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by Jay Traugott
Mazda's future depends heavily upon the success of its new mid-size sedan, but is the sleek appearance and new technology good enough to bring buyers into showrooms?
After a long period of teasing and hinting, Mazda has finally revealed its new Mazda6 sedan ahead of its public unveiling at the Moscow Auto Show. The result, on the surface at least, looks like it could be a real game-changer for both the Japanese automaker and the segment. So what's new about the all-new Mazda6? Just about everything, but it comes down to two essential elements: SkyActiv technology and the Kodo design language, which Mazda combines in a stylish package that promises to be both fun to drive and fuel efficient.
For the 2014 Mazda6, the Zoom-Zoom brand wisely ditched its previous Nagare design language (with its "smiling cat face" motif) in favor of what it calls Kodo - Japanese for "Soul of Motion" -drawing heavily on the 2011 Takeri concept car. The front end features the automaker's new "signature wing", a unifying element of the new corporate identity, and Mazda's five-point grille with a strip of chrome extending from the LED headlights through the lower edge of the grille. The flanks are dominated by strong character lines, the chrome theme continuing out back with a strip connecting the taillamps in a rather Jaguar-like fashion.
The overall effect shows the likes of the Camry and Chevrolet Malibu a thing or two about dynamic styling. Stepping inside, the cabin appears both sporty and simple, showing the way forward for future models. Mazda has included the latest technology in the dashboard, including a 3.5" information display in the instrument cluster and a 5" navigation display in the center panel. The latest safety systems are also on board, including dynamic high-beam control, hill start, rear vehicle monitoring, lane departure warning and low-speed emergency braking systems. But the real technology into which Mazda has invested considerably lies under the hood.
That's where you'll find Mazda's latest SkyActiv engines that optimize both efficiency and performance. The new 6 is launching with a 2.0-liter four with 148 horsepower and a 2.5 with 189, both of which are mated to six-speed transmissions. SkyActiv diesel engines are expected to follow, and stand a good chance of making it to the United States, but for now the gasoline engines incorporate Mazda's i-Eloop brake regeneration system for a mild-hybrid setup that utilizes new capacitor technology. Official fuel economy figures haven't been announced yet, nor has official pricing, but we suspect that both will be quite attractive.
Along with the CX-5 small crossover, Mazda has a lot riding on the all-new 2014 Mazda6, particularly since Ford dropped its stake in the company from nearly 20 percent to around 1 percent, leaving Mazda without a major partner for those expensive platform and engine development programs, making it vital to spend wisely. Will the new 6 fall on the make it or break it side of Mazda's fortunes? We'll have to wait and see, with worldwide deliveries expected to begin later this year.