Jul 21 2009 Peter Hayward
Original Mazda6 a stunner
MAZDA threw off its 'grandad' image for good with the launch of the 6, which is every bit as good to drive as similar BMWs despite being front wheel drive.
The original 6 is stunning to look at, handles like a sportscar and rides like a limousine.
It really is that good. If I had to choose a family car it would be my choice even now.
Even the entry 1.8 is huge fun to drive, with poise and balance oozing from every metal pore.
It's comfortable enough to use for everyday long distance but revels in a twisty country road where it is hugely safe and great fun.
Further up the range are 2.0-litre and 2.3 petrol power units, plus a 2.3 turbo with amazing performance.
There are also three versions of the same very good 2.0-litre diesel, with increasing power outputs.
All the engines are smooth and quiet with a light clutch and very slick gearchange but the petrol units also sound marvellous and give performance well up with the best in class even now.
Inside is all style with function and makes other cars look positively ordinary. All models come well equipped and the power steering gives superb 'feel'.
The driving position is one of the best on the market for all sizes of driver, and there is enough space for four to travel long distances in comfort.
Price: Pay about £3,600 for an '02 02-reg S hatch, £5,200 for an '04 54-reg TS, or £6,800 for an '06 56-reg saloon
Mechanical: 118bhp, 1,798cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving the front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Combined mpg: 36
Insurance group: 7
CO2 emissions: 186g/km
Main rival: Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class