According to Mazda program manager Hiroshi Kajiyama, positioning the Mazda6 to compete against the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord was a mistake.
Scheduled to launch this January, the 2014 Mazda6 has been redesigned to compete against mid-sized sport sedans.
Kajiyama and his team have given the 2014 Mazda6 a wider stance and shortened the overall length to give it a lower, sportier stance. The new model will also feature a lightweight chassis and Mazda’s new Skyactiv powertrain, which delivers more power and better fuel efficiency than the 2.5 inline-4 available in the current model.
According to Mazda, the U.S. version of the 2014 model will feature a 2.5-liter direct-injection inline four-cylinder engine capable of delivering 192 hp and an impressive 189 pounds-feet of torque. Beginning next summer, U.S. consumer may also have the option of a 2.2-liter twin turbo diesel engine, although Mazda has not yet confirmed this rumor.
Mazda has also given the 2014 Mazda6 distinctive, LED headlights and a sleeker overall body style.
Safety features include Mazda’s i-Activsense adaptive cruise, smart brake support and front-facing camera and radar to automatically alert the driver of potential hazards and prime the vehicle’s brakes.
Mazda expects to build approximately 120,000 units annually at its Hofu Japan plant.
Mazda North American Operations CEO Jim O’Sullivan said he expects the new Mazda6 to sell well in the U.S., but declined to give a specific sales target. Last year, the automaker sold 35,711 units in the U.S. Through September of this year, sales have increased 19 percent, outpacing the overall market gain of 15 percent.
O’Sullivan also thinks the new Mazda6 will benefit from the success of the Mazda CX-5 which has helped increase brand awareness in the U.S.
AutoPacific Incorporated analyst Ed Kim says competing in the mid-sized segment is especially tough for smaller brands like Mazda. He says, “To thrive or even get noticed in the segment, you have to really be exceptional, be an incumbent or have such a combo of standout features that you force the market to notice, or have the marketing budget to cut through the clutter.”