Mazda 6: Don't believe the hype (but this Mazda's all right)
Price: From £19,595 (£22,595 as tested)
Engine capacity: 2.2-litre diesel Power output (PS @ rpm): 150 @ 4,500
Top speed (mph): 131
0-60 mph (seconds): 9
Fuel economy (mpg): 67.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 109
Inoffensive isn't a word that car manufacturers like to hear about their wares. They retain the services of expensive creative agencies and social-marketing firms to come up with buzzwords, campaigns and slogans to convince us how much character and personality they have.
But these slogans are meaningless. Seat, for example, leads the way in this nonsense with the term "enjoyneering", while Peugeot has the almost equally nonsensical "motion & emotion" tagline for its range of small French cars. I'm sure I'm not alone in having no bloody clue what these mean. And let's not forget Vauxhall "don't blend in" for the ever-so-bland Mokka SUV or Suzuki's menacing take on "the never-ending test drive" for its city cars. It's all marketing claptrap but sometimes it gives away something telling.
The tagline of choice for the new Mazda 6 saloon does that. It is "defy convention" and presumably the convention is that if you need a family car or are picking a company car, you'll nearly always opt for something with a Ford, Vauxhall or VW badge on the front.
Mazda's marketing chaps obviously think you're wrong and should buy one of theirs. And don't get me wrong, the all-new Mazda 6 isn't a bad saloon but it's just as bland an inoffensive as its big-boy rivals. Yes, it's well-priced, loaded with more kit than you'd expect, economical and comfortable enough for plenty of motorway miles, but it does little for the heart. It's more like a generic version of a saloon car – the sort of thing you'd see in a computer game that hasn't paid for licensing rights – than a ground-breaking design.
I understand most reviewers seem to like its sleek lines and Mazda's new "Kodo – Soul of Motion" design language (there they go again). It's just that I find it a terribly hard car to get excited about. It's the same with most of its rivals and one reason saloon sales figures have been flat lining for years. Today's drivers want funky crossovers like the Skoda Yetti or Nissan Juke and aspirational brands like Mini and Audi, not run-of-the-mill saloons with dull design language.
It's a shame for the Mazda 6 though, as inside and on the road things are much better. The model I tested, the smaller diesel engine of the range, is a very pleasant place to spend time thanks to its quiet cabin, refined ride and smooth engine. It gets Mazda's latest SkyActiv technology too, so returns an mpg figure in the 60s with ease and emits just 109g/km. These are impressive figures that 20 years ago would have been unthinkable for a family saloon or company car. What's more impressive, though, is that Mazda hasn't got there with expensive hybrid technology but by refining and continuing to develop combustion engine efficiency in its SkyActiv technology.
This savvy approach is one of the reasons I still have a soft spot for Mazda (the other two are the excellent CX-5 crossover and the MX-5 sports car), it's just that its new saloon doesn't really defy convention. It's a likeable and efficient tool and just like a Mondeo, Passat or Insignia I'd be happy to take one as a company car. But I'm sure I'd get to the end of my 100,000 or so miles with it and walk away without looking back and feel absolutely nothing for it at all.
Life & Style blogs
GTA 5 Online DLC: San Andreas Flight School update brings 16-seater jet plane and more
What is ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge?
London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
Anal sex study reveals climate of 'coercion'
As Kellie Maloney has experienced, when you're transgender, strangers think it's OK to ask intimate questions – it's not
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...