An impromptu ski trip was a good chance to stretch the legs on our long-term Mazda 6 Tourer this month, as we took it on the 1,800-mile round trip to St Anton am Arlberg in Austria for a week on the slopes. Needless to say, the extra space offered by the estate body came in pretty useful.
Fold the seats down and there's 1,648 litres of boot space to play with. Okay, it's not the most spacious in its class, the Ford Mondeo estate has 1,728 litres and the Skoda Superb estate a cavernous 1,865 litres, but it wasn't cramped for two occupants up front.
It was a tad uncomfortable for one of the AOL Cars crew, though – Glenn had to sit in the back seat for the first leg of the journey to the Chunnel. Fortunately, the split-folding rear seats made packing around him somewhat easier. But once editor James had transferred to another car, myself and Glenn had more than enough room to act as support vehicle for the journey.
The French autoroutes are famed for being smooth and largely congestion-free, and the 6 Tourer ploughed through the miles with consummate ease.
For journeys like this, I'm a huge advocate for automatic gearboxes. Simply stick the car in drive, point the car at the mountains, and drive, so I was a bit sceptical about the six-speed manual. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Rarely did I have to kick down a gear for overtaking, and when we reached the twisty mountain roads, it was nice to open the Mazda up a bit and work through the gears. The 6 is also impressively refined at cruising speed with barely any wind or road noise.
It's no sports car, but it revs sweetly and remains composed on roads that drivers with small children would dread, especially in cars that pitch and roll through the corners.
The suspension is focused on precision and there's ample grip. The steering is also really well weighted, meaning you can point the car exactly where you want with absolute confidence.
Once we arrived in Austria, it was almost a shame to park it up and use it as a storage unit for a week. But it ticked the boxes there, too.
Model: Mazda 6 2.2D 175s Sport Nav Tourer
Price: £27,955 (as tested)
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel
Power: 173bhp, 420Nm
Max speed: 137mph
Mileage this month: 2,332
This month's highlight
Heading for the mountains in comfort and safety.
Author: Nigel Swan