Our cars: Hello to our Mazda 6
List price: £22,130
Target Price: £20,648
Run by: Peter Lawton, Group Consumer Editor
Tested for: Two months/3000 miles
I'm a dad of two, with a manure-hungry allotment and a garden full of weeds to take to the dump every weekend – it's fair to say that I need a practical car.
Step forward the large and extremely stylish Mazda 6 Estate.
I picked up my car from MKG 3000 Mazda of Heath Road, Twickenham (0208 538 9377), where salesman William Maxfield showed me around the features and controls.
How did I end up in the most expensive 2.0-litre diesel model, when the entry-level S trim has everything that's really essential?
Well, to save on arguments with the wife, I felt that a step up to a TS, with its dual-zone climate control, was essential.
This should also save fuel, since automatic systems are more efficient than manual ones.
From there it was a short hop to a TS2 (for Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity), a skip into a Sports model (for its infinitely better-sounding Bose stereo) and a final jump into a Sports Luxury (for a kid-friendly wipe-clean leather interior).
This little stroll up to the top of the range rang up an extra £4100 on the till and £93 extra on contract hire per month.
Every model gets the same nifty rear seats: simply pull a lever and they fold flat, leaving a huge load area that's perfect for swallowing all my gardening detritus.
I do have one small bugbear with the 6 already, though – the automatic headlights are never off, no matter how brightly the sun is shining. You can switch to sidelights, but that makes the automatic headlights rather pointless.
It seems that the bigwigs in Japan decided that permanent daylight running was the way to go, which is curious since dusk-sensing' lights are fitted to most 6 models.
I know some people think that daylight running lights improve safety, but I'm not sure. As a former motorcyclist, I'm also sympathetic to arguments that bikers would be less conspicuous if every car had their headlights on.
Mazda UK say they've had a few complaints from other 6 owners about the lights, so it's pushing Japan to get the decision overturned so we can turn our automatic headlights off.