cars don't tend to have. Even my 2010 Jetta TDI felt much more solidly built, for example. Things like door handles, the gas portal door, and the trunk lid feel painfully cheap. That I'm probably also going to have to pay $1000 for appropriate tires to be able to take better advantage of the car's much touted suspension and handling is frustrating. If they're selling this car as a driver's sedan with advanced tech features to optimize handling, then why cripple it with these Falken tires? (Probably because it costs less, obviously, as with so many of the details they chose to avoid.) The user interface and sluggish performance of the Mazda Connect screen and the suboptimal dashboard gauge composition are head scratching at times. I wish the seat memory presets also accounted for the mirrors. Why not have four way lumbar support in a car that's marketed as having improved, great seats? The reverse camera resolution is poor. I could probably list 20 things that seem beneath the level of attention to detail that a car that has an MSRP of $32590 should have.

I think my feelings about this car are more polarized than any other new car I've ever bought. There are lots of things I love about it and lots of things I'm disappointed by, though my eyes were open going in as I had enough time with the car to see a lot of its strengths and weaknesses.

I'm having better luck than ocramida with Android Auto, but I'm not using Jet Audio. Spotify, for the most part, behaves pretty well. I've been using VLC for stuff that's directly off my phone. It has limitations, but it's been fine. My biggest annoyance is with Google Maps. I don't like using navigation very often. But I do want the maps. I like to see the route on the map without having to listen to the instructions. I can do that in a browser or with the Google Maps phone app itself, but it seems that once I give the AA implementation of Maps an address, I'm getting full nav whether I want it or not. That's not a Mazda issue, though. I don't use the Mazda navigation much, but I appreciate the use of the HUD to give some of the nav information with it.

I love the HUD, actually. The first time I saw it, on a test drive a year or so ago, it struck me as marketing yet another thing nobody really needs. But I was wrong about that. It's a great tool, nicely implemented. There are plenty of things I love about the car. The tech safety features, the striking interior look, the ready, smooth power when I want it (except off the line), the fact that it's a turbo but runs great on regular, the heated and cooled seats, including heated back seats and USB ports in the back, something my family greatly appreciates.
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Chances are those twenty things don't even exist on other cars selling for the same price. Not every feature can have the level of attention to detail and maintain a $30K sticker.

Feature for feature what I've noticed is you're getting as many of the newer "features" as cars selling for much more. Could some of them be better? Of course, anything - everything can be made (subjectively) better. Generally speaking, when asking for an item to be improved or added additional costs are normally incurred.

I truly believe the '18 "6" is very hard to beat when comparing features, engines, style and about anything else someone would like their car to be.
I largely believe it too, in that I decided that this was the car I wanted after a long, exhaustive search. I can't think of another car that cost the $27K + T&L that I paid for it that I'd rather have at that price. I don't regret the purchase at all. As soon as I post this, I'm off on an hour drive that I look forward to. :laugh2:

And I agree that this 6 is full of features that few other cars have in its price range. The low mileage CPO '18 A4 Premium Plus I was looking at had less features, the used 3 series far less, even the Accord has less. But plenty of the things I could complain about aren't absent features, rather corner cutting things and cheap feel in the ones that are present. That said, I'm not here to dump on the 6. Quite the contrary. But it has its shortcomings and prospective buyers should be aware of the pros and cons.

Tradeoffs always.
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Yeah, I don't necessarily see it as bad corner-cutting. The lighter sheet metal is related to weight management. As it is the car put on quite a few pounds with the added NVH countermeasures (e.g. sound insulation thicker sheet metal in specific spots like the floorpan and suspension towers), so I can understand why some body panels and handles feel a bit thin. Some of it is also due to the 3rd gen architecture, which uses steel and not aluminum. I'm guessing Mazda may improve these area on the 4th gen. FWIW I have colleagues who are complaining that their newer German cars don't feel as "solid" as older samples. I personally found the newer Audis I drove to have cheaper feeling door handles (lighter) and not as satisfying a "thunk" when closing the doors. Funny I found my 2013 VW Golf R more solid than any Audi or current BMW 3 or 4 series. Even the latest VW Golf R feels more solid. Go figure. Also got to consider Mazda doesn't want the car to be overweight for handling and "feel" sake.
I drove different cars and obsessed for a long time. Nothing ever hit me as being something I HAD to buy, though the A4 came close. I'd have bought a CPO loaner but didn't want to pay the $8500 more than it would have cost me for the 6, not to speak of the added insurance costs. No regrets there. But while the A4 Premium Plus has less features than my GTR does, I felt like they did better overall with what they do provide. Of course that should be the case since the car's MSRP is $15K higher. I'm not a big shopper/consumer. But when I'm buying things, I lean toward getting 3 really nice items than 10 lesser ones for the same overall price. In that sense, I'd trade some of the 6 GTR's big feature set for better execution of what's left. But there are pros and cons both ways.

Same here. I drove a lot of cars- some like the Stinger and Alfa Guilia several times, and even those cars had their share of negatives. Although the Kia looks sexy, I found it's construction quality to be lackluster for a 52K car. Interior rattles and some less than impressive plastic parts put me off. Leather quality was also a bit questionable. It's also a first gen product so no doubt it will improve. Still 52K (4 cylinder was 40K) was a bit steep in my opinion. Also found the 6 drove "better" than the Stinger as a daily. The 6 does have a weaknesses, but it's overall execution and engineering for the PRICE more than compensates for those few foibles. IMO.
Tradeoffs. Ultimately, the 6 was the car I kept coming back to where others lost me for this reason and that. Except for the A4. But as mentioned above, I'd rather have the $8500 and the 6 than the A4.

How did you get VLC working with AA? I downloaded it and AA did not load it as a music player option? Yeah although I think Google Maps map display is pretty classy and clean. It doesn't hold a candle to Waze capability. I just wish I could figure out how I lost the option of a McClaren car icon. :-( I selected it a few weeks back and all of a sudden it defaulted back to that ugly triangle. Went back into preferences to select the McClaren icon and it was gone!
Videolan pulled the plug on AA in VLC at one point. You have to go to their website and download a nightly build to get a more recent version that supports AA. That said, I'd been running Oreo on my phone until yesterday when I finally upgraded to Pie. I wiped my phone and started over again when I did this. Now, VLC no longer works in AA. I'm not sure why. So I downloaded Musicolet, which works. But I've barely used it, so I don't know how well, yet. I've been using Spotify in the car, mostly, which has been great. And a podcast app.

Yeah HUD is nice. Also wish it would enable Waze directions though. And yes, it is the entire PACKAGE, the sum of the 6's parts that makes it a winner for me. Mazda has done a great job engineering the car with compromises that aren't devastating. In some instance annoying, but not to the point of hating. I actually look forward to driving it.

Then again I'm still in the honeymoon phase. So only time will tell if my impressions stick. I think they will though.
Exactly on all counts. I'm hopeful I'll stay mostly pleased, too. One of the reasons I was willing to buy this car was that so many people seem to have had good long term experiences with Mazda cars.
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