By Jamie Merrill, UK correspondent
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.
On the UK market, the 6 is offered with the choice between a 110kW or 129kW 2.2-litre turbodiesel and 107kW 2-litre petrol. Certain overseas markets also offer the option of a 142kW/256Nm 2.5 petrol.
All of these engines feature Mazda's latest SkyActiv technology too, and the diesel emits just 109g/km of CO2. 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 160 000 or so kilometres with it and walk away without looking back and feel absolutely nothing for it at all. -The Independent
Our contact at Mazda SA says that the new 6 is on their wish-list but that it has not been confirmed for local introduction as yet.