The 6 is certainly getting its fair share of attention in the press, partly through a massive advertising campaign and partly because it is well worth writing about. I had an inkling that this car was something special even before I had clapped eyes on it, when our road test editor Simon Harris came back from the press launch with rave reviews.
Anyone who has met our Simes will know that he is not prone to raving. He normally restricts his praise, rather like the butler Jeeves, to the raising of an eyebrow. But raving he was, and after a couple of weeks behind the wheel of our 6 in 1.8 TS format, I am beginning to see why. I have always suspected that the vast majority of drivers in this country choose a new car on looks alone and here the 6 holds a trump card – it is a real stunner both inside and out.
While the likes of Nissan and Renault are stretching the word 'style' to its limits with the Primera and Avantime, the Mazda is fairly conservative but none the worse for it. The problem with stylish cars is that they age rapidly, rather like tank tops, so I reckon in three years' time, this car will look a darned sight better than many others.
Our model sits on the bottom rung but one of the 6 ladder and has an on-the-road price of £14,495 but even at this price there is no shortage of standard specification. Alloy wheels, climate control, remote central locking, deadlocks, alarm and immobiliser, driver, passenger and side airbags, ABS brakes, electric windows and mirrors all come as part of the package.
On the road, much has been made of the 6's handling. Our road test editor puts the car even ahead of the mighty Mondeo in this area and I would tend to agree with him. I find the power steering slightly too light for my liking but throw this car at a bend and it will go round like it's glued to the floor.
Every so often the devil in me persuades me to floor the throttle when approaching a bend and see what happens. On each occasion my nerve has given out before the car's so I have yet to push the 6 to its limits. On the acceleration front this car has adequate pulling power, doing the 0-60mph dash in 10.9 seconds and going on a maximum speed of 121mph.
The problem is all the power is concentrated at the top end of the rev spectrum, so if you drive in a leisurely manner you could be forgiven for thinking it is underpowered. My only real gripe is that having driven a string of diesel-powered cars recently, I am used to achieving miles per gallon figures approaching 50.
With the aforementioned driving style, the 6 has dropped below 30mpg. For an extra £100, a fleet driver could choose the 2.0-litre DS diesel model and average about 43 miles per gallon. If you pay for your own fuel, diesel makes a convincing argument.
Company car tax bill 2002 (22% taxpayer) £55.80 per month