If you’re shopping for a car based on the best bang for your buck, Mazda is hard to overlook because few front-wheel-drive cars handle better than Mazda’s. Moreover, the Japanese brand’s design language punches well above its weight and the newly refreshed Mazda 6 is a prime example.

For 2018, Mazda updated the looks of its top sedan and added a punchy new turbo four-cylinder to the line up in the Grand Touring trim. That engine is good for 310 lb-ft of torque from a lowly 2,000 RPM. And, if you want the best of the best, fully-loaded trim Level, the Mazda 6 Signature rings in at $35,640 and comes with Nappa leather, Japanese sen-wood cabin accents, 7.0-inch TFT gauge display, parking sensors and a host of other up-market creature comforts.

The real story, however, is the most basic Mazda 6. You can pick one up with a six-speed manual and 2.5-liter inline-four engine for just under $23,000. The non-turbo engine may be down on power with only 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking car in the segment. 2016, Mazda announced it has plans to move upmarket which seemed to go against the ethos of affordable and accessible performance with which the company has become synonymous. It’s unclear if that means the brand plans to increase prices.

For 2017, the base Mazda 6 starts at just $22,840, compared to last year’s price tag of $22,835 (ok, so a small hike), but Mazda is keeping its prices generally low and just improving the quality and refinement of its cars. So, technically, Mazda is moving upmarket, only on design and refinement. And as long as Mazda keeps evolving and refining its approach, it won’t be too far-fetched to think it’ll start stealing the attention of customers shopping in the $40,000-$50,000 range.

Today in Gear

The best way to catch up on the day’s most important product releases and stories. Read the Story