UPDATE: The U.S.-spec 2014 Mazda6 sedan will make its debut at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, but we already took an early drive.

A week ago, KBB.com was treated to a sneak-preview drive in Europe of the all-new 2014 Mazda6 sedan. Mazda will be bringing this new-generation mid-size 4-door to the U.S. very early in 2013 (read: January). I'm back now, and I wrote Mazda a letter about the new Mazda6. Have a look:

Dear Mazda:

Now that you've poised the new Mazda6 to take a bite out of the holy trio of mid-size sedans -- Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata -- I thought I'd send you a quick letter with a few observations from the drive. I know the Mazda6 examples you had us drive were European pre-production prototype models, but they were pretty well finished so I'll plow straight ahead with my impressions.

Let's start at the outside: The Mazda6 looks OK in photos, but the best details really come to life when you see the car in person. The long, low-angle stretch of the roofline and the great LED-accented face stand out, as does the sculpting on the front fenders. The exterior dimensions are pretty close to the class-leading Camry, but the Mazda6 wheels are pushed neatly out to the four corners so the car looks planted. Inside, the effect is less one of roominess than of a well-fit suit that tucks around you but still gives you room to move. That feeling would be consistent with your goal of creating the sports sedan for the mid-size segment (the new Nissan Altima notwithstanding).

The Mazda6 seats were snug (in a good way), and they were upholstered best in a 2-tone black/off-white sectioning motif with the black areas set off with red stitching. Very cool, and I hope you decide to bring that dark/light theme to the States. My 36-inch inseam had plenty of room in front and even the rear seats proved comfortable. Certainly, the massive Volkswagen Passat offers more rear-seat room to roam, but let's face it, the Passat's interior volume is measured in acres not cubic feet. You've done an easy-to-please job with the whole Mazda6 interior, minimizing the flash and maximizing the instrument panel with a big central speedometer.

It was good to learn that some of your best Skyactiv tech was going to be in play on the Mazda6, including the fuel-saving smarts and polished performance of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an equally polished 6-speed automatic transmission. The things that tame American roads -- a good kick of on-ramp acceleration and the ability to leap from 40 to 60 mph to get around "that idiot."

At dinner you told me that the suspension setup was 95% done, so I guess that means a pretty firm ride (the European roads are not kind to a suspension, but Europe digs a more "sporty" feel to its cars). And while I usually don't spend much time cooing about a car's steering response, I gotta say that the Mazda6 is one of the best I've ever felt in terms of matching my wants and expectations as it loads up turning into corners (fast turns, slow turns, tight turns, sweeping turns...) and unloads coming out of them.

Yeah, I'll finish up before this letter gets any longer, but I just want to mention two final things before I sign off:

1. It's OK that you didn't know what the price for the 2014 Mazda6 was going to be. I know that that's one of the Big Secrets. Maybe you can tell us at the L.A. auto show in November.

2. After driving the Mazda6 with the 2.2-liter diesel 4-cylinder, I think that you ought to bring that version of the car to the U.S. as well -- if for no other reason than the VW Passat TDI needs the competition.

Thanks again for the sneak preview. I really look forward to running the new Mazda6 up and down a few of my favorite local roads, driving it hard into the headwind of the strongest season of mid-size sedans ever, and seeing how segment shoppers respond to your most competitive Mazda6 yet. 

--Richard Homan

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