There’s no fooling around here: Mazda has just debuted its Russian-spec 2014 Mazda Mazda6 in Moscow, and after all of the teasers the Japanese automaker has been releasing, we finally get a good look. After years of making fun to drive cars that couldn’t quite compete with the big Japanese heavyweights, and with new contenders emerging from Korea and even the U.S., it was time to rethink everything. To be competitive and viable in the coming decades, Mazda is banking on a new efficiency strategy the automakers is dubbing Skyactiv.
We’ve seen Skyactiv at work on the new 2012 Mazda3, and we were impressed by it on the 2013 Mazda CX-5. The early success of the CX-5 may be a positive signal for Mazda, but the 2014 Mazda6 enters what may be the toughest segment in all of cardom: the midsize sedan. Names like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry have struck fear into automakers for decades, each trying to out-bland the other, offering a proven formula of safety, reliability, space and economy. Newcomers such as the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion have shaken things up by adding needed panache. To enter this ring, you’d have to offer something over the others. While the car debuting in Russia may vary a little from what we’ll see in the U.S., two things about the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 are evident: the car is striking and will beg notice; and while Mazda’s U.S. engine options are not entirely clear, the 2.0-liter 148 hp, and the 2.5-liter 189 hp four-cylinder engines are extremely efficient. The smaller engine can be mated to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and the larger of the two gets the automatic only. Additional Skyactiv goodies such as a start-stop system that shuts the engine off while idling, and an i-ELOOP system available on the 2.5-liter engine—that will send unused energy to a capacitor for use in powering the radio and climate control—will help make the Mazda6 even more efficient. When it’s all said and done, the 2014 Mazda Mazda6 could deliver high-30s mpg, which coupled with its fresh new looks and Mazda’s fun to drive reputation, could mean Mazda is ready to play with the big boys.