Last year Mazda celebrated its 100th birthday while next year one of its models will be 20 years-old. 

Say hello to the Mazda6 – known in Japan and China as the Mazda Atenza, which is derived from the Italian Attenzione, and became not only popular among customers but sold faster than all previous Mazda models.

And of all the cars I have driven over the last 15 years the Mazda6 has always been one of my favourites.

It wasn’t just because I drove from the far north of Scotland to Oxford – a journey of 540 miles in one day (with a couple of breaks), it’s that all Mazda models are practically perfect.

They are somewhat different from the rest of the Japanese vehicles, almost a better class (apart from Lexus) and their design philosophy of Stylish, Insightful and Spirited seems to fit the bill completely.

I’ve just been driving the Mazda6 Tourer which is one of those large estate cars and a better drive than say a typical SUV. It drives extremely well with excellent equipment and with so much space you could almost get a flock of sheep in the back.

There used to be a diesel engine but they have gone now that the Government kicked the car manufacturing industry in the goolies on the diesel front, so the Mazda6 Tourer’s engine options are a 2.0-litre petrol with either 143 or 162bhp and a 2.5-litre with 192bhp. All are four-cylinder, and the 2.5-litre has an auto box as standard. And remember Mazda don’t have turbochargers sticking with naturally aspirated engines; there’s no hybrid or plug-in hybrid either.

The experts seem to like Mazdas and as a brand it finished ninth out of 31 manufacturers in the WhatCar? reliability survey while the Mazda6 was third ahead of the Mondeo and BMW 3 series.

On the price front the Tourer ranges from £26,000 to £34,000 and the miles per gallon is around 40 which is pretty good for a largish, heavy car.

On the engine front I prefer the 2.5 litre version but there’s nothing wrong at all with the 2.0 litre. Both models are great to drive, easy to handle with steering which is near perfect.

As I managed to drive more than 500 miles in a day I can vouch for the comfort in both the Tourer and the Six while the ride is excellent. There is a height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment on all models, plus a good range to the rake and reach adjustable steering wheel. Visibility is excellent with slim windscreen pillars and large door mirrors which makes the driving so much easier.

The entry-level SE-L comes with LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, 17in alloy wheels, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights and an 8.0in colour infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav and phone mirroring while the Sport version adds leather upholstery, electrically adjusted heated front seats, keyless entry, a reversing camera and 19-inch alloy wheels. 

The GT Sport gets the full spec, with a sunroof, 7.0in digital driver display, 360-degree camera, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats and Japanese wood trim around the dash. It’s only available with the 2.5-litre engine.

The infotainment systems is among the best. It is controlled via a rotary switch and shortcut buttons through the gear stick. The menus are easy to navigate and there is the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, sat-nav and Bluetooth.

At more than 600 litres the boot is enormous – at least a couple of suitcases – and the Tourer has the 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard. 

All Mazdas get a three-year or 60,000-mile warranty and a full five-star crash test rating. The adult and child occupancy for the Mazda6 scores are good for the class and safety kit is impressive and includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.