Focusing on enhanced efficiency through lighter packaging and incremental improvements, Mazda's 2009 lineup includes mostly expected changes. News of the next version of what may be Mazda's most tantalizing model - the MX-5 Miata - remains in shadows, however.

Changes to the aging RX-8 are minimal, with evolutionary improvements to the interior and a mildly refreshed exterior design. Performance is enhanced somewhat, though the Renesis rotary engine at its heart remains unchanged. A new R3 model offers a re-tuned sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, urethane-filled front crossmembers, rear spoiler, side sills and fog lights in addition to a unique front bumper and xenon HID headlights. An upgraded Bose stereo and Recaro sport seats also feature in the new R3 package.

The Mazda6 sedan is a North American-specific model this time around, with a choice of 2.5L four-cylinder or 3.7L V6 engines. The new car's wheelbase grows by 4.5in, while overall length is 6.1in greater and width increases by 2.1in, along with a wider track front and rear. The already capacious trunk increases by 10% in volume, while interior space improves as well. Despite power increases of between 9% and 28%, depending on the powertrain configuration, the new car improves fuel economy across the board, thanks primarily to lighter materials.

Mazda's SUVs, including the CX-9 and CX-7 get a range of primarily minor enhancements, such as advanced trip computers, improved stereo functionality, heated front seats and Sirius satellite radio standard in more trim levels. The basic designs and powertrain packages carry over from last year's offerings.

The Tribute gets a mild refresh since its complete redesign in 2008. Power for the 2.5L four-cylinder is improved to 171hp (127kW), while the 3.0L V6 grows to 240hp (179kW) and a new six-speed automatic transmission is available. A range of new colors and interior convenience features like steering wheel audio controls and one-touch moonroof controls cap the upgrades.

Mazda's only hybrid, the Tribute HEV, gets a new 153hp (114kW) 2.5L four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine, power-assisted brakes and a full complement of electronic driving aids including stability control, traction control and roll control. The Tribute HEV can operate solely on electric power at speeds up to 25mph thanks to its 70kW electric motor. Fuel economy figures for the Tribute HEV are a solid 30mpg highway/34mpg city with the 2WD model and 27mpg highway/29mpg city with the 4WD model.

The compact Mazda5 MPV likewise gets primarily cosmetic changes, with a new Liquid Silver color available for the outside and Sand interior upholstery now available with a broader range of exterior color options.

Mazda's highly successful Mazda3 sedan and hatch receive a new standard equipment specification for the i Sport model, with standard ABS and airbags, while the deletion of the Icy Blue color and addition of remote trunk release to sedan models key fobs make the 2009 models unique.

The popular B-series pickup trucks will be reduced to just two variants, with the luxury-spec B4000 Cab Plus SE model dropped from the range. The remaining trucks will focus on more essential utility with a regular cab model powered by a 2.3L four-cylinder and a Cab Plus model sporting AWD and a 4.0L V6 engine. Both models can be had with either five-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The truck is otherwise unchanged.

North American 2009 Mazda6

European Mazda6