When cars go through their mid-life refreshers, it usually just entails a few mild touches and little added features. With the Mazda6, however, they threw in more than just the expected.

Now on its 3rd year, the new Mazda6 gets a full on makeover, transforming the look of the car to conform to Mazda's new design idiom. The most prominent change is on the front end, where the new family face of Mazda takes shape. The rear features more subtle changes, but has a new set of clear LED taillamps while the car gets a new set of 18 inch wheels.

Inside the Mazda6 is the premium, driver inspired interior that Mazda is known for. You have to love the quality feel of the piano-finish interior details, the plush leather seats and the intuitive layout for the controls.

Over the original 2nd gen model, the upgraded version has even more features. Power amenities like front seat adjust sunroof, cruise control, a powerful audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3 compatibility and an auxiliary jack for your iPod. The audio system is also upgraded now, thanks to the help from the guys over at BOSE audio. Climate is automatically controlled, and so are the headlamps and windshield wipers. There's also a lot of safety kit as standard with anti lock brakes, a full spectrum of airbags and traction control.

Great as the new look and features may be, its really in the drive that the Mazda6 truly shines. Everything about it is geared for the drive. Sitting in the pilot's seat, the bolsters hold the body firmly in place while the steering wheel can be adjusted in both tilt and rake, the rim of which feels so natural to the hands. The gauges are great on the eyes, while the shift knob for the 5 speed automatic transmission is perfectly placed and intuitive to use, especially since its pull to shift up, push to shift down... just like a Playstation. The car also gets a new adaptive headlight system that follows the curve of the road as you turn, reinforcing Mazda's drive-inspired genetics.

The engine is a 2.5 liter unit, capable of 170 horsepower and 226 newton meters of torque, rendering a 0-100 km/h time of just under 9 seconds and continues on to a top speed over 200 km/h. While I like the performance of this engine, I do yearn for the thrill of the 1st gen Mazda6's engine, as the original MZR 2.3L motor produced a glorious wail at mid to high revs, whereas the newer 2.5L motor seems a little more on the balanced side. The suspension, too, has been toned down over the original, matching handling excitement at speed with sober comfort.

Getting into this car again is quite a treat, but I kind of had the feeling that the Mazda6 was the unappreciated car of its class; a car overshadowed by the established order with the likes of the Camry. Accord and, more recently, the new Sonata. Great as those other exec cars may be, if I was given a choice of which one to actually be behind the wheel of, the Mazda would be my first pick.