The 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show is teeming with crossovers and SUVs of all sizes and prices, but it is also packing a pair of very important sedans: the 2018 Honda Accord and 2018 Mazda6. True, sedan sales are down across the board, but the midsize sedan is still one of the largest segments in the American market, and the Accord and Mazda6 are perennial Motor Trend favorites even if the Accord is the (much) stronger seller. Let’s take a closer look.
On The Outside
Midsize sedans didn’t always need to be stylish. They were utilitarian family movers, not fashion statements. Those days are long gone, and automakers have a lot of different ideas about what a midsize sedan ought to look like.
The Accord is, to be charitable, controversial. The swooping roofline is sexy and reminiscent of much more expensive vehicles. The sides are nicely sculpted and feature one strong, gracefully arcing character line up top and one bolder line down below. The rear end is generic sedan but inoffensive. The nose, though, is where people take issue. It’s bold, but we wouldn’t call it pretty. We haven’t been a fan of the big, chrome I-beams Honda has been stapling to the front of its cars lately, and the Accord is no exception. The insect-eye headlights take some getting used to, as well.
The Mazda6 is very familiar, and that’s a good and bad thing. Because this is a midcycle update, we didn’t expect huge changes, but casual car buyers are going to have trouble telling the new one from the old one. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, because the old Mazda6 was a handsome car. The new grille, headlights, and taillights are classy and timely updates that make a pretty car a little prettier but don’t bowl you over.
On The Inside
Midsize sedans didn’t always to need stylish interiors, either. That’s changed, too.
This is where our comparison gets tough. Mazda has been pursuing a more premium aesthetic to help separate itself from the midsize crowd, with better interior design and richer materials. The Mazda6 is the latest effort, and it’s a sleek, modern design with quality leather, real wood and metal, and suede trim.
Honda hasn’t expressly stated a premium push, but the Accord’s interior has very much gone upscale. In our recent comparison tests and Car of the Year judging, it was favorably compared to an Audi by several editors. The materials and design both look and feel premium, and the level of technology offered is off the charts for the class. The all-new Accord is also blessed with a cavernous back seat, something the refreshed Mazda6 can’t match.
Under The Hood
The sleeper family sedan is fairly uncommon these days—any car equipped with a big motor generally comes with plenty of identifying markings. Even still, run of the mill sedans are getting more power than ever.
Take the Mazda6. It lost its V-6 with the new generation a few years ago, and although its naturally aspirated four-cylinder was on-par with competitors, there was no big engine option to keep up with the Jones’. Not anymore. The new Mazda6 gets the CX-9’s turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder carries over with 184 hp and 185 lb-ft and gets a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The big engine only gets the automatic.
That gives the Accord an advantage because Honda will sell it to you with a CVT, a six-speed manual, or a 10-speed automatic, and you can have the manual on both engines. Those include a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder good for 192 hp and 192 lb-ft and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder derived from the bonkers Civic Type R that’s good for 252 hp and 273 lb-ft, out-muscling the Mazda in three of four measurements (read our 2018 Accord First Test here).
The Mazda, on the other hand, features cylinder deactivation, allowing it to run on two cylinders under light loads to save fuel. Honda, though, will soon offer a plug-in hybrid model, and Mazda has not announced any kind of hybrid powertrain for the Mazda6.
We know the Honda is good for a 0-60 mph sprint in as little as 5.7 seconds with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic, 6.2 seconds with the 2.0-liter engine and the manual, and 7.6 seconds with the 1.5-liter engine and CVT. We’re also pretty confident the base model Mazda6 and its naturally aspirated engine will need the same 7.9 seconds to hit 60 mph as last year’s car, but we’re curious to see if the turbo 2.5’s torque advantage is enough to clip the spritely Honda.
The Honda Accord is already on sale, but you’ll have to wait until spring to buy a Mazda6.