Fleet News

Mazda6 2.3 Sport – 18,290 miles

Mazda

Review

TWO years ago, Mazda set about changing the perception of the marque and increasing its market share in the UK.

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The manufacturer isn't doing badly: new models are acclaimed and by the end of July, registrations for 2003 totalled 21,714 and market share was 1.41% (a 48.73% increase compared to the first seven months of last year).

Our most recent Mazda6 long-term test car has gone back after delighting the test team for six months.

The 626, Mazda's previous upper-medium sector competitor, was representative of the bulk of the range – reliable, functional and a bit dull.

Ambitious Mazda is seeking to make its whole range as exciting as the MX-5, still a terrific little two-seater soft-top after all these years (and just the car for this baking hot summer).

The motor show debut of the Mazda6 was encouraging: the car looked good and there was a bit of a dash about its lines. Our first long-termer, the 1.8 TS, went down well but eyes really lit up when the 2.3 Sport arrived at Fleet Towers in January.

This was a car with the performance potential (0-62mph in 9.2 seconds) missing from the 1.8, but special care was needed early on because of the icy roads of winter.

In fact colleague Mike Roberts had good reason to bless the ABS and go gently with the throttle and brake pedals. He was caught in a blizzard that made the A14 and M11 in Essex and Cambridgeshire at best a skid pan, at worst impassable.

During the seven hours it took him to cover 70 miles, Mike was the first to come to appreciate the Bose sound system and its six CD autochanger which is fitted as standard. He wrote how the speakers did justice to the melodies of the Beautiful South. For me, it seemed as though Suzanne Vega was in the car singing '99.9F degrees' to me (just the song for this summer).

Once spring arrived, and the evening's got lighter, the 2.3 Sport's lustrous blue paintwork looked increasingly appealing.

The Fleet News team is used to showing restraint with fast cars, but the electronic stability kit (and grip of the 17-inch alloys when cornering) did encourage testing the engine's potential when safe to do so. You'll see that our only expenditure on the car apart from its service was to replace the front tyres.

The steering is a joy, and so it should be, as the rack is taken from the MX-5.

Talking of joy: the Mazda6 2.3 Sport is £18,000 which is about as good as it gets for a car that looks and drives like this.

Replacing the Sport on our test fleet is a bright red Mazda6 2.0d TS2 estate. We'll bring you our first impressions on this newcomer next month.

Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% tax-payer) £89 per month

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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