I HAVE yet to meet anyone who doesn't love a bargain. There is a thrill in believing you have gotten more than you paid for, a satisfaction of sorts in thinking you have just hoodwinked the seller into a better deal.

The new Mazda6 sedan with its delightful curves and sleek lines, its performance-driven engine and innovative fuel-saving technologies delivers more than just a good ride. It delivers more value for money too, with European-type style and inclusions to complement a rich Japanese history.

The dash is both practically laid out and nice to look at using well-loved features and modern touches in a comfortable fashion. The steering wheel and gear stick are wrapped in leather and feel nice in the hand with a generous use of soft materials throughout the cabin.

It is quite stylish really, evidence that the Japanese giant has taken excellent cues from its European competition and for the most part you certainly feel as if you are riding in a car that far exceeds this price.

Perhaps that is the reason the poor quality plastic surrounding the infotainment system is so noticeable, almost like someone slotted it in like an afterthought.

The seats of our entry-level Sport were covered in thick springy fabric which is soft to the touch but marks easily so is perhaps not the best choice if you have small children.

The seats themselves, as seems to be the case with Mazdas, could do with a bit more support and bolstering while the finicky manual adjustments made it difficult to find the ideal driving position. Leg room is abundant both in the front and back although occupants over six foot may not find much space above their heads.

Our test car, powered by a 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G petrol engine mated to a six-speed auto transmission, delivered a smooth, comfortable drive with just enough of an edge to keep you interested. It is well-balanced and sturdy with suspension that adequately absorbs imperfections, the tuning obviously aided by a body that has increased in rigidity. The electronically assisted steering can sometimes feel a bit dull but is quick to action when pushed hard through corners.

This petrol model is quite loud on start-up rattling around until it has warmed up with the throaty protests again quite vocal when negotiating steep hills or when surprised into acceleration. Yet it remains rather more than just a competent performer showing both will and execution around town or on the open road.

The Mazda6, even at entry-level, is packed with all the modern delights you could wish for and at a much more forgiving price than some of its European competition.

Push-button start, heated wing mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, reverse camera, sat nav, cruise control and rain-sensing wipers are standard on all models.

The Touring adds powered seats, leather upholstery, 11-speaker sound system and parking sensors while the GT is also equipped with LED running lights, sunroof, keyless entry, 19-inch alloys, heated seats and bi-xenon headlights.

The safety suite includes front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD and emergency brake assist, stability control, traction control and hill-launch assist. The range-topping Atenza boasts a host of additional safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring and collision-detection system.

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