I guess I have a bit of an obsession scouring eBay looking for decent and road worthy cars that are a little bit unique for a budget of £500 or below.
To be honest, there are plenty of cars around, but few quite as rare as one of my current steeds; the Xedos 6. Even more so because of the engine and transmission found in my particular car.
I was not even looking for a Mazda, I was doing my typical pastime of just seeing what was out in the market.
Buyers in the UK just do not like slab sided large cars that have no badge kudos, particularly maroon ones with a beige leather interior riding on 15 inch steelies. Or, at least, just one person did who owned it from new for nearly 20 years.
Mainstream manufacturers such as Ford and Vauxhall left the large sized car market to the prestigious German brands that now litter the roads.
Yet, when I spied the Xedos I wasn’t quite sure if it was a grey JDM import. While I have never had a Mazda previously I was aware of their 3, 6, MX5, RX8 and even the MX6 which graced out shores back in the nineties.
I did a quick bit of background research and couldn’t really find a great deal although that this was released as a bit of a compact exec car which had two engines available in the UK; a 2L v6 with an auto and the much rarer 1.6L manual.
It was marketed under the Eunos brand as the Eunos 500 in some other markets and there was also a 1.8L v6 as well as a 1.8L I4 available, too.
While doing a bit of research my main fear was rust, rust can plague cars in the UK but most manufacturers have this under control now, but Mazda has been a little less than competent at rust proofing which has been a reason behind me never buying an MX5.
Either way, thinking how much the front of the car resembled a MX6 I threw in a low ball offer of £300 unseen. About 4 hours later my offer was accepted.
The next day I caught a train to nearby Huddersfield (I live in Leeds) then trudged through the snow for about 1 hour trying to find the address that it was holed up in.
Whenever I am looking for a car online, and in most cases I buy unseen, I try to understand what sort of place or home the car comes from by examining the photographs as best as possible for clues.
However, this didn’t give away much so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the address was actually a car dealer and the car was just to the rear of the yard.
I met the vendor who was a nice guy who told m the car had come in a few months ago as a part exchange, the vendor ran it for a while purely as a curiosity but was now bored of it so wanted to let it go.
He gave me the key and brushed the snow off, I then started the car. It fired up immediately from cold and settled in to an almost inaudible idle.
Just to satisfy myself of any rust queries I ran my bare hand along the sills and wheel arches to find no flaky or sharp edges. All seemed fine.
Satisfied with it I handed over the £300 and headed off in to the dark, snowy abyss.
Now my first impressions were how small the car really is, how low it seems and considering the 99,000 miles on the clock I was amazed that the interior was in pretty much flawless condition.
When heading home in the snow the front drive layout worked well, although the narrow track meant that I was carving my own route in to the snow which saw me snake a bit on the motorway.
Driving and Performance:
So, my meagre research prior to collection was that this car was to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 series which is more popular than a Ford Mondeo.
I learnt that the Xedos brand was meant to be a luxury sub-brand to Mazda as Lexus is to Toyota.
Now, I have had two 3 series’ in the past, a Lexus IS200 as well as an X-type Jag plus a couple of Mercedes’ plus a multitude of other cars that I buy then tend to sell on for a small profit or break even a few months later which gives me a bit of an insight in to different brands and their quality.
So, it is understandable that Mazda mainly fit the Xedos 6 with a v6 and an auto transmission, and, by all accounts that 2.0L v6 with just under 150hp on tap is a good performer.
The smattering of reviews I could find online said that the 1.6L was underpowered with just 114hp spinning those front wheels.
However, the car is petite, and, actually would work well just as a two door coupé, the additional doors for rear passengers look like mere add ons to cater for an additional market.
Yet, it is the small dimensions that seem to work well with the 1.6L engine and that super slick manual gear box.
I tend to use the car mostly for around the city I live in with occasional motorway use, but it fits well up the narrow streets and the engine is buzzy with an eagerness to rev smoothly through the rev range.
In fact, I would say that engine is a peach which I believe has been used in the MX5, it just wants you to extract that power.
The handling is also great. It pulls you tightly around corners and I wonder how the additional weight from the v6 would affect its taught handling on its tiny 14 inch alloy wheels.
The ride is firm but not overly, I find it very comfortable to be in and while I have not had it up to its claimed 114mph top speed it sits at 4000rpm at 80mph with a red line of 6500rpm.
I also wonder whether it would benefit much with rear wheel drive but I rear the lack of useable space in the cabin and boot would be hampered even more so.
Overall I find the handling is well suited to that excellent engine and sublime gear change.
Behind the Wheel:
If there was ever a case against the Xedos 6 as a luxury car it would be down to the lacklustre interior.
It simply does not compete with the luxury car’s of its period. The design is more akin to that of a mainstream marque such as a Toyota. There appears to have been no real effort to chase down those European exec cars.
My model is quite basic so does away with air conditioning or even a CD player but has an electric sunroof and all the windows are electric including the mirrors which bring me on to another point later.
The seats are also comfortable and just have enough lateral support on the bolster to be on the right side of sporty.
However, the interior design is dreary at best with very cheap feeling and looking switchgear which does not compare well to even some of the most sombre efforts of the German brands.
That said, everything still work…
And, there are a couple of subtle hints to the higher echelons of luxury, the wing mirrors are different sizes a subtle nod to the engineering behind cars like the Mercedes 190. Furthermore, multifunction indicator stalk is similar to that found in Mercedes cars, too.
Another area of build quality that I found interesting is the door seals. I have not seen anything so robust as that found in a Lexus or the granite type Mercedes from the 1980’s.
Road noise and engine noise is absolutely minimal.
The steering wheel is large enough to be found on a battleship and the gear stick tall enough for a truck, but both feel positive in their actions and even at this age and mileage feel tight.
Which brings me on to how well everything has held up over the years.
Both cases of BMW and Mercedes ownership has seen the interior wear out sooner than this sort of mileage but the Xedos 6 would look almost brand new after a clean.
The exterior paint work also looks incredible to this day and has not suffered from stone chips.
I wouldn’t normally sit in the back, but on one occasion when my partner picked me up from the pub I decided to sit there and found it very comfortable.
Economy and Running Costs:
I find that on average I get about 36mpg (UK gallon) which is not too bad considering the age of the car and that I like to run it through the gears with most driving being urban with little motorway use.
However, other than fuel, I have not needed to spend any further money. Insurance is cheap and nothing has gone wrong.
My only worry is that due to the little number of these cars on the road that should I require any replacement parts there won’t be any available or they will be expensive making the car uneconomical to repair.
However, the wheel are small and the tyres when up for replacement will be cheap and a oil plus filter change is coming out at under £40.
A quick check found that there are only 143 Xedos 6 cars on the road in the UK.
This means what I have on my hands is a very rare car, but one that was largely ignored for reasons that would normally been badge related.
It seemed Mazda couldn’t compete with the European luxury cars, not on quality and engineering but purely on design and those interior materials.
I really like this car. I love the way is handles and drives, I like the sleek and coupe like body and I cannot help but admire the engineering touches that do set this apart from even those big brands.
However, when you sit inside the car it is so far of the mark that even brands such as Peugeot or Ford from that era feel more special.
Yet, I cannot help but fall for the way its solid and taught body feels when you lower yourself in to the light and airy cabin, or the way that buzzy engine freely revs up to the red line while you then slot in another gear with the light clutch and smooth change.
I cannot help but feel that I have picked up the bargain of the century.