The walls have to feel as if they’re closing in on Zee Germans. In just the past few years, the German Big Three; BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi; have gained more new competitors than ever before. Brands like Genesis, Ford and even Hyundai have all put out products that can rival the Germans. One such brand that might be following in those footsteps is Mazda and it apparently has its eyes set on the 3 Series.

It’s seldom that newcomers can properly take on the BMW 3 Series but if there’s one that can do it, it’s Mazda. The small-ish Japanese automaker is famous for making delightful cars to drive, such as the MX-5 and even the little Mazda 3. However, the car that will be taking on the 3 Series will be the next-gen Mazda 6.

According to this new report from Car and Driver, the next Mazda 6 is said to be switching from a front-wheel drive, transverse engine layout to a rear-wheel drive, longitudinal engine layout. Even better still, the top-end engine for the next ‘6 is said to be an inline-six.

From what C&D is hearing, Mazda’s straight-six engine will sport its new SkyActive Compression-Ignition Gasoline technology as well as a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. It’s also said to make around 350 hp, which would put it right in line with the BMW M340i. Apparently, to help the small Japanese firm develop such an engine, it’s turned to Toyota for some assistance. The irony of that is the fact that Toyota is also partnered with BMW to borrow the Bavarians’ own straight-six for the Supra.

Personally, I think this is excellent news. The more automakers switching to enthusiast-minded layouts; such as a rear-wheel drive, straight-six sedan; the better off we all are as enthusiasts. Plus, the Mazda 6 will be significantly cheaper than the 3 Series and, if we’ve learned anything from Mazda, will be available with a six-speed manual. If you’ve ever driven an MX-5, you’d also know that the Japanese brand is one of the absolute best sports car makers on the planet. So the idea of an affordable rear-wheel drive, straight-six, six-speed manual sedan from the same make of the absolutely brilliant MX-5 is incredibly exciting.

So I’ll leave it to you, fine readers. If you could have a Mazda 6 with a straight-six engine, rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual for less money than a BMW 330i, would you take the Mazda or still go for the Bimmer?

[Source: Car and Driver]