2019 Mazda6: worthy sedan struggles against Honda, Toyota

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The 2019 Mazda6 is among several manufacturers’ offerings presented in recent years to infiltrate the dominance of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. It’s automotive competition at its finest.

Beyond the Mazda6, consider the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat. Reasons abound for any of the alternatives to the midsize monoliths as solid choices.

The 2019 Mazda6 is a worthy sedan but its sales suffer against Honda and Toyota. Image courtesy of Mazda.

Honda and Toyota sedans remain the definitions of consistency and have among the industry’s best resale values. The Mazda6 in 2018 sold about 10 percent of the Accord and Camry tallies, and its best annual sales season was 15 years ago. It can’t match the resale leaders.

Little has changed on the Mazda6 since a mid-cycle refresh on the 2018 model debuted in November at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show. The facelift gave the Mazda its best exterior and interior since it arrived in 2002.

Like its one-year older stablemate, the 2019 Mazda has new front and rear fascias and new aluminum-alloy wheel designs. The i-Activsense driver assistance technology is standard on all trim levels. Interior fabrics and upholsteries are much improved on all trims.

The only substantial changes from a year ago? A manual transmission option has been eliminated, leaving all trims with six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the only option.

Mazda’s design changes vault the sedan into the top of handsome car fraternity. The angled front is a not-too-distant relative of an Aston Martin and overall styling sleek and flowing. The reviewed Signature trim (turbo 2.5-liter, six-speed automatic) features a warm, minimalist interior with microfiber suede on the dash, upgraded leather seating, wood trim and bright silver finishes on various controls.

A surround-view camera system with front and rear parking sensors, a frameless rear mirror, a well-pixelated and intuitive navigation system, digital gauge cluster and LED interior lighting add to the overall attractiveness.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2019 Mazda6 its highest rating of five stars overall, with five stars in the front and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gives the Mazda6 its best score of Good in every crash test, as well as a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test.

Driving the Mazda6 is for those who enjoy the idea of being “connected” to a car. Throttle response is linear, providing a feeling the car and driver have a “relationship.” The sedan isn’t a powerful demon, but its 227 horsepower is satisfactory. Handling is superior — maneuvering through traffic to tight u-turns. It’s poised and agile, a family sedan with sports car leanings.

Lots of mid-size sedans are touted as seating five. Like much of its competition, the Mazda6 is better-suited for four adults. Interior head and legroom are adequate, but entering and exiting the vehicle can be problematic. The doors are heavy, the door openings small for the class.

The Mazda6 advances from 0-60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds, about a half-second slower than a Honda Accord and about average for the segment. Gas mileage averages are 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 miles per gallon on the freeway. The Signature trim’s price is $36,520.

Mid-size sedan buyers have the best of it. Honda and Toyota thrive. Ford, Subaru and cousins Hyundai and Kia are ever-improving and have the industry’s best warranties.

And what of the Mazda6? It’s good-looking, sporty and offers strong competition for the leaders of the pack. But it’s in a supporting role in the midsize sedan cast. It’s worthy but may never land a leading role against the reigning stars.

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