Since the Mazda3 hit the streets in 2004, it's proven to be a very strong contender in the small car segment. The compact sedan and hatch has been winning customers over with great styling, athletic ride characteristics, and equipment that typically isn't found in small cars. Its rich mix of standard features and options has helped keep transaction prices high, which will be very important as the self-proclaimed Zoom-Zoom automaker looks to downsize its lineup and make as much money as possible from every sale.

Mazda will now execute the Mazda3 strategy across its entire line to boost profits while giving customers the standard features they crave. For example, the all-new 2009 Mazda6 will be equipped with disc brakes at all four corners in every trim level while some of the competition continues to use rear drum brakes on their base models. Mazda has already proven that adding standard content can raise transaction prices while at the same time increasing sales, now the Ford-controlled automaker needs to prove that it can accomplish the same feat across its lineup. If Mazda makes all of its vehicles as competent as the Mazda3, that shouldn't be a problem.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]