If you had a checklist of what you wanted in a midsize car, my tester this week might check all the boxes. Refreshed styling? Check. Turbo-charged engine? Check. Over 30 mpg? Check. Quality interior? Check. And, while this isn’t on most people’s check list, I appreciate a simple, easy-to-understand naming convention. Therefore, the 2018 Mazda 6 is a great choice in the midsize segment.

Sadly, the competition continues to dwindle in this segment. It’s still one of my favorite vehicle segments and one I pay close attention to. The Mazda brand generally doesn’t disappoint. The Mazda 6 is not flawless as there are certainly areas to improve like the infotainment system, the back seat and the six-speed transmission.

EXTERIOR

On looks, the Mazda 6 remains consistent and modern. The updated look of the Mazda 6 is mostly centered around the car’s interior as the exterior maintains its handsome look, virtually unchanged from the previous model year. That’s not a bad thing as the Mazda 6 is both distinctive and current with its styling. While the front end remains relevant and attractive, the back side is rather dull. The Mazda 6 is nearing a point where it needs some new styling.

ENGINE/PERFORMANCE

The most drastic change to this model year is in the engine. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine carries over from last year and was already punchy and enjoyable and outperformed its output numbers. But, new for this year, is a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. That turbo makes all the difference. I was glad to get to test out this new engine and it’s certainly impressive. Mazda is already engineered as a driver-centric brand, but now with this turbo, the Mazda 6 is thrilling. This is the most enjoyable non-luxury midsize sedan I’ve driven this model year. The 227 horsepower feels quick. Off the line it’s a blast. The only downfall is the six-speed automatic transmission feels like it doesn’t shift as quickly as it should and there’s some turbo lag too. With the new turbo-charged engine, a newer transmission is in order. You can overcome some of this by switching into different driver modes that changes the dynamics of the car.

INTERIOR

Inside, the Mazda 6 really blows away the competition. With excellent touch points, it has luxury-type features. The cabin is whisper quiet and new for 2018 there’s a redesigned dashboard and updated interior materials. The 2018 Mazda 6 feels brand new inside.

Unfortunately, the same frustrating infotainment system exists. I’ve harped on this for a couple years now and cannot wait until Mazda comes out with a new generation of their infotainment. And hopefully that will offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as this current one does not. While the touchscreen is larger and brighter and looks more impressive, it loses its touch capability when the car is motion and you have to use the frustrating rotary knob as the car is moving.

PRICING

There are five trim options for the Mazda 6. The base trim (Sport) starts at under $22,000. The top-of-the-line Signature trim starts at $34,750, which makes it competitively priced amongst competitors like Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The best part about the Signature trim is that it’s an all-inclusive trim. There are no options or add ons, as everything is included for the Signature. My tester’s Nappa leather seats, exclusive for the Signature trim, were such a luxurious touch. The price point seemed fair and reasonable for all that you get.

FUEL ECONOMY

Any time a car can get to 30 mpg or more, it’s good in my book. The turbo-charged Mazda 6 achieves that number on the highway. It has an EPA rating of 23 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. I averaged 28 mpg in a week’s worth of mixed driving. For a car that’s so punchy and fun to drive, I’ll gladly take that number.

There is no “perfect” car out there. And certainly it’s all subjective. I try to offer my take and keep my enthusiasm under control. Some cars, like this Mazda 6 allow for that enthusiasm to come bubbling out. I make no apologies for that as it’s such a nice, quality, fun-to-drive car.

SPECS

2018 Mazda 6 Signature

Price/As tested price…………………….. $34,750/$34,750

Mileage…………………………………… 23 mpg/city; 31 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 227 hp/310 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… Six-speed automatic

Drive Wheels………………………… Front-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point…………………. Hofu, Japan

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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