The interior made the difference. After my first car suffered another costly repair many years ago, I narrowed my new-car search to a 2006 Mazda6 V-6 and 2005 Acura TSX. Despite the Mazda’s extra power and interior space, I went with the Acura in large part thanks to its higher-quality and more modern interior. Although the midsize Mazda’s interior was competitive in its class, it couldn’t come close to the slightly more expensive Acura—but that’s no longer the case today. The interior of the new 2018 Mazda6 Signature 2.5T makes the 6 feel more upscale inside than any of its predecessors ever have.
Keep reading to learn more about what works and what could be improved inside the line-topping 2018 Mazda6 Signature 2.5T.
Best-Ever Knee Pads?
The 2018 Mazda6 in Signature trim features the most comfortable knee pads I’ve experienced in any car in a long time. Imagine you’re sitting at a long red light. As you wait for the light to turn green, you might rest your right leg on the lower edge of the center console. In the loaded Mazda, your leg rests against a leatherlike vinyl pad—not plastic. Along with the soft material that lines the center console on either side of the cupholders and gear stalk, these premium details can make a difference on a morning or evening commute.
Unfortunately, the soft trim isn’t used where the driver’s left knee comes to rest, and the center console’s armrest lid doesn’t stretch far enough forward to allow some drivers to easily rest their elbow. Even so, these comfortable trim pieces are details that some will come to really appreciate for thousands of miles.
As we noted in our First Drive review, the Mazda6’s seats are comfortable. Upholstered in Nappa leather on the Signature trim, the 2018 model’s seats are wider than before and feature power seat controls surrounded by piano black trim. What’s especially cool about the front and rear seats is the simple silver trim on the four outboard seats and on the back of the front seats. It’s a small thing, but the Mazda6 Signature creates a premium feel inside because of how all those details work together.
The Signature trim is offered in an almost-white beige that I’d constantly worry about getting dirty if it were my car. Before driving out in a new Mazda6 Signature, also take a seat in the trim level’s dark brown interior option.
Keep Doing This, Mazda
Mazda’s placement of rear-seat USB outlets is superb. Included on the 2018 Mazda6 Touring and above, the sedan’s two rear-seat USBs are inside the center armrest. As in the CX-5, it’s much easier to reach than USB outlets below the rear air vents, which is where most other automakers put theirs.
Watch Your Legs
As long as the driver isn’t as tall as I am (6-foot-4), most midsize sedans’ rear seats have enough room. But when it comes to passenger space, the excellent Honda Accord feels like it competes in a different class. That car’s rear seat has an astounding amount of space, not something that can be said about the Mazda. The Accord also has better front visibility than the 6, which has OK visibility all around.
Speaking of that Honda, we think highly of the car’s fake matte-style wood, but Mazda takes a different route. To the automaker’s credit, the Mazda6 Signature features real Japanese Sen wood on the doors and dash. The insistence on using an authentic material is admirable and yet another detail that helps justify the 6 Signature’s place at the top of Mazda’s sedan lineup. We hope that a future iteration of the wood can be made in a slightly more contrasting shade, as the gray-ish hue blends in too easily with the black dash and door trim above it in certain lighting conditions.
In a First Drive review, we noted that the wood “has a finish that provides an unfortunate plasticky sheen and undersells its provenance.”
Is THAT What That Is?
Like the wood, the Ultrasuede Nu trim on the dash and doors is a surprising touch for a Mazda midsize sedan. Senior copy editor Jesse Bishop found Mazda’s “fairly understated yet luxurious approach” preferable to the more shouty styles on some luxury cars (or, for example, the Toyota Camry XSE’s bold red leather).
Ultrasuede Nu is a new suedelike material that feels premium to the touch but not as soft as some automotive-interior suedes on more expensive cars. Mazda says the material’s “soft, slightly fibrous surface complements the smooth polished feel” of the real wood trim.
“We promote it as a hybrid [material],” says Tak Horiguchi, general manager of Toray International America’s Ultrasuede department, adding that it looks like leather when you see it, “but actually when you touch it, you can feel the ultra-fine microfibers on the surface.”
We’re not sure if the Japanese-made suedelike trim is necessarily better than alternative premium trim options, but it sure is different. And if you’re a small Japanese automaker competing with giants like Honda, Chevrolet, and Toyota, maybe different is the right strategy.
The 2018 Mazda6 in Signature trim also adds a new surround-view camera system. It’s a great feature addition that appears on the car’s 8.0-inch screen (the standard screen on every 2018 Mazda6). The resolution of the camera views, however, is poor, making it a tad harder to see what the various views are showing. One positive: The system has a viewing mode that my long-term 2017 Audi A4 didn’t, showing the front wheel’s distance from the curb.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are Coming
As Mazda announced at the 2018 New York auto show, the 2018 Mazda6 is getting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on most trims, either from the factory or as a retrofit for models already on the road. These systems will essentially be layered on top of Mazda’s existing infotainment system, making a number of tasks easier, from navigation and audio selection to even voice dictation of text messages.
Elsewhere in the interior, we still appreciate the satisfying feel of Mazda’s rotary infotainment controller as well as the similarly designed HVAC knobs on the lower part of the dash. One premium detail shared among the Mazda6, CX-5, and CX-9 is a separation between the high-mounted infotainment screen and the HVAC and audio controls below it. The design pushes the Mazda6’s HVAC controls lower than I’d like for optimal visibility, but it does give the interior more character.
A More Modern Display
The Signature trim places a 7.0-inch screen in the center of the instrument cluster. On that screen, it’s cool to see how the speedometer only fully illuminates the numerals within 20 mph or so of the car’s current speed. The screen doesn’t show song title info, however, and also lacks a tire pressure monitoring system with readouts for each tire.
Time to Make a Signature Move?
The 2018 Mazda6 Signature will speak to drivers seeking something different from the average Camry or Accord. Because even if a Camry has a contrasting roof color and red leather for a surprisingly bold package, it’s still a variation of one of the best-selling cars in the U.S. When that’s not enough to keep you in a Mazda dealer, strongly consider the Honda Accord. It’s not as attractive as the Mazda, but it adds a more spacious cabin, 2.0 cubic feet more trunk space, and a 0–60 time that’s more than half a second quicker with its 2.0T engine. And if you didn’t really need the Signature trim’s 227–250-hp 2.5-liter turbo-four powertrain or the Accord in 2.0T form, Honda offers the loaded Accord in two other engine options.
For fans of the Mazda brand who own a 2014–2015 Mazda6 and are still in love with the car’s “otherness,” however, there’s a lot to like about the 2018 Mazda6 Signature’s interior.
Read the 2018 Mazda6 Signature 2.5T First Test right here.