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Oozing appeal 6; The Mazda6 estate has got the looks, the style and the performance to put it out in front of rivals - and all at a great price, finds PATRICK JAMES.

Byline: PATRICK JAMES

ESTATE cars conjure up images of slobbering dogs, oil-covered bikes and chocolatecovered kids. The Mazda6 is a proper family wagon but it matches the roof bars and dog guards with hi-tech spec, stylish looks and sporty performance that now, along with the saloon, challenges for the accolade of best in its class.

Most Mazdas, from the 2 through to the 6 and the MX-5, are stylish and the estate is no exception. In fact, it is one of the most stylish-looking estates on the road.

The trademark front grille, shark-shaped nose and sporty body kit make it a standout car.

And the looks on this car were matched with a slick and powerful diesel engine that combines bargain-basement running costs with power.

The 2.2-litre, six-speed diesel packs a huge amount of punch, is nicely refined and claims to average a whopping 52.3mpg and a tank range in excess of 700 miles.

Even the company car drivers will cash in with relatively low list prices and CO2 figures that drive down the tax bills.

The interior is as stylish as the exterior and oozes comfort and quality.

There is decent room for front and back passengers, plenty of adjustment for the driver and there are comfy, bucket-style, sport seats for all.

The cabin is built with quality materials and, typically Mazda, feels like it's built to last.

It also looks good, with Mazda's familiar circular air vents, metallic trims and easyto-use, well-placed dials and controls. It has the feel of a far more expensive car inside and is as roomy as it is stylish.

In fact, it's deceptively big.

But behind the wheel it feels like it has the agility and grippy handling of a hatchback.

The boot is huge but cleverly designed with a compartment under the floor. The rear seats can also be dropped from the front of the cabin.

The Mazda is a quiet cruiser and you only notice minimal wind noise at higher speeds.

The steering is responsive, cornering grip is excellent and it's fun to drive.

The base level estate model comes with a CD player, MP3 connection, electric windows, alloys, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel, electric heated mirrors and dual-zone climate control.

This TS2 model added automatic headlights and wipers, front fog lights, rear parking sensors, six CD changer and Bluetooth.

The range-topping Sport has xenon headlights and an even better stereo system.

Every Mazda6 has a superb safety specification and they all score a table-topping Euro NCAP five-star rating.

The car comes with six airbags, full-length curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution, a traction control system, seatbelt pre-tensioners and active headrests.

It also comes with deadlocks and an alarm.

The Mazda 6 estate is a superb alternative to some of the big names and you get an awful lot of car for about pounds 22,000.

It looks good, feels good and boasts a powerful, frugal engine, generous equipment and superb style. This car is so good, you'll want to keep the bikes, kids and slobbering dogs at home.

Factfile: Model: Mazda6 2.2D Estate Engine: 2.2-litre diesel Power: 163PS 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds Fuel economy: 52.3mpg combined CO2 emissions: 119g/km Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles On sale: Now
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 14, 2011
Words:549
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