I've liked my Mazda 6 Estate's xenon headlights since night one. After the sun's gone down, the bright beams stretch a long way into the darkness. An extra bulb also switches on when I'm cornering at low speed, which then illuminates the kerb (and people).
Both are great features, but even with the headlight stalk turned to 'off' or 'auto' the car thinks it's in darkness and lights up.
Is there any difference between 'off' and 'auto'? Did I pay for the option of dusk-sensing automatic lights and not actually get them? My Mazda can tell the difference between night and day, but it only makes a difference inside the car.
In 'off' mode, the 6 won't bother to switch on the cabin lighting at night, and leaves you fumbling for switches and controls. In 'auto', however, it twigs that the sun has set and turns it all on. Useful.
I could switch to sidelights in the day, but then I sometimes forget to turn the headlights on at night – which defeats the purpose of the automatic setting.
So I leave them on auto and get some odd looks from pedestrians and cyclists, and a few flashes from other drivers. It's annoying.
When I picked up the car almost a year ago, Mazda said it knew that other owners were also finding the situation a little tedious. Some of you have complained about it in your reader reviews online at whatcar.com, too.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
Mazda said bosses in Japan were looking to change the situation, and they have – but only for cars built from October 2008 onwards. When I called up a few garages to see if they could now install a new bit of software and give me more control over the headlights, they said no. It's too complicated, involves messing about with a whole load of electronic modules, and might cause a few problems and warning lights to come on.
All new car designs launched from 2011 will have daytime running lights, but it'll still be a while before these become a common sight on our roads.
Until then, drivers of pre-October 2008 6s will have to feel a bit conspicuous with their headlamps blazing away at noon.
What Car? says
A blinding estate car – in more ways than one.