ďZOOM ZOOMĒ reads the Mazda6 ad as I enter Laguna Seca racetrack ó aka, the Mazda Raceway. Nothing shows the Japanese automakerís commitment to selling sporty midsize sedans in the USA like its sponsorship of the legendary 11-turn roller coaster track on Californiaísí Monterey Peninsula.
The 2014 Mazda6, as you may have heard, is the bomb.
It is Mazdaís new sleek, nimble-handling cure for the boring midsize sedan. It has us auto scribes in a swoon. We love it as much as the new sleek, nimble-handling cure for the boring compact car, the 2014 Mazda3. Indeed, as you descend into Mazda Racewayís paddock what looks from a distance like rows of comely Mazda6 racing school cars are, in fact, rows of comely Mazda3 racing schools cars. The 3 and the 6 look uncannily similar until closer inspection reveals the 3ís shorter wheelbase and stubbier rear end.
ďItís the best handling small car Iíve driven,Ē says one Laguna Seca racing instructor. ďItís even better than the old 3.Ē
So why pay $21,000 for a base 6 over a $17,000 base 3? Or eight grand more for a loaded Mazda6 Grand Touring edition over a 3 Grand Touring? After all, compact cars have evolved. Compacts such as the 3s, Ford Focuses and Honda Civics are as big as 6s, Ford Tauruses and Honda Accords used to be. Which is why we now have subcompacts like Mazda 2s, Ford Fiestas, and Honda Fits. Roomy four-door compacts offer space, handling and fuel efficiency. And looks.
Which to buy? Letís let the sibling rivals slug it out.
Mazda 3 GT (2.0 liter, $25,000)
The game is over before itís begun, brother 6. They call you a 6, but you donít offer a 6-cylinder engine like most midsize cars. So weíre both four-bangers. And your 2.5-liter four has only 30 more horses than my four. And Iím 400 pounds lighter in the butt. Do the math. I go 0-60 in 7.9 seconds ó less than a second slower than your 7-flat. I handle better, I get better fuel economy. So why would a hard-working couple fork over $8,000 more for less than a second of acceleration time? Heck, they could buy a nice used 2008 Mazda6 for the money they save and have his and hers Mazdas in the garage.
Oh, Iím not done. Todayís compact is the new midsize. Iím as big as a 2003 Mazda6, can seat five and stow all the luggage for a road trip. And speaking of trips, I am loaded with features that make you think youíre in an Audi A4. I got an Audi-like rotary console nob that controls my touch screen, heated seats, keyless entry, dual climate control, leatherette seats (betcha canít tell the difference), blind-spot monitoring, traction control, four-wheel disc brakes, rearview camera, and a kitchen sink (just kidding about that last one). And is that 30 horsepower really an issue? Iím optioned with the same 2.5-liter powerplant you have. Beat that.
Mazda 6 GT (2.5 liter, $33,000)
Seriously? Just look at me. Iím beautiful. Iím the ultimate realization of Mazdaís Kodo design language. If Marilyn Monroe were a car, sheíd be me. Sure, youíre not bad looking yourself, brother 3. The face, the flowing lines. Definitely a family resemblance. But that nose. Itís out of proportion to the rest of your body. You look like that Doberhuahua from the Super Bowl commercial. Iím gonna call you Big Nose.
Remember, little brother ó size matters. Youíre a C segment platform and Iím a D segment. I have more cubic feet of backseat space than you or a BMW 3-series. And I come loaded with all the electronics that youíve got ó plus luxury upgrades such as variable cruise control and rear cross traffic alert system found in a 3-series. But a Bimmer buyer wonít give you a second look, Big Nose, whereas heíll fall in love with me. Iím prettier, roomier, e-outfitted, and equipped with real leather (yes, they can tell the difference) ó all for 10 grand less than a BMW. Iím the affordable luxury buyerís dream. Youíre good, kid, but youíre coach class. With my looks, I scream First Class.
And by the way, donít knock my fuel efficiency. My 40 mpg highway is almost your 41 ó plus 30 horses.
Okay, okay, boys. Stand down. Thatís good stuff. Let me just say itís nice to hear you Mazda guys talking about good looks. After those last-generation Jack oí Lantern faces of yours, I was worried you had lost your aesthetic perspective.
So there you have it, folks. Three plus six equals a wealth of choice. As for me? I choose 3 because I want to throw that short-wheel base through some Mazda Raceway corners.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com Twitter @HenryEPayne