Our new Mazda 6 saloon has been welcomed to the fleet by going straight in at the deep end: a 2,000-mile drive down to Italy on its first week with Auto Express.

There was plenty of time for me to contemplate the Mazda’s merits on the two-day trip to Piacenza, and I came to realise that the 6 has something in common with my 35mm film camera.

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If you’ll excuse the slightly tenuous link, the Mazda’s naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine is a bit of a throwback in the modern era of turbocharged engines, just like using film. But for me, both of these older methods add to the experience hugely. It’s fun to take pictures on film, just like driving a car with a responsive, smooth and revvy non-turbo engine is a treat.

This large 2.5-litre motor isn’t the best example of this theory because it doesn’t relish revs, but for me, it proves that even a disappointing naturally aspirated engine is more entertaining to use than most turbocharged units.

This powerplant is only available with an automatic gearbox, which is a bit of a shame; Mazda’s manual boxes are all class-leading. That reminds me of my autofocus camera, too: in the same way that I prefer to change gear myself, I’d rather focus manually while snapping.

One final thing they have in common is impeccable build quality. The camera is made of titanium and is a delight to hold, yet because digital cameras are the current trend, it was very affordable to buy. Likewise, the Mazda’s interior is ergonomically superb and wouldn’t look out of place in a far more expensive car.

The more time I spent in the 6 driving through France and Italy, the more I came to appreciate just how well designed it is. The driving position is near-perfect, with the distance between the pedals, seat and steering wheel simply spot-on, even for a tall driver like me.

The seats themselves are plush and comfortable, too, and the cooling function was extremely useful in the 30-degree September heat.

Then there’s the suspension set-up, which provides a smooth ride on the motorway as well as neat handling on the twisty mountain roads once we arrived. It was only here that I really wished for that manual box, because while the auto is fine on the open road, it’s a bit lethargic on twisty sections.

There are better-value cars in this class, and many people will prefer the turbocharged engines in rival models. But the Mazda 6 ticks all the right boxes for me: the engine, driving position, the weights of the controls and the handling mean it’s a very satisfying car to drive, and with its impressive 39.3mpg economy figure, the 6 is my personal favourite family saloon, in part thanks to this long trip.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxfordshire, with three penalty points.


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