WHY WOULD you choose the likes of a BMW 3-series when, for about the same money you could get the latest version of Mazda's admirable - now even more admirable - Mazda6?

That's quite a statement and the same applies if you stack it up against the huge opposition in its sector of the market, the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia. Both of those are great cars and have brought a level of poise and desirability to this sector of the market which had hitherto been missing.

However, in my mind there is little doubt that the new Mazda6 is the best looking mid-range car available today. It's all down to what the designers in Mazda's 'arty-farty' studio call 'Kodo-soul of motion' design and, allied to the aspirations of the engineering tour-de-force that is the Skyactiv programme, this allows Mazda to hit the opposition for '6'.

The Kodo design is the bit that attracts the eye, but it's the Skyactiv bits that saves you pennies.

First impressions tend to stick and there is a feeling of quality about the Mazda6 that is apparent as soon as you take the wheel. That ability to get the 'feel' of a car as soon as you sit in it is an almost undefinable quality, but one which the ergonomists (is that even a word?) can quantify down to the smallest iota.

Under the bonnet, there's a basic choice of two engines - either a two-litre petrol or a 2.2-litre diesel - with each coming with a range of power options, depending on the tune.

The 172bhp version of the diesel is the most powerful in the range and, with manual six-speed transmission, has a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds. Choosing the automatic gearbox makes it slightly slower, but hardly noticeably so. The 148bhp diesel will probably be the Mazda6's biggest selling unit and its torque is good enough for it to almost match the 163bhp petrol model's 9.1 seconds from 0-62mph. For all that, it is also the most economical in the range and is capable of getting close to 70mpg. The other petrol option is rated at 163bhp.

There are five spec' levels - SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav - which, when allied to engine availability, gives staggering choice of nine diesel and seven petrol in saloon form, and nine diesel and three petrol for the pretty good looking tourers (estate car, to you and me).

Mazda's choice of only selling a saloon and not competing with the hatchback brigade is maybe a bit of a downer as this has an impact on load space in the boot.

On the upside, all models now have an electronic parking brake, a coming/leaving home headlamp function, the easy to use Multimedia Commander and manual driver and front passenger seat height adjustment.

The latest seven-inch, full-colour central touch-screen incorporates DAB radio - a first for Mazda - and MZD Connect, which, when paired with a smartphone, makes internet connectivity and access to social networking services a dawdle.

Sport Nav models have a re-styled front, with LED headlights, including LED daytime running lights, front fog lights and 19-inch alloy wheels.

That top spec' also provides an eight-way powered adjustable drivers seat (and six-way powered front passenger seat), a new head-up display and an Integrated Navigation system.

An optional 'safety pack' for Sport Nav models adds adaptive LED headlights, lane assist, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and smart city brake support.

A top-notch full leather interior is also provided by the Sport Nav spec' as well as a premium Bose surround sound system.

The range starts at £19,795 when putting a two-litre 144bhp SE saloon on the road and goes to £28,795 for the 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel Sport Nav auto. I don't usually recommend extras, but for an added £550 you can choose the delectable 'Soul red' metallic paint, which really sets this model off.