In launching the Xedos 6 line-up, Mazda was the first Japanese manufacturer to recognise the importance that customers were attaching to the question of image - and the first to act accordingly. The company described the Xedos 6 as a car that is 'genuinely different from the rest', which seemed reasonable enough when you saw it in the metal. The ultra-low front, the subtle curves, the flush-fitting glass and the striking front grille; all gave the car real identity.
You may see a hint of Jaguar in the feline sweep of the rounded body. Mazda even supposed that some customers would prefer to look at the car as a four-door sports coupe. You could not fail to ignore it either way.
The boot was huge, the cabin airy and inviting and the handling taut and responsive. In this respect, it helped that the manual gear change was also excellent and the power steering quick and communicative, lacking the anaesthetic applied to the helm of most expensive Japanese saloons.
Equipment levels were extensive in the plusher versions as you might expect. Alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, tinted glass, electric headlamp levelling, central locking, front fog lamps and powered sunroof, windows and mirrors were all included, for example, on the V6 Sport model.
Ordinarily, Xedos 6 buyers tend to be picky, so if you're thinking of one, you'll need to be too. Avoid cars that are less than pristine and have incomplete service records. Check for electrical faults and minor bodywork and trim damage.
(based on a 1995 Xedos 9 - approx. - exc. Vat) A full exhaust system is around £1080 (including the catalyst) and front and rear brake pads are about £70 and £50 respectively. An alternator is around £285 and a starter motor around £235. While on the subject of the electrics, a complete headlamp unit is £275. When a major service is due budget in the region of £600.
On the road, don't expect it to be a BMW 320i, a Golf VR6 or an Audi A4. It isn't but the gap is narrower than you might think, thanks to handling characteristics which Mazda said were tuned more to European tastes. New shock absorbers coupled to larger front and rear stabiliser bars were said to be responsible.
The Hiroshima-based manufacturer was particularly proud of its sophisticated four-speed automatic gearbox which automatically selects 'economy' or 'sports' mode depending on your mood.
To make sure that gear changes are imperceptibly smooth, the same computer enters into conversation with the one controlling the engine to cut torque at the moment of change.
Refinement, in fact, is one of the key features of the car; those sculptured lines help, of course. So does the impressive build quality. You could criticise the embossed plastic logo on the steering wheel or the slight lack of legroom in the back, but not much else.
The Xedos 6 may not have the image of a BMW 3 Series or a Mercedes C-class but its not far off. A pity that the dull interior doesn't match the eye-catching bodywork but you can't have everything. At least it should be reliable (a claim the German competition can always make) and you're likely to be the only one in your road to have one. That - and those strong residual values - might swing the balance Mazda's way.