When it comes to straddling the line between mainstream and entry level, we’ll admit that Mazda is a very hard act to follow. When you look at the company’s pricing ladder as well as the segments it competes in, it’s easy to write it off as a mainstream luxury brand. However, the interior designs recently make it clear that Mazda is shooting far above its weight class when it comes to this particular category. With sedans being pinched for sales and attention by a growing army of SUV and CUV entries, they have to embrace new ways of maintaining the focus of buyers. One of these is the 2020 Mazda6 Signature which aims to carve a sizable slice for itself in the mid-size sedan segment. But does it sign and deliver on providing value focused luxury and design? We were keen to find out.
Elegance in a red carpet hued wrapper:
The first thing that you will notice about the Mazda6 is the unique presence that it brings to the table, the front fascia of our red hued tester for example still has a look of seriousness, and the sense that it is ready to easily take on the rigors of the daily commute. Unlike lower grade 6 models, Signatures get several minor exterior touches to make them stand out from the rest of the family. This includes the front grille which replaces its slats for a sleeker mesh type pattern, and the delicate looking splashes of chrome trim that adorn the lower portion of the grille. The front fenders ebb and flow with the precision of a medieval painting, and they also help lead the eye down the sides of the car which has several bold character lines and just a slight pinch of creasing elements. The rear end is noticeably softer, but we like the perfectly sized exhaust tips, the way the taillights seem to carefully flow into place, and the tidy rear spoiler that helps add a figurative exclamation point to the broader theme.
With all of these touches, it does make you wonder where the styling mojo has gone for the rest of the segment at large. The Chevrolet Malibu for example lacks much of this cohesion, and the canvas looks far more jumbled than what we see here on the Mazda. The Toyota Camry in certain trims can perhaps be the closest thing to the 6 in the value focused side of the sedan market. While its base trims are not exactly something to write home about, things get very interesting when you look at the XSE and TRD Edition models, with these two versions having some of the athletic character that the Mazda brings to the table. In an era where vying for attention has never been more important, it’s good to see that the Mazda6 still has the right formula needed to draw stares, and perhaps even a few purchases from interested sedan buyers.
Design focused interior is marred by second rate electronics:
The interior of the 2020 Mazda6 Signature tries very hard to give buyers something to talk about, and for better or for worse, it manages to that task well. Before we get into some of the less desirable things that pop out at you, we might as well cover some of the things that the space manages to do right. For starters, it comes loaded to the brim with high quality materials, with Signature models benefitting the most from this focus on quality. These models feature supple leather appointments, rosewood accents, and perhaps the most convincing fake suede this side of an Audi. It all looks great, and the supple Nappa leather seats do a good job of coddling you in exceptional comfort. However, with the Signature being more focused on luxury than being a pure canyon carving sport sedan, it should come as no surprise that bolstering here is a bit lacking, with the seats causing us to slide around a bit in sharp turns.
However, our biggest disappointment centers around the infotainment system. The good news is that Mazda has finally jumped on the touchscreen express, and this system finally has haptic capability to go along with its rotary controller (when parked.) However, once on the move, the touch function is locked, and won’t unlock until its in park again. Mazda reps claim that this particular addition was made in the interest of occupant safety, but some of its rivals allow you to use the screen regardless of whether the car is moving or not, and we think Mazda needs to fully commit to the idea of a full touchscreen experience.
With the screen locked when the vehicle is moving, buyers are forced to use the rotary controller (and some hard buttons) to get around. Using Android Auto with this system is flat out aggravating, and far more frustrating than it needs to be. This also extends to inputting directions into the navigation software, and even changing the radio station which makes you reflect on how much easier those tasks would be if the touchscreen was on all the time (you can trust us to be good boys and girls with the screen Mazda.)
On the plus side, rear seat room is quite good, and even taller passengers will enjoy the impressive amounts of leg room on hand here. The 6 also has a commendable amount of trunk space, with the sedan boasting 14.7 cubic ft of space. That’s wide enough to swallow plenty of groceries and some of the bulkier cargo that had to make the trek to my parents house during our tester’s stay with us.
Powerful engine is balanced out by not so stellar fuel economy:
Performance for the majority of Mazda6 models comes from a naturally aspirated 2.5 liter four cylinder that’s good for 187 horsepower and 186 lb ft of torque. However, our range topping Signature model arrived with the turbocharged version of this engine, which is good for 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. We have had prior encounters with it in the past, but this is the first time that we have driven the engine in something outside of the company’s utility models. The wait is certainly worth it, with the engine giving our tester good poise and muscle when out and about through town. It also doesn’t hurt that our tester recorded a 0 to 60 time of 6.4 seconds which is very brisk for the segment. Our tester sends this power to the front wheels through a six speed automatic transmission which delivers good shift quality, but it does fall behind in overall gear count when compared with some of the segment’s best.
The lack of gears becomes more evident when you compare the Mazda6’s fuel economy numbers to some of its rivals. The EPA claims that the 6 is capable of achieving 23 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg in freeway driving, we suspect that it can, but there’s no denying that this engine is a very thirsty beast of burden especially when it is placed into sport mode.
Thankfully, our tester retained alot of the excellent handling behavior that Mazda products are known for, with body roll being kept to a minimum especially in sharp switchbacks. The electrically assisted steering rack is a crisp unit, and it did a good job of communicating where the front wheels were on the road. the wheel itself feels good in the hands, and the Mazda6’s suspension does a good job of subtly encouraging you to push the Mazda6 to its limits. That’s a very rare trait for what’s essentially a family focused sedan. Sport mode stiffens the suspension slightly, but it does make a noticeable difference in certain driving situations.
Pricing for the 2020 Mazda6 is still arguably its strongest trump card, and it further drives home the point of just how much value is tucked into its beautiful body work. Base Sport models start at $24,100 with Touring and Grand Touring models starting at $26,700 and $29,800 respectively. Grand Touring is also the most budget friendly way you can get access to the turbocharged 2.5 liter four cylinder, and that might please folks that want the extra power but without dinging their checkbook too much. However, if you need the best of everything, then the Signature model is undoubtedly the best way to go. These models start at $35,400 with our lightly optioned example having a final as tested price of $36,615. That’s less than a V6 equipped $35,130 Camry XSE, but it’s also more than a $31,170 TRD Edition Camry. Meanwhile, the Signature does undercut the $36,700 Honda Accord Touring 2.0 slightly, but unlike the Camry, the Accord has upped its cabin game recently, and as a result, the 6 does not quite have a noticeable edge over it in terms of quality.
Even so, the 2020 Mazda6 in all of its forms is still one of the most compelling sedan purchases that you can get in the market today. With its balanced blend of style, performance, and comfort it can be a very good value play if you equip it correctly. However, while the Signature model certainly blurs the line between mainstream and entry level luxury, the flaws embedded in its infotainment system and overall fuel economy impair its purpose, and we hope that revisions to these key areas will make it even better.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.