Last year's winner of the Fleet News Best Upper-Medium Car Award scored highly because of the driving experience and the value it represented through low wholelife costs.
The Mazda6 range kicks off at £13,513 on-the-road and for that you get alloy wheels, air conditioning, electrically- operated mirrors, six airbags and all the other things that are a minimum requirement for an upper-medium car.
At about £1,000 less than most mainstream rivals, the Mazda6's appeal to a cost-conscious fleet operator, and its distinctive appearance and involving driving experience, makes it desirable for user- chooser drivers.
Perhaps the 1.8 S could be criticised for not providing a CD player as standard, but it does have alloy wheels, absent from most entry-level upper-medium cars, and arguably more important to the resale value.
However, our car is the 2.0d TS2 estate and is more than £5,000 north of the list price of the entry-level car.
There are several extra features fitted as standard, including the Bose premium audio system and integrated six-CD autochanger, cruise control, electric sunroof and extra airbags, which go some way to justifying the extra cost.
The options list is relatively sparse. Our car has electrically- adjustable leather seats and DVD satellite navigation, and does without metallic paint.
However, a glance at the options list on a Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Ghia reveals a rear-seat audio system, privacy glass, heated front seats and parking sensors.
Admittedly, the Mondeo hasn't got an electric sunroof and electronic stability control is also an option where the Mazda has dynamic stability control as standard.
But it would be nice on these cold winter mornings to be able to set off in a heated seat, particularly as the leather is so cold.
Likewise, five years ago, parking sensors were relatively rare, but now I wonder how we ever managed without them. It would be useful, particularly on a large estate car, and as many crashes take place in car parks, to see them on the options list.
When developing a new car, engineers ready all sorts of products which are meant to be included in the vehicle.
But when a target price is imposed for the car, it often means some of these features are taken out to ensure the price is hit. Perhaps we can expect to see some of these the next time the Mazda6 is revised.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £81 per month