2020 Mazda6 Signature Driveway Test | A luxury car interior with a non-luxury price

Zac Palmer
Autoblog


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The 2020 Mazda6 Signature is pure luxury on the inside. If one were to remove the Mazda badges and replace them with Audi’s four rings, or Lexus’ stylized L, customers may not even bat an eye. Alas, that is the point of Mazda’s range-topping Signature trim. Mazda fancies itself a “premium” car brand at this point, and the Mazda6’s cabin does an excellent job of selling that theme.

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A luxury interior starts with excellent and original design, and then it’s finished with quality materials. Anybody can throw leather, suede and wood around, but if the design itself isn’t moving, the fancy materials look tacked on. Mazda has managed to ace both the design and material quality sections of its test with the Mazda6 Signature.

There’s beauty in simplicity, and the Mazda6’s interior exemplifies that. A wide, sweeping dashboard dominates the view from the driver’s seat. An endless swath of soft-touch UltraSuede is front and center, splitting the climate controls from the vents and infotainment screen above it. Mazda says it’s “adorned with a subtle gold tint,” and it’s made in a similar fashion as ornate kimonos. I found myself staring at the stitching running the full length of the dashboard. It’s topped by a silver strip that extends from one side of the cabin to the other into the side air vents. Interestingly, the side air vents extend beyond the rest of the dash into the door, so they look like silver metal wings sticking out with the doors open. Above the silver strip is something Mazda calls “Sen Wood.” It looks and feels like real wood, because it is — Mazda says Sen wood is used in taiko drums and Japanese furniture.

 

And then there’s the lovely continued presence of physical buttons for vital controls. All of the climate control options are integrated into a classy strip just below the suede in the center of the dash. The buttons themselves are high quality, easy to find and satisfying to use in their action. Same goes for the climate control temperature knobs. They turn with precision and give a clear indication of each degree of change. The ribbed faux metal (it's extremely convincing as real metal) surround on the dials makes it feel like you’re changing the climate control on a car that costs twice as much as this Mazda does. Even some luxury cars don’t offer the same level of tactility and satisfaction in their controls. That same ribbing continues on the console-mounted volume knob and large scroll wheel to control the infotainment system. Even the parking brake toggle and “Sport mode” switch get this quality finish for better feel. Mazda is smart to make all of these oft used controls in rich and luxurious feeling materials, as it elevates the entire experience to a higher level of luxury than its competitors.

I am slightly disappointed in the steering wheel controls, though. The new Mazda3 features hard metal buttons on its steering wheel, but this Mazda6 makes do with boring black plastic and a flimsy feeling on presses. It’s likely a factor of the 6 being from the prior design era, but it’s a bit of a letdown when every other touch point on the car is superb. However, the leather steering wheel itself (and all the other leather in the car) feels rich and similar to the leather found in expensive luxury cars.

Mazda says it uses Nappa leather on its seats, and in our test car’s Parchment interior, it’s lovely. As one would expect from an interior called “Parchment,” it’s an off-white, giving the interior a two-tone look with the black dash. White interiors always look great in a hardly-driven new car, and if you’re someone who keeps their interior tidy and clean, this may work out in the long run ... maybe. The leather is perforated and full of stylish stitching. There’s even a metal topper to the seatback perforations on all four seats, adding just one more touch of luxury that other non-luxury brands don’t have. Of course, looking nice is only part of the battle. Mazda has also put together a supremely comfortable chair, making them out of high-density, vibration-absorbing foam. They’re cushy, comfortable and supportive in corners, hitting all of the priorities for a good daily driver. Even the backseat doesn’t suffer when it comes to luxury. The back doors are covered in the same rich materials as those up front -- Mazda didn't pull the trick of reverting to cheap, scratchy plastic for those in the cheap seats as other brands do at this price point (most recently, the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport). 

Piano black plastic covers surfaces that may otherwise be flat black plastic. For example, there’s a panel of it by the seat controls (a strange spot), and it’s also surrounding the door window controls. When it’s clean, the shine looks great. Over the course of a week, the dust and dirt gathers, leaving it dirty. You’ll need a cleaning towel/duster in the car to hit those surfaces every week to keep it looking fresh and new. Sometimes, there’s a price to pay for looking fancy.

This Mazda’s interior isn’t completely without flaws, though. The biggest problem is its infotainment system. Mazda has devised a thoroughly improved system, but it's only made it to the Mazda3 and CX-30 at this point. The 6 is still sporting the old screen and software. The graphics are dated; it’s relatively slow to react, and the menus can be a bit of a maze to wade through. It is a touchscreen when you’re stopped, but the touch functionality disappears as soon as you start to move. I’m totally fine with rotary-only controls, but if there’s going to be a touchscreen, make it usable at all times. 

Mazda turns the tech story around with its instrument cluster. The digital screen integration with physical gauges is classy and modern-looking. It’s an elegant way to keep the traditional gauge set while adding some of the high-res graphics and capability that modern screen technology affords us. Porsche does a superb job of integrating physical and digital gauges in the new 911, and I think Mazda’s solution does a good job of making everybody happy, too.

All of this is even more impressive at our tester’s $36,620 price. This car costs thousands less than luxury cars with similar interior quality and finishes. Of course, it’s still a front-wheel drive-Mazda. If seeing that luxury car badge on the front of your car is a must (and for some folks it is), then the Mazda6 Signature obviously won't deliver. However, if that’s something you can look past, the Signature trim of the Mazda6 makes for a rocking luxury experience at a spectacular price.

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