ARCHERFIELD is a splendid pile on the coast just a couple of miles west of North Berwick, taking its name from the time King Edward the First camped his archers on the 600-acre estate in 1298 while he was attempting to hammer the Scots and before his son was sent home by Robert the Bruce to think again.
The stately home has provided shelter for Mary Queen of Scots, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and, shortly before the First World War, a young Winston Churchill was appointed First Sea Lord there. During the Second World War, the Army moved in but in the ensuing decades it became neglected and unloved. At one point it even accommodated a grain drier in the entrance hall. Fortunately, in the 21st century, it has been brought back to life and restored – and it was here that Mazda’s latest creation, its flagship 6, was brought for one of its first public appearances.
They may be centuries apart but there are similarities between the East Lothian mansion and this latest piece of automotive technology from the other side of the world. They’re both robust, a lot of thought has gone into their design, they’re comfortable and I found they both draw admiring looks.
It’s the third generation of the car which arrived just 11 years ago and is now the Japanese company’s most important model in a distinctive range which includes the everlasting MX-5 sports two-seater and the impressive CX-5 SUV.
The 2.2-litre test car covers a very impressive 64 miles to every gallon of diesel and has one of the lowest CO2 figures in its segment – which means only £30-a-year road tax. A reduced insurance rating is earned by its Smart City Brake Support – which automatically applies the brakes when it senses the chance of a low-speed collision. It’s also attractive to the business user with some of the lowest Benefit in Kind figures.
It’s the second model to come with Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology, which makes a conventional engine even more efficient – rather than go down the electric, hybrid or alternative fuel route. It’s also the first mass-produced Mazda to be equipped with i-ELOOP, the Japanese company’s brake energy regeneration system which can boost economy considerably depending on the driving conditions.
Up to 10 per cent of fuel is used powering the electrics in a modern car. Mazda’s system turns the kinetic energy created when decelerating into reusable electricity to power the car’s systems such as aircon, satnav and audio. That leaves all the engine’s power to drive the wheels and make best use of the fuel.
Economy is of course a major factor but there’s also the initial outlay. The Mazda 6 is pretty much in the same price bracket as its competitors such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, VW Passat, Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia, but in each case it has a lower BIK and comes with a vast list of standard equipment which in almost every other case is an option with a charge attached.
Integrated navigation, for example, is standard yet can cost more than £1,500 in the alternatives. Depending on the model, Mazda says a highly specified competitor car equipped to the same standard as the 6 could cost up to £10,000 more.
The 6 interior is clear, businesslike, efficient. Passenger space is good and, in the Tourer or estate, there’s useful capacity in the back. Outwardly, the design makes the 6 look more significant than the outgoing model, dominated by the large five-point grille, and the Tourer in particular has an attractive sweeping profile. The car feels solid and its 2.2-litre engine has enough guts to cruise happily on a motorway but also return a lively drive on the open road.
Build quality is first class, with a satisfying clunk when the door closes which gives you the feeling that the car has a lasting quality… although unless something dreadful happens to the stately home, Archerfield will win that competition too.
CAR: Mazda6 2.2D 150PS Tourer SE-L Nav
PRICE: £23,945 (£24,465 as tested)
PERFORMANCE: Max speed 130mph; 0-62 mph 9.2 secs
MPG (combined): 64mpg
CO2 EMMISSIONS: 116g/km